Why a Licensed Solution is Key to a Successful GA4 Migration

January 18, 2023

Why a Licensed Solution is Key to a Successful GA4 Migration

Google Universal Analytics (UA) is set to expire in July 2023. To avoid the loss of valuable analytics and attribution, it's important to start planning your migration to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) now.

When choosing a migration path, there are two main options: a licensed solution that manages GA4 on an ongoing basis or a one-time migration. A licensed solution is a good option because it's easy to implement and addresses the gaps between UA and GA4.

Here are a few reasons to go with a licensed solution over a one-time migration:

  • GA4 is expected to continue evolving beyond 2023, with new features, requirements, and protocols that require ongoing updates and maintenance
  • An ID stack is required to power GA4 and achieve attribution in the post cookie era
  • The gtag.js integration with GA4 may lead to data loss, which can be as high as 20-50%
  • Regional compliance will continue to plague gtag.js usage in many countries (e.g. EU)
  • State laws mandate transforming IP addresses or personally identifiable information (PII) prior to sending data to GA4

There are more reasons to choose a licensed solution, but getting a headstart ensures you have time to carefully consider how to navigate these challenges and ensure business continuity.

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Why GA4 is the future of analytics & attribution

As an analytics provider with a native AWS cloud analytics and attribution solution, we’ve been closely following the progress of GA4 over the past couple years. In our opinion, it will be difficult for most analytics providers to compete with the powerful capabilities of GA4.

With its ability to use gtag.js and send events server side, we expect GA4 to become the default choice for most agencies and marketers. It may take until the end of 2023 to fully diffuse, but it will likely prove popular with those who are hesitant to pay the high fees charged by providers like Amplitude and Mixpanel.

GA4 also supports the concept of a non-PII (or PII) user-id that a site can set to gtag.js, which allows for the stitching of data across online and offline sources. This feature will drive a lot of adoption in the post-cookie era.

Finally, the ability to attribute across channels (although limited at the moment) is expected to be a major driving factor in GA4 adoption.

All that said, we don’t believe GA4 will provide some key capabilities, including:

  1. The ability to analyze more than 10 million events per month, requiring the need for backup for larger enterprises
  2. An audience creation and activation solution that pipes audiences to digital channels, due to fear of touching first-party data without consent
  3. Integrations with non-Google marketing channels for measurement and activation
  4. A first-party option (outside of GTM Server Side) for capturing lost data
  5. A server-side option (outside of GTM Server Side) for a persistent ID

Powering GA4 has become essential

So, while GA4 continues to be as powerful as UA (if not moreso), there will be a need for companies to support it. We believe this to be the case because GA4 still feels like it's in beta and will continue to be developed.

We strongly believe that customers who opt for one-time agency builds over licensed solutions will struggle to keep up and may face ongoing costs in the future by having to redo their GA4 setup over the next year.

Gtag will continue to be blocked and limited

This is the largest issue many agencies implementing GA4 for their clients are not yet fully aware of or prepared for. When gtag.js is blocked, data loss can occur at a rate of 20-50%, depending on the user's location. It’s also important to consider the loss of cookies on the browser-end of gtag.js. Additionally, the use of raw gtag.js, where Google serves as a data processor for IP addresses, may face challenges in certain regions due to regulatory compliance.

No matter how much ML is applied to your analytics stack, the loss of cookies and data is a massive hurdle for GA4 to overcome. Most current implementations don’t focus on these issues.

Our recommendations for GA4 implementation

According to our survey, agencies that charge for GA4 implementation are going overboard with custom event recommendations. We advise against these because they can make it more difficult to manage and migrate your data in the future, resulting in a higher long-term cost compared to immediate benefits. One-time implementations of these events will remain challenging unless they are segmented and utilized effectively, which is an underutilized feature.

For continuity and ease-of-use reasons, we strongly recommend using predefined event structures for GA4. Custom events will cause havoc over time.

The rise of offline data

Generating offline data for privacy-first users or offline channels isn’t a one-time task. As businesses continue to explore new channels and generate more data, it will be crucial to have a system in place to allow for easy data capture.

This is just one reason why a one-time approach to offline implementations is likely to fail.

