Upgrading Your Analytics Solutions to Google Analytics 4

The history of web analysis helps inform us about the newest shift in the world of web analytics.  In October of 2020, Google announced the new future of data analytics, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which is set to replace the current software, Universal Analytics.  The first analytics solutions appeared just three years after the birth of the internet with two simple analytics software: hit counters and log analysis.  Hit counters were simple to use without expertise and were coded to display the number of page views.  Log analysis was more complex than simple hit counters and was intended to interpret server logs and help identify traffic sources.

Since the birth of the internet, rapid evolutions occurred in terms of the complexity of web pages.  At first, most URLs hosted a single HTML file of plain text, but as sites added images, audio, and video, browsers had to make HTTP requests per page visit.  Caching, temporarily storing a file in the system to avoid multiple HTTP requests, did not show up on the log, identifying a gap in log analysis software.  It became apparent that log analysis would need to innovate alongside increasingly complex websites.  New metrics for user behavior included form analytics, traffic sources, heatmaps, and more. 

These new metrics were used to create targeted advertising which was informed by the web analytics data captured.  So, why focus on Google Analytics?  Google has been one of the leading analytics solutions since the company acquired Urchin in 2005.  Since its inception, Google Analytics has been heavily focused on quantitative data and is tied directly to Google’s web market offerings.  Currently, there are approximately 28 million active websites that employ Google Analytics. 

In 2012, Google introduced its current analytics platform, Universal Analytics.  Universal Analytics allowed sites to track users across multiple devices through user IDs.  This included demographics and offline behavior monitoring, providing richer customer data.  In 2016, Universal Analytics incorporated machine learning for real-time monitoring.  Currently, Universal Analytics reports visit length and time between page views, distinguishes hit types, and tracks engagement across devices. 

GA4 differs from Universal Analytics because of its specific focus on user privacy.  GA4 is set to release news of upcoming exclusive privacy-focused features, allowing more data controls and customizations.  GA4 also employs predictive analysis, letting companies know how likely a user is to purchase within the week, and whether they will be active in the next 7 days.  GA4 also supports revenue prediction.  Other new features include a debugging mode, cross-platform reporting, automatic collection of data on any kind of engagement, and consolidated web and mobile data on one platform. 

Universal Analytics will shut down on July 1, 2023; are you ready to make the switch?  GA4 is a separate set of properties from Universal Analytics, so there is no direct way to transfer historical data and upgrade to the new system.  For this reason, having an analytics partner is essential to preserve Universal Analytics data and equip your business for GA4.  Expert help from  InfoTrust helps businesses realign their data strategy and ease the analytics transition. 

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