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Google Analytics 4 vs. Universal Analytics: What You Need to Know Now

google analytics dashboard

Google Analytics 4 vs. Universal Analytics: What You Need to Know Now

Google Analytics emailed updates to all users with a Universal Analytics (UA) property (i.e. the default for many years until recently) informing them it’s time to upgrade to Google Analytics 4. The setup for this is really easy and takes less than 90 seconds as you can see in the first video below. However, do you NEED to do it?

Here’s what you really need to know:

UA has been the standard operating setup for Google Analytics for years. It’s what all website plugins use to connect your GA account to your website with just a few clicks inside their plugin wizard.

Privacy Concerns with UA

However, since consumer privacy is at the forefront of discussion (as it should be) the way data is gathered on websites has changed. Now you are seeing cookie notifications on nearly every website you go to asking you to accept all. If you reject, that means the business is missing out on counting you as part of its user database. That’s less info for that company’s marketing team on what content they should be creating to serve you, decisions that are made based on their analysis of how you’re actually using their website.

So in an effort to keep marketers, and business owners like yourself, able to gain solid data about how your apps and websites are used and therefore create content readers actually want, Google developed the GA4 property setup. And since they invested the time in it, they want you to actually use it. This means they’ve buried the existing UA setup in a hidden “show advanced options” button in Step 2 of the overall property setup process.

If you don’t see this when setting up your account though, you’ll be S.O.L. when it comes to using that fun plugin wizard to effortlessly connect your analytics tracking to your website. Instead you’ll be forced to place html code on your site, which is more cumbersome than most business owners want to deal with right? Exactly.

So save yourself the frustration and follow the 3 minute video below on how to set up GA4 and UA at the same time for a new website property. Eventually all of the analytics plugins will update to use GA4 tracking and this won’t be needed, but for now let’s keep your bases covered.

Do you need GA4 now though?

Well, if you have a website AND an app, then yes you want GA4. It can provide tracking on your app that UA cannot provide. To take it a step further GA4 will track the performance on each in conjunction with a single account.

If you don’t have both, do you need GA4? Not yet, but let’s be real, you will. This is the future and eventually UA will be phased out. Thankfully Google has made the activation of a GA4 setup super easy that it takes than 90 seconds??

Here’s how to use the GA4 Setup Wizard:

The amount of information gathered by the new GA4 tracking could be super overwhelming and make you never want to look at it. Totally ok! What’s important for now is that you will HAVE the info for when you are ready to wade through it and make some more educated marketing decisions based on data of who is actually visiting your website vs. who you think is visiting.

I’ll break down the important info you should be looking at monthly and quarterly inside your UA (and GA4) account soon in more videos & articles. Be sure to sign up for the VIP list so you don’t miss out on that notification when that content is live!

(Want more video tutorials? Check out the DCM YouTube Channel. Oh, and be sure to subscribe while you’re there ok? ?) 

TUTORIAL: How to Setup A New Google Analytics Property with GA4 and Universal Analytics

Channing Muller is an award winning marketing & public relations consultant and the principal of DCM Communications. She works with event professionals and business owners to grow and scale their businesses with refined marketing strategies developed through one-on-one and group consulting, customized marketing programs and public relations. She has been named a "25 Young Event Pro to Watch" by Special Events magazine and "40 Under 40" by Connect Meetings. Channing is an avid runner, lover of labrador retrievers, good food, delicious drinks, and an advocate for the American Heart Association. Follow her on Instagram @ChanningMuller.

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