Whether you want to or not, if you want access to Analytics insights going forward, you’re going to have to make the switch to Google Analytics 4. It’s predecessor, Universal Analytics, is going to cease processing hits on July 1, 2023. By that date, you don’t have to be a GA4 guru—but you will need to have set up an account and have it running, at least if you want Google-approved insights about your online presence.
Have unanswered questions about GA4 and the coming change to your analytics? Never fear, we’re here to help answer your analytics-based questions. We’ve put together five main things you need to know about GA4. Read on to get to know how it works, and how it compares with the older Universal Analytics format.
1. What Is Google Analytics 4?
The previous version of Google Analytics was simply referred to as Universal Analytics, and the older dashboard had a different feel to it than the new GA4 dashboard.
If you’re not at all familiar, Google Analytics is a free analytics tool provided by Google to help you collect data and insights about who comes to your website, what they do while they’re there, and what triggers actual conversions/sales.
If you have used Universal Analytics before or for a while, you are probably used to collecting data in a certain way. Both Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 help you understand the customer journey in different ways. Understanding how these data points relate to each other can help you make smart marketing decisions and invest in marketing campaigns that extend the all-important customer lifecycle.
When Did Google Analytics 4 Come Out?
Initially released in October 2020, Google Analytics 4 is the successor of Universal Analytics. While GA4 tracks similarly to Universal Analytics, it does have updates to features and how it reports data.
So, What’s New in GA4?
One of the big changes is that GA4 now analyzes user behavior based on “events” rather than “sessions.” It provides a more granular insight as to each action your app and website visitors take, rather than just getting an overall view of the time span of the time a visitor lands on your site until the time they leave.
Because of the drastic changes between metrics and data models for Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4, it will take some getting used to. However, the event tracking capabilities can help gain an enhanced understanding of your website traffic.
2. How Will GA4 Help My Reporting?
You can use Google Analytics 4 to track users and create custom events—as well as gather data on automatically collected events.
Analytics data can be used to create reports that measure ecommerce events, which enable you to develop a more effective digital marketing strategy toward campaign ROI and possible website updates.
In Universal Analytics, you had access to two user metrics; with GA4, there are three: total users, active users, and new users. GA4 focuses on active users, which often offers a more informed picture of who’s actually using your site or app. This isn’t always the case; if total users (UA’s preferred highlight) and active users routinely mirror each other, there wouldn’t be as much of a discrepancy between the two formats in this instance: GA4 and Universal Analytics.
In terms of pageviews, Universal Analytics and GA4 should have close comparisons; however, GA4 combines both app and web data in the same property. Purchases should also closely match between the two. For sessions, GA4 properties utilize a statistical estimate of the number of sessions by modeling for unique session IDs, which allows for a more accurate count of sessions for your website or app.
Universal Analytics supported five goal types: duration, destination, pages/session, smart goals, and event goals. GA4 does away with goal types and, instead, only supports conversion events. While UA only counted one conversion per session, GA4 counts multiple conversions per session, for the same conversion event. This causes a greater inclusivity of data that could have been previously restricted by view filters. Furthermore, in GA4, bounce rate is the inverse of engagement rate. In this way, GA4 gives greater insight into a site or app’s actual bounce rate by not automatically dinging for event non-triggers. For instance, not counting bounce rate for a page close-out on a read blog for a blogging website.
Event counts between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 are fundamentally different. GA4 has no observance of ‘Action,’ ‘Category,’ or ‘Label’ hit types intrinsic to UA; instead, all actions are events. GA4 recommends using the same event name site-wide for actions, e.g., sign up for all sign up buttons across the site.
3. Should I Switch to Google Analytics 4?
As of this writing, there now isn’t an option to stay with Universal Analytics; Google has deemed it necessary to sunset UA in favor of GA4. The final deadline for processing hits for UA is July 1, 2023. On that date, new hits will not be processed by Universal Analytics, making it all but obsolete.
Long-term users of Universal Analytics may find this frustrating, especially if they’ve built out custom reports for regular sessions.
However, enhanced measurement events recorded by Google Analytics 4 are so rich that, once setup is complete, it will likely be a benefit to your business in the long run.
4. Which Is Better for Business: Google Analytics 4 or Universal Analytics?
Previously (when this article first was published), it wasn’t necessary to make the hard switch to GA4. However, this is no longer the case. Universal Analytics will stop processing hits on July 1, 2023. The countdown is on.
A moot point now about which is better, Google Analytics 4 does offer some very real benefits for business. As it is, GA4 provides more predictive analytics, business insights, and a broader spread of both graphs and charts than its predecessor. Google Analytics 4 is also concentrated on improved tracking. GA4 favors a more streamlined approach, with all related properties having their own “Data Streams” in a singular view. The hope here is for businesses to have a richer, and clearer, view of the value behind their online presence.
5. What Are the Benefits of Google Analytics 4?
As mentioned previously, the good news is: Google Analytics 4 has its share of benefits. These are some of the few it has to offer:
- Just like Universal Analytics, it’s a very data-rich and free tool. Free is always good, especially considering the amount of data you can collect.
- You can analyze and compare both website data and app data side-by-side, which significantly expands the number (and quality) of events you can track, analyze, and act on.
- With GA4, you now have at least 35 different event parameters you can track, instead of the very few within Universal Analytics. This offers insights into consumer behavior like never before.
- Enhanced real-time reporting; you can view in real time all of the events of one customer visit for efficient, streamlined, and comprehensive reporting.
There’s no doubt that Google Analytics 4 offers even more insights about your customer journeys. We recommend you start the process of switching over to GA4 as soon as possible, if you haven’t already.
Want More Help?
We can help you glean the most insight from your available SEO and data analysis tools so you can better track your marketing and grow your business. Connect with us today or schedule a free website report to learn more about switching to Google Analytics 4!