In their push towards consumer privacy, Google will be sunsetting Universal Analytics (UA) on July 1st, 2023, and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will be the replacement. I’ll cover the key differences between UA and GA4, why that is important to all dealers, and what steps you should take immediately to ensure continuity in your website analytics.

Primary differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics

There are some features and functionality that we have grown to love in UA that will not carry over to GA4. These changes are to protect consumer privacy stemming from how data is collected. In Universal Analytics, the primary method for data collection is based on 3rd party cookies, which will be deprecated at the end of 2023 on Google Chrome. GA4 will be based on signals outside of cookies, which will be required to track website data once the cookie deprecation has been completed. Here is a quick list of things that are changing in GA4.

  • Standard hit types like Page Views, User Timing, App Views, etc. will now be recorded as Events in GA4.
  • The concept of Event Categories, Actions, and Labels will no longer exist in GA4. GA4 events will be structured differently so every pageview for example will trigger an event, then you are able to filter the data down further based on other attributes like page path, page title, etc.
  • Sessions in UA are typically defined as a 30-minute website visit from a single device. In GA4, since all pageviews are events the duration of a session is based on the time span between the first and last event in each session. This will almost certainly lead to difference in session reporting in GA4 vs UA.
  • For an exhaustive list of differences between GA4 and UA, read on here.

Your dealership/agency should be laser focused on GA4 now (even though the migration is a year out).

In the dealership world, seasonality is a major consideration when analyzing website data and trends. Comparing June 2022 to May 2022 is not nearly as effective as comparing June 2022 to June 2021 due to natural and predictable ebbs and flows in purchasing behavior. Because of this, it is critical that dealers at least have a GA4 account built and live on their websites by July of 2022. In doing so, you will be able to analyze your year over year data in an apples-to-apples fashion. Otherwise, you will be comparing your GA4 data in 2023 to UA data for 2022 where the underlying data is fundamentally different.

Critical next steps for dealers in the GA4 journey

Don’t worry, the process of getting up and running on GA4 is not terribly complex, and every dealer (or their agency) should be able to get going with relative ease using the guide and information below.

  1. Build your GA4 account and get the tracking code setup on your website. (Details on this process can be found here.)
  2. Transfer your existing UA goals over to GA4 as events/conversions using Google’s migration tool, or do it manually using their conversion migration guide.
  3. Analyze your data in GA4 compared to your UA account so you can learn and understand the differences to expect in the data as you move into 2023.
  4. For a full list of GA4 setup instructions that covers all potential setup needs, you can find those here.

I can’t reiterate enough how imperative it is that dealers and their agencies get ahead of this and set up GA4 in July of 2022. We set up GA4 accounts for all our dealer partners about a year back and have been getting acclimated to the new platform and all its features since then. If you are having trouble getting set up on GA4, or want to talk about GA4 in general, please don’t hesitate to reach out!