The rise of Google Analytics 4 and sunsetting of Universal Analytics
Last week, Google formally announced that they will be “sunsetting” Universal Analytics and pushing all users to move to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) by the second half of 2023. Does this mean that you should drop everything now and start fully embracing GA4? Actually, things are a bit more complicated. Like everything in the world of data, we recommend a methodical approach to the change. We’ve already outlined Littledata’s approach to GA4 for ecommerce stores. So in this article, we’ll take a deeper look at what Google just announced, what this means for your analytics setup, and recommend next steps for merchants using Google Analytics with ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce. [tip]Get excited for what GA4 has in store with our 10 reasons to make the switch.[/tip] What’s happening to Universal Analytics? The summer of 2023 may very well be remembered across the ecommerce industry for the rise of GA4, as Google is officially sunsetting its predecessor, Universal Analytics (aka UA, GA3, or the “old version” of Google Analytics). Google’s official announcement, which you can read in full on their blog. This announcement may have come as a bit of a surprise to some. GA4 has been available for a while but wasn’t made a priority before. Fortunately, moving from UA to GA4 doesn't have to be a headache for your team—as long as you have the right setup in place. Littledata already has a GA4 connection in beta that select customers have been using for months. Google promises GA4 will bring an adjustment to more granular data, giving users more insights and better control over customers' privacy. That second point is especially important as the industry makes a major shift away from cookies toward embracing first-party data across platforms. [note]Setting up GA4 on your ecommerce store only takes a few clicks with Littledata. New and existing users can set up GA4 on their store free and ensure they're ready for the new era of analytics.[/note] What we know about GA4 On July 1, 2023, Google will stop standard Universal Analytics properties from processing data. Your Universal Analytics reports will remain visible for a short period after the change (Google hasn't specified how long) but new data will only flow into GA4 properties. In other words, if you haven’t already, you need to create a GA4 property ASAP. With the switch to GA4, Google promises several significant changes aimed at making its Analytics tool more “consumer-focused” overall. This, among other features, includes: A privacy-centric design to maintain key insights despite cookie blockers and privacy regulations A new UI designed to showcase customer behavior through key events, and out-of-the-box capability to track those events (without requiring set up through Google Tag Manager) Machine learning models that automatically identify trends in data, such as churn probability, potential revenue from customer groups, and demand increases Measurement of both app and web interactions to snapshot the effectiveness of each of your marketing efforts Data export to your BigQuery data warehouse [tip]See Littledata’s 10 reasons to move to GA4 for ecommerce analytics.[/tip] At the heart of GA4, Google says, is your customer—and more specifically how they interact with your business. This marks a move away from the old platform-centric measurement to instead track via User ID. The change should give a better picture of what actions customers took after discovering your business and track the whole lifecycle from first impression to final sale more effectively. Potential GA4 user concerns While there’s a lot to be excited about with GA4, the change from UA brings a few uncertainties for longtime users. Early versions of GA4, while positively received, did contain their share of bugs. As the platform won’t be rolling out at 100% perfection, we’ll help answer a handful of the most frequently asked questions we’ve seen around GA4. Will I be able to import historical data from UA to GA4? Most likely, the answer here is no. While you can run UA and GA4 in parallel as you make the switch, Google is launching GA4 as a new platform completely separate from UA. How difficult will it be to use the new interface? There’s no doubt users will experience a learning curve when migrating to GA4’s new UI. In essence, it will come down to thinking differently about what data you’re looking for and then creating reports around that. While this was a common concern in the early beta launch of GA4, Google has already added a number of template reports on funnels, user paths, and cohort exploration. We’re excited to see what’s next! To help our customers with the transition, we’ve already begun building our own Monetization and Retention reports in GA4 that will take over from Enhanced Ecommerce reporting in UA. Google does provide help documents and introductory courses on using the new interface. However, an easier (and more time-efficient) solution may be to have an analytics expert help set up a GA4 integration directly to your Shopify or BigCommerce store. Is GA4 going to be a privacy law compliant, long-term