You might have heard the news by now: Google recently announced the end-of-life date for Google Analytics 3 (GA3), also known as Universal Analytics. This is the version of Google Analytics used by nearly everyone—including our own clients. Universal Analytics will stop processing new site visits by July 2023. And as the sun begins to set on GA3, we’re already looking to the future with the next evolution in data reporting: Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
Something old, something new
You probably have a few questions. Don't worry; we've got answers.
"If GA3 is shutting down by July 2023, why should I worry about it now?"
It’s all about getting ahead. Even though GA3 sunsets in 16 months, you should implement GA4 as soon as possible in order to collect as much data as possible. In fact, we’ve already started to create basic GA4 properties for our clients—allowing them to capture data concurrently with their existing GA3 properties.
"Okay, so what are the biggest differences between GA3 and GA4?"
The headline here is that with GA4, Google Analytics will no longer report bounce rates. This doesn’t mean one less metric though. Now, instead of measuring how quickly someone leaves a site, GA4 will measure how long someone stays focused on it through user engagement. A new category labeled Engaged Sessions tracks three key metrics: Engagement Rate, Engaged Sessions per Use and Engagement Time.
Engagement has long been considered a key indicator of success on social media, allowing you to evaluate how an audience receives your content. Were they interested enough to linger on a post? Did they care enough to like, share, save and/or comment on it?
And now Google cares about these measurements of engagement when it comes to how people are interacting with your website. This tells us there are three things that need to be taken seriously when it comes to thinking about your strategy:
1. The impact of social media on the digital space.
Social media is changing the way we interact and the way we do business. It’s no longer a place to connect with friends, but a way to interact with the world—creating a digital identity through carefully curated content and building a brand with reach around the world. It’s a missed opportunity not to take lessons from social media to benefit your most important marketing channel.
2. The fast pace of evolving technology.
Technology moves faster than anyone can keep up with. So that means not just being prepared to quickly pivot, but to have foresight in the ways things will continue to evolve. It wasn’t long ago that all websites were developed with desktop view in mind. Now, most teams think of developing websites with a mobile-first mentality. So just like we shifted from desktops to tech in our pockets, we’re now going to shift from thinking about how to keep users on the page to actually keeping users engaged.
3. The impact of Digital Natives on the business world.
We’ve reached a new era and need to connect with new generations of content consumers. Gen Z are complete Digital Natives, having grown up in a world where smartphones and social media were already ubiquitous. This generation is in college or early in their careers. And while Millennials aren’t quite Digital Natives in the way Gen Z is, they did grow up alongside this technology—going from a MySpace Top 8 to TikTok trends. Think of them more like First Gen Digital Natives. This generation is in their late 20s to early 40s, making up a huge part of the workforce!
Think about the needs and expectations of these two generations as you create and measure the experience on your website.
Looking to the future together
What comes next? Well, you should definitely start the transition to GA4 ASAP to avoid any lapse in data reporting or any roadblocks as you migrate from GA3. By getting started now, you’re giving yourself a head start. (Future You will thank you for this!)
You also should start considering what this shift in website ranking and analytics reporting means for your website. It’s no longer enough to keep someone from bouncing from your site. How can you keep them there?
Consider what would stop your scroll if you were the audience. What content do you engage with? Maybe it’s a video tutorial or TED Talk you watch, that favorite podcast you enjoy on your commute or the online quizzes you use to procrastinate before bedtime. Merge your business mind and your consumer mind to really consider what you would want to see if you were on a website. And you can even look to your social strategy to help inform some of those decisions! And, of course, listen to what is resonating with your target audience. Let them tell you what they want to see.
Build a game plan.
Stop the scroll.
Engage your website audience.
And watch your data evolve alongside technology.
Want to connect with our data team about Google Analytics 4? Maybe you have some questions about how to rethink your site strategy to encourage engagement? Or maybe you just want to say hello.