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Big Changes to Google Analytics and the Future for Data Governance

Whether we’re aware of it or not, the past five years have greatly changed the conversation around data management, data security, and data governance as a whole. Multiple industries have fallen prey to hackers, exposing lax or out of date security practices. While this is a conversation that must be had, it also highlights the negligence or comfort of businesses today. Data security and data governance as a whole should be a top priority in anything and everything they do. If a company isn’t working in the broader interest of their clientele, they should at least comply strictly with data governance practices for the sake of their own reputation, authority, and business model. But this strikes up a new question:

What is data governance?

Data governance is a collection of processes, policies, and principles that manage any form of data throughout its lifecycle. This collection ensures that the data is properly accessible, thoroughly protected, and consistently reliable. With data governance, a company can protect its assets by maintaining and regulating control over how data is used between departments.

It does bear saying that data governance and data management are different from each other. However, when properly implemented, they can create a tight safety need for companies, shareholders, and their clientele.

How does this tie into Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is one of the strongest and most accessible tools that businesses and individuals can use on the market today. Because it intakes and processes data from all over the world, it had not only had to be one of the forerunners of tech, it had to lead the charge on data governance compliance.

Google has its hands in a great range of platforms, tools, and services, and so it’s no stranger as to what users expect when it comes to data privacy and protections. By changing and reporting how Google Analytics has changed, it can lay the foundation for other corporations and create an even playing field should they choose to follow in its footsteps.

Changes to Google Analytics

The version of Google Analytics that has been in common use for over a decade is known as both “Google Universal Analytics” and “Universal Analytics”, and it’s commonly shortened down to UA. The newest generation that’s going to kick into full swing and is taking stronger strides towards compliance is Google Analytics 4 or GA4.

Though GA4 plans on taking control this year, it actually launched back in 2019 under the name “App + Web”. Whereas UA focused primarily on website traffic, App + Web broadened its reach to multiplatform applications, enabling it to gather and process a broader range of data in one place. From there, both tools grew until they were completely separate from each other.

While they both have their own pros and cons, it’s clear that GA4 has grown to a point that it has gained a superior standing over UA. Some comparable differences between the two versions include GA4’s implementation of flexible event management, an upgraded analytics module, its machine learning algorithms, and expanded integration options.

But what really divorces them is how they handle user information. While UA was safe, GA4 is safer and refuses to be second to none—even to its own sister application.

In its early years, UA was revolutionary with how it used cookies, but as users shifted their primary device from desktops to mobile devices, UA was still deeply rooted with desktops. GA4 picked up this slack by operating across multiple platforms, and it compounds on UA’s innovation by dropping its reliance on cookies. This move protects users and gives them back control over how their data is used and shared.

Whereas UA was session based and broader with how it collected data, GA4 narrows its focus to event-based data. Now, businesses can get more targeted information about their products and services based on what pages users visit, the products they buy, and the services they interact with. This specific data funnel allows businesses to understand the user journey so that they can better utilize the information they gather.

GA4 is also implementing country-based privacy controls to allow businesses to minimize how much user-centric data is being used without sacrificing key analytical functionalities, such as tracking lead generations, conversion rates, ad clicks, user traffic, and so on.

But these are just some of the ways that GA4 helps companies stay compliant with data governance regulations. 360 Universal Analytics will also be getting a face lift; the newest version will be called Analytics 360 and will upgrade how it collects data, how it keeps that data up-to-date, how users can report issues, and will give more direct access to dedicated support specialists.

UA and 360 UA aren’t meant to completely sunset until July 1st, but the changes that are being made to replace them are incredibly noteworthy. The best time to upgrade one’s data governance practices was yesterday—the second best time is today.

By looking at the changes the Google Analytics suite is undergoing, paying attention to data breaches, and being mindful of governance trends, businesses and individuals alike can create a better, safer tomorrow as we all navigate the rapidly growing digital landscape together.

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