What is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the new, soon-to-be default version of Google’s famous data collection and web traffic analysis software. Google Analytics 4 is the 4th version of Google Analytics replacing the previous Google Analytics 3, also known as Universal Analytics. So, Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics, what are the differences and when is it changing and what do you need to know? Read more to find out.
When will Universal Analytics data be stopped from tracking?
Google is planning on sunsetting Universal Analytics, meaning that Universal Analytics will stop processing any data from July 1, 2023. This means you will have to switch over to GA4 property before that day to keep collecting your data. You can use both Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 side-by-side to keep collecting data. However, all new properties and accounts will default to Google Analytics 4.
Google has built Google Analytics 4 from the ground up and it has a completely different data collection model compared to Universal Analytics. Hence it is recommended that you set up a Google Analytics 4 property as soon as possible alongside your existing Universal analytics property. Data from Universal Analytics cannot be copied over to Google Analytics 4.
Note: Google Analytics 360 properties receive a once-off 3-month extension meaning they have till October 1, 2023.
What is Google Analytics and why is it so important?
Over 80% of the top 10,000 websites on the internet use Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a popular programme that allows businesses to track customers across websites, mobile apps, and APIs. It measures website traffic and helps monitor your google ads, marketing channel’s performance and KPIs. When used properly it can be a powerful tool that offers businesses key insights into the strengths and weaknesses of their marketing and digital platforms, the effectiveness of their marketing and how they acquire customers.
Why has Google introduced Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4 has been introduced to improve Google Analytics capabilities. It allows for far easier integration between mobile and website usage data for reporting analysis. Previously, there was no easy way to do this, and marketers and business owners had to use multiple Google tools to achieve this which was time-consuming.
The new Google Analytics 4 is designed to shift the data focus more onto tracking the website or app user’s experiences to give marketers and business owners a fuller understanding of the customer journey across platforms and devices. It measures customer journeys from start to finish rather than simple individual metrics like page views, segments, and devices.
How is Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics?
Google Analytics 4 has an assortment of fresh features that improve its performance.
Google Analytics 4 now allows auto-tracking of key metrics like scroll & video tracking, exits etc, and this helps marketers and business owners not miss out on activity on their platforms that they might have not set up to track. Google Analytics 4 also offers flexible data filters, so the changes are not permanent while filtering information for campaigns.
Google Analytics 4 now allows you to fine-tune the way events are tracked with the ability for cross-domain tracking, all within the same UI, without having to edit codes on the websites. It has also expanded its range of non-website sources you can import from that stays within one property.
Top 5 Benefits of the new Google Analytics 4:
Enhanced cross-platform & device tracking and insights.
Refined reporting on unique users across platforms and devices.
Advanced analysis reports are available to all.
Custom events & automatic tracking for certain events (scroll & video tracking, exits etc).
No limits on the volume of data you can send.
Universal Analytics vs Google Analytics 4
The most noticeable difference between Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics is the new Google Analytics 4 user interface.
Many old default reports and features have been made redundant and replaced with new and improved ones. There are now only two tiers of data organisation: Account and Property, previous versions of Google Analytics had three, including the now-removed View.
The data collection is different. Google Analytics 4 defines data differently in some parts, for example:
- Events: user interactions with a website or app. (Some events are now measured by default).
- User Property: demographics, attributes, and information about the user.
- User ID: Unique user identification used to track users across platforms.
- Parameters: Information that gives context to events.
|Universal Analytics||Google Analytics 4|
|Measurement||Session-based data model||Flexible event-based data model|
|Reporting||Limited cross-device and cross-platform reporting||Full cross-device and cross-platform reporting|
|Automation||Limited Automation||AI and Machine Learning improve and simplify insight discovery|
|Tracking||Outdated set of engagement metrics||New engagement metrics for more accurate tracking|
|Hit type||Page view, Event, Social, Transaction, User timing, Exception, App/screen view||Events (Simplified to Page view + Scrolls + Click + Video_complete, and more)|
Additional Capability with Google Analytics 4
Some other changes include data collection for Hits and Events like page views or clicks have now all been simplified under one category – event. Previously in Universal Analytics, there were different types such as category, action, and label.
Additionally, the way events are processed timewise has changed and this also affects measurements and reports. Google Analytics 4 alters the way delayed data is managed and this creates differences in data between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4. Universal Analytics processes hits within 4 hours of the end of the day, but Google Analytics 4 processes events that arrive up to 3 days later. Due to such changes, visitors’ actions on Google Analytics 4 may now appear lower than on Universal Analytics.
Another key difference is that URLs are not directly shown as dimensions in Google Analytics 4 as they were in Universal Analytics. They are treated as parameters like ‘page location’. This is because identifying and thinking of these as a ‘screen’ or ‘page title’ instead of a ‘URL’ or ‘website’ allows Google Analytics 4 and marketers to utilise cross-platform metrics more easily.
Google Analytics is an impressive and indispensable tool. However, Google Analytics 4 while offering a whole lot more, still needs to be used correctly to offer you the best reports and insights, on which you can depend to make key business decisions.
Are you worried about your transition to Google Analytics 4?
How do you set it up and use it ‘right’? We can help!
To get the optimal performance out of Google Analytics 4, it will need to be set up correctly, keeping your business goals in mind. Often a daunting, time-consuming, and frustrating task, especially if you are new to Google Analytics. This is where we come in. We collaborate with you to:
Analyse your business’s needs
Identify and confirm optimal strategic outcomes
Set up your Google Analytics account, report dashboards and website tags
Maintain and review your tags and account
Deliver reports, insights and offer strategic advice
Here at Digital Refinery, we aim to be at the forefront of technology and digital marketing to help our customers succeed.
If you are using Google Analytics Services on your website and want to switch to Google Analytics 4 before it is too late or want to start using the capabilities of Google Analytics 4, get in touch and we can assist.