This fourth major change to the essential web analytics tool significantly shifts the back-end architecture and tracking code. The upside: Google Analytics can now better track web and application data together; deliver advances in security and privacy, and enhance event tracking capabilities. Similar to the Universal Analytics upgrade several years ago, Google Analytics 4 means you’ll need to change your analytics configuration and Google Tag Manager integration.
A beta version of Google Analytics 4, called Google Analytics App + Web, has been out in the wild for several months. It’s been possible to create new, separate properties in Google Analytics using the beta version within your existing Google Analytics account. Now that Google Analytics 4 is official, there is a migration path to move your existing Universal Analytics to the new version. You will need to make decisions about when and how you upgrade.
Nearly every institution uses Google Analytics. This change impacts almost everyone in higher education.
For example, creating a new property in Google Analytics now defaults to a Google Analytics 4 property. However, Universal Analytics properties can still be created. Within Google Analytics, expect to see the features and terminology transition to focus on Google Analytics 4 (but, don’t worry, traditional Universal Analytics will be around for a while).
For many institutions, we expect the change to Google Analytics 4 to require some planning. Those with more complex analytics frameworks will want to craft a plan to transition and ensure the timing doesn’t negatively impact in-flight projects and analysis.
The Google Analytics 4 upgrade is a good time for an analytics audit. Assess goals, establish good baseline data, simplify the environment, and leave behind unused tracking code.
Expect a bit of a learning curve with the changes to event tracking and common analytics terminology. Google typically evolves the administrative and reporting interface of Google Analytics over a period of time as these changes roll out.
Google Analytics 4 sets the stage for the tracking and analysis higher ed will use in years to come. It’s role is as important as ever. It will improve data privacy controls, offer new reporting tools, and set the stage for the evolution of the suite of Google tools (including Data Studio, Tag Manager, and Optimize) higher ed marketers use daily. Higher ed marketers will get a better understanding of their students’ website experience across their entire lifecycle, from acquisition to conversion and retention.
Reach out to mStoner for help shoring up your analytics implementation and rolling out Google Analytics 4.
Greg Zguta Director of Web Strategy I've been working on education web projects since the late 90's and enjoy visiting campuses and watching how technology has transformed higher education since I got my first email account at Oberlin College in 1992. Back then, I mostly used the web to check weather radar and sports scores . . . I suppose technology hasn't transformed everything yet.