The implications of switching to Google Analytics 4
By July 1st 2023 the Universal Analytics (GA3) version of Google Analytics will stop collecting data. Its successor is called Google Analytics 4 and switching to GA4 is not as simple as flipping a switch.
Google Analytics/Google Tag Manager implications
To begin with, switching to GA4 requires the reimplementation of tracking code as the legacy GA3 codes will no longer collect data. This means the basic GA4 configuration tag, as well as additional events tags need to be injected into your website, which is typically handled via Google Tag Manager (GTM). If your website is not using GTM yet, it is the occasion to take that along in a new analytics implementation. Also factor in some configuration of GA4 settings in your Google Analytics account.
Google Data Studio implications
If you are furthermore using Data Studio (now Looker Studio) dashboards to visualise your Google Analytics data then additional implications need to be considered. First of all, GA4 is a new data source. This means your Looker Studio dashboards need to be completely redone to pull in data from this new data source.
Secondly, GA4 comes with a new and completely different data model. With regards to Looker Studio this means that GA4 dimensions and metrics that are used in dashboard widgets are different from Universal Analytics. Meaning that not all dashboard widgets from your legacy GA3-based dashboards can be recreated in the exact the same manner, if at all. For example, there are no page load reports or metrics in GA4, which used to exist in GA3.
Thirdly, Google has introduced API call limits for the native Google Analytics connector that pulls GA4 data into Looker Studio. Complex Looker Studio reports with a lot of dashboard widgets and users are in danger of exhausting the 25.000 daily token limit and thus causing failure. Workarounds to avoid exhausting the token limit and alternative data visualisation tools exist, but these often come at a cost.
Privacy implications & cookieless alternatives
Last but not least, the introduction of GA4 comes at a time where the use of Google Analytics has been declared illegal in several countries in Europe because of data transfer to the US. During MeasureCamp Brussels Google confirmed it won’t remedy the issue by ramping up data server capacity in Europe. Instead Google relies on the EU and US politicians to come to an agreement on cross-border data transfers.
This leaves European GA users wondering when and how to switch to GA4, or even consider alternative analytics solutions such as Matomo, PiwikPro or Plausible. These alternative solutions also offer cookieless tracking, thus making cookie banners obsolete, and you will no longer loose a significant portion of tracking data because of cookie opt-out.
Start planning your analytics contigency now
With 2023 around the corner many of our analytics clients feel the urgency of an analytics contingency plan to determine the best way forward. We suggest to make it your New Year’s resolution to discuss your analytics contingency with us in January. Avoid the Spring rush and book an appointment now with our Strategy and Analytics Wolf: firstname.lastname@example.org.