solution for my business? This is one big area where GA4 is not just a solution right now, but in the future as well. Many of the changes made—from the new event-based UI to the learning machine-powered core—are built to adapt and grow alongside the global expansion in privacy laws. In other words, as you venture into the world of first-party data, GA4 will be your loyal guide along the way. What you should do now Our Shopify and Big Commerce stores and agency partners know that when it comes to Google Analytics, you can always count on Littledata as a single source of truth for truly accurate ecommerce data. This will remain true with GA4, and we’re excited about the flexible reporting capabilities in the newest version of Google Analytics. Our recommendation is to add a GA4 property now, but not to rely on it entirely. Instead, Littledata recommends continuing to use UA and GA4 in parallel until at least early 2023. This means that you will be able to explore GA4 while still having accurate, actionable data in Universal Analytics, including Enhanced Ecommerce reports, lifetime value reporting, and subscription analytics. All Shopify and Shopify Plus stores will soon be able to activate both UA and GA4 connections directly from their Littledata dashboards. [tip]Remember, setting up a GA4 connection for Shopify on your store has never been easier than with Littledata! Get expert advice on everything you need to know to make the switch.[/tip]
Analytics showing wrong numbers for yesterday's visits
We've noticed a few issues with clients using Universal Analytics this last month, when visits for the last day have been double the normal trend. It then corrects itself a few hours later - so seems to be just a blip with the data processing at Google. Others have noticed the same problem. The temporary fix is to only generate reports with time series ending the day before yesterday. i.e. ignore yesterday's data. Now Google have officially acknowledged the problem Looking forward to seeing that one fixed!
Measuring screen resolution versus viewport size
There’s a difference between the ‘screen size’ measured as standard in Google Analytics and the ‘browser size’ or ‘browser viewport’. Especially on mobile devices, there are pitfalls comparing the two. Browser viewport is the actual visible area of the HTML, after the width of scroll bars and height of button, address, plugin and status bars has been allowed for. Desktop computer screens have got much bigger over the last decade, but browser viewports (the visible area within the browser window) are not. The CSS tricks site found only 1% of users have their browser viewing in the full screen. While only 9% of visitors to his site had a monitor less than 1200px wide in 2011, around 21% of users have a browser viewport of less than that width. Simply put, on a huge monitor you don’t browse the web using your full screen. Therefore, 'screen resolution' may be much larger than 'viewport size'. The best solution is to post browser viewport size to GA as a custom dimension. P.S. Google Analytics does have a feature within In Page Analytics (under Behaviour section) to overlay Browser Size, but it doesn’t work for any of the sites I look at.
How many websites use Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is clearly the number one web analytics tool globally. From a meta-analysis of different surveys, we estimate it is currently installed on over 50% of all websites or 80% of operational websites using any kind of analytics tracking. We looked at the following sources for this chart: Datanyze survey of Alexa top 1m sites (04/2014) BuiltWith survey of all websites (04/2014) MetricMail survey of Alexa top 1m sites Pingdom survey of Alexa top 10k sites (07/2012) W3Techs survey of their own sites (04/2014) LeadLedger survey of Fortune 500 sites (04/2014)
What's included in Analytics traffic sources?
The Channel report in Google Analytics (under 'Acquisition' section) splits out into 6 or more types of visit channel: Direct Where a visitor has: typed the URL into the address bar clicked on a link which is NOT in another web page (e.g. in a mobile app) visited a bookmarked link Organic Search All visits from search engines (i.e. Google, Bing, Yahoo) which were not an advertisement. You used to be able to filter out people searching for your brand (which are more like Direct visits), but now the search terms are not provided. Paid Search Visits from search engines where the visitor clicked on an advert. Referral Where a visitor has clicked on a link in another website (not your own domain), but not including search engines or social networks. Social Networks Specifically links from known social network websites (including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc) Email From links tagged as medium = 'email'. Your email software needs to be configured correctly to add this tag. Display Links tagged as 'display' or 'cpm'. FAQs Can I change the channel groupings? Yes, you can change this under Admin .. (Selected View).. Channel Grouping. But we recommend you don't do this for your default view, as you won't be able to compare the historical data.
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