The Blotout EdgeTag advantage

Blotout’s key advantages remain relevant for GA4:

  1. A lifetime customer ID that includes stitching iOS ID for lifetime attribution
  2. Lossless data collection
  3. Easy implementation with low code requirements (8-10 lines of JS) or no code options for apps on Shopify
  4. Single tenant with zero data commingling, storage or compute
  5. Privacy by design, where only the site publisher has access to customer data
  6. Built-in consent mechanisms for global compliance and transparency
  7. A future-proofed architecture that is designed to adapt to new technologies and trends

Key use cases for Blotout's low-code / no-code identity and activity solutions continue to be:

  1. Assigning a lifetime ID to new visitors on your site, allowing them to be recognized for a lifetime.
  2. Mapping user data, such as subscriptions, purchases, and log-ins, to those IDs.
  3. Re-identify returning visitors or customers and replicating their consented activity to any cloud service.

Why GA4 with EdgeTag?

In 2023, quickly implementing GA4 for customers who have not migrated yet will be a major part of our strategy, as more than 15% of those GA4 sites also spend on paid social or paid email, allowing us to enable their ID graph and attribution systems in one go.

This is a major win for the GA4 user (end customer), as they can use a single ID (ID Graph) to map activity across channels and have it automatically consented.

We believe EdgeTag offers the best and easiest solution for GA4 implementation. With EdgeTag’s ability to manage gtag.js on the client-side and automate the server side to bridge missing gtag.js events, customers don't need complicated solutions like CDPs or client and server side stacks to solve for their analytics needs.

Finally, with Blotout EdgeTag, you can easily backup your clickstream data to Amazon and your Warehouses.

Implementing GA4 with Blotout EdgeTag

Blotout EdgeTag addresses five key use cases we believe cover the needs of all customers.

#1: Full GA4 implementation

With this use case, advertisers or publishers can write your code in EdgeTag JS, and Blotout Edge will automatically:

  1. Trigger gtag.js when it’s available and write server-side events when it’s not
  2. Set every user’s lifetime ID
  3. Transform preset events like leads and eCommerce to GA4 format

This use case is applicable to everyone who hasn’t already started their GA4 migration.

Note: Shopify App has a zero-code implementation (and BigCommerce is coming soon).

#2: GA4 Bridge

With this use case, Blotout EdgeTag only fires when Gtag is blocked. Advertisers and publishers can write your code in EdgeTag JS, and Blotout Edge will automatically:

  1. Trigger server-side events only when gtag.js isn’t available
  2. Set every user’s lifetime ID
  3. Transform preset events like leads and eCommerce to GA4 format

This use case is applicable to those who have already migrated to GA4 but are experiencing issues with attribution and missing data.

#3: GA4 server-only

With this use case, Blotout is only used for server-side events. This is primarily for advertisers or publishers who want to track server-side events to build their funnel, but don’t need gtag.js based attribution.

This is ideal for ultra-sophisticated enterprises looking to track a high volume of both online and offline server-side events.

#4: Use node.js for offline data pipeline

With this use case, advertisers or publishers can power server-side events using a Server Side ID (such as an email or phone number) to automatically recover users and write server-side events that enable funnels.

This use case is for non-online customers who have a lot of data in different CRM or marketing systems but don't have a unified attributed view.

#5: Backup data to cloud

With this use case, every event and user that hits EdgeTag can be backed up in its raw format to your preferred cloud service, like Cloudflare R2 or Amazon. In the future, Blotout EdgeTag will also support an app that can automatically deliver an analytics application based on these clickstreams to your cloud as an alternative to GA4.

Note: Snowflake backup service is coming in February 2023.

Elevate your marketing performance with Blotout

Here’s why you should implement GA4 with Blotout:

  1. Lifetime ID: Stitch every user using your ID

  2. Low code or no code: All you need is some simple JavaScript

  3. Never lose an event: Completely lossless data collection

  4. Business continuity: We handle software and compliance updates for you

  5. Regional compliance: Blotout EdgeTag runs in local jurisdictions and is compliant with new laws in several jurisdictions, including CA, CO, CT, UT, VA, as well as existing regulations.