If you use Google Analytics for your blog, you may already be seeing alerts about changes you need to make before the middle of the year.
When I sign in to Google Analytics to check stats for this blog, I use a version known as Universal Analytics. I didn’t choose that version from a list of GA options. That’s just the version I wound up with at some point.
In 2019, Google Analytics became the most widely used web analytics service on the web.
I don’t know a great deal about the history of GA. Frankly, as long as it works, I don’t care a great deal. But the service, as we know it today, essentially began in 2006. I switched to this domain from Blogger in 2007, so I was using Google Analytics from the beginning of this domain’s use.
The Wikimedia page tells me that Universal Analytics made its debut way back in 2012, a decade ago. More recently, in October 2020, Google released Google Analytics 4.
What’s the difference between UA and GA4?
Brad Gerick, an expert in digital strategy, writes about the difference between the two versions on his website.
UA, he writes, tracks “hits” on a website with four built-in parameters: Category, Action, Label and Value. GA4 replaces “hits” with “events” and does not distinguish between types.
Further, GA4 events come with five default parameters with the option to add up to 25 custom parameters per event.
If that leaves you scratching your head, don’t worry. I felt the same way.
As I’ve said before, when it comes to websites and content creation, I’m a Mac, not a PC. I don’t care so much about the mechanics of how it works so much as the content and being able to measure if that content works…for website visitors.
What that sounds like to me is I’ll have a better set of data — more complete data — on the content on my site that seems to resonate the most.
At least, that’s what I’d like to believe I’ll have.
The reason for the switch is simple, according to another analytics tracking service called Snowplow. GA4 is better at managing privacy of data collected, apparently, than UA. Recent court rulings involving privacy regulations like GDPR prompted the need for a different reporting platform.
Google, meanwhile, says it won’t “sunset” Universal Analytics until July 1, 2023. So we have more than six months to figure that out.
But the way things work in our overcomplicated society, we need to start thinking about making the switch from UA to GA4 sooner rather than later. No one would want to wait until the last minute and learn there’s a problem that might cost them stats.
One measure I use goes away in GA4
When I switch to Google Analytics 4, I will lose a stat called “bounce rate,” Snowplow says.
Bounce rate can be a controversial stat for bloggers. The bounce rate is the percentage of visits in which a visitor comes to your site, reads a single page and then leaves without clicking anywhere else on your site. Most website managers want a low bounce rate because that would mean their site visitors would be visiting multiple pages.
But blogs are a little different. As we bloggers build valuable content and focus search engine optimization efforts to get our search results near the top of search rankings, a funny thing happens. When someone Googles a topic we’ve written about because they have a question, they may see our link that could answer that question. They click the link and come to our site. If we’ve done what we should, we provide the answer they need.
At that point, they may not have any other immediate questions. Our blog provided a service to that reader. The reader, however, having received what they wanted, leaves.
If that’s the only page view during the measurement period, that page has a 100% bounce rate.
I only look at the bounce rate for this blog’s home page. That’s because I want to better serve visitors who come to the site through that “front door.” I want to make sure more visitors see something on the home page that attracts them to click to something else. The bounce rate for the home page (rather than the site’s overall average bounce rate) gives me that information.
Over time, I’ve worked to lower the home page bounce rate by trying to experiment with different home page layouts that I hope will prompt people to explore the content.
What happens between now and July 1?
Until that date, bloggers and website owners can continue to access UA with no problem. But you need to think about making the switch to GA4.
On July 1, 2023, UA will no longer process new data, Google says in its advisory. Not only that, starting on July 1, you’ll be able to access your historical data “for at least six months.”
Google hasn’t announced a hard date at which your data disappears. They say they will make that announcement, but it’s not clear when you should expect it.
Google itself recommends that between now and then, you export your historical data.
“If you haven’t already created a new Google Analytics 4 property before early 2023, the Setup Assistant will create one for you,” Google’s website states. “This new Google Analytics 4 property will have some of the same basic features, such as goals/conversions and Google Ads links, that you have in your corresponding Universal Analytics property. You will be able to opt out of this directly in the Setup Assistant or in the notification banner that will soon appear.”
So it sounds to me that you don’t need to do anything right this minute. That’s definitely a relief.
I always do a year-to-year review of my stats at the end of every year so that I can see which stats improved and which did not over the last 12 months. So I’m not planning to do anything until at least mid-January.
But knowing that this new version of Analytics is coming will definitely help me plan for the change and begin taking the steps I need to take.
I hope you will as well.
As that time gets closer, I’ll have more to say about what’s new in GA4!