The news that Universal Analytics is going away is indeed factual. This means that we will eventually have to switch to Google Analytics 4. Here are the biggest differences to expect and some recommendations for when and how to make the switch.
WHY IS GOOGLE ANALYTICS RETIRING UNIVERSAL ANALYTICS?
If you have logged into Google Analytics lately you have most likely seen the notification that Universal Analytics is going to stop processing data in July 2023 and that we’re all going to have to make the switch to Google Analytics 4. But why is Google Analytics retiring Universal Analytics for Google Analytics? The answer to that question is very simple, Universal Analytics is outdated and not efficient enough for how people are using the internet today, it also isn't as adaptable to the privacy policies of today.
WHY IS LAST-CLICK ATTRIBUTION A PROBLEM IN UNIVERSAL ANALYTICS?
Universal Analytics tracks conversion with last-click attribution, for example, if someone goes to your website from Instagram, then signs up for your email list and makes a purchase after you send them an email in Universal Analytics it will seem as if Instagram is not generating any revenue but in reality it is.
GA4’s goal is to eliminate, or lessen this incohesive data that makes it difficult for you to see how your customers interact with your brand to see which marketing channels are contributing to your overall success.
HOW WILL GOOGLE ANALYTICS 4 TRACK ITS USERS?
They will look for User IDs,which are sent by your website. A user has to be signed into your account for this data to be available.
Unfortunately I am not sure if this is something Shopify will implement. We sure hope so but we’ll have to wait until they release their GA4 compatible integration to find out.
Google signals.This is available if the user is signed into their Google account while they’re browsing the web.
You will have to toggle these on when setting up your GA4 account. We recommend that you do turn these on. Many people surf the web while signing into their google account on their browser so any website that is using these is gonna know all they need to know about them.
Device ID.This is essentially what they use now and unfortunately will be cleared if someone clears their browser cookies.
HOW GA4 WILL REPORT DATA?: EVENTS VS SESSIONSIn addition to the change in how they track data is how they report it. In Universal Analytics a session was the base metric that everything was reported on, but that will no longer be the case with GA4 event based tracking. Which means that GA4 will automatically track events including things like page views, purchases, first-user visits, and even embedded video views. These events will have sessions and page views attached to them. This is called enhanced measurement and something you’ll have to turn on when you set up your account.
HOW WILL ATTRIBUTION IN GA4 BE DIFFERENT?
Attribution is another big change that is coming with GA4. Like mentioned previously Universal Analytics currently tracks conversion based on a last-click attribution model in GA4 you will actually have the option to choose your attribution model, one of those options being the fractional attribution model where Google will assign the weight of attribution for you. What makes this so game-changing is that now you’re going to have a lot more visibility into how all of your marketing channels are performing. You will no longer have to guess whether or not you should bother posting on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook because you will be able to see the data a lot more clearly which is a lot easier.
HOW LONG WILL GA4 KEEP YOUR DATA?
In GA4 you are only allowed to store data for a max of 14 months of data. By default it is even shorter than that so you’ll have to change it to 14 months in your settings when you create your account If that is what you want. An option that you do have if you want to keep your data is periodically downloading it via CSV export.
We recommend that you download your data and track it outside of the platform and always keep really good notes. When you see peaks and valleys in your data you want to remember why that happened. You want to be able to see seasonal patterns, and 14 months of data just isn’t enough for that.
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