Google Analytics 4 is here! Time to dump Universal Analytics?

Google have done it again. You might remember all those years ago when Universal Analytics was introduced, and you had to switch to this code as it didn’t port over any historic data.

Well they have only been and done it again. The new GA4 code is here and it is replacing UA. The kicker… it comes without any data! So get your GA4 code live now, running in parallel with UA. Otherwise when UA stops and you have to update to GA4, you will have no historic data.

And Google announced recently that it will stop UA processing data in 2023. So get cracking!

In a snapshot:

  • Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is an online analytics and reporting platform built with cross-functional marketing and development teams in mind.
  • We recommend implementing GA4 alongside Universal Analytics (UA) so you can begin gathering data for historical analysis.
  • There are many differences between GA4 and UA that are rooted in the philosophical shift toward reporting and analysis that is User and Audience focused and away from session and page focused.
  • Events and Conversions have been totally overhauled in GA4 to the point where you can create and modify them within the tool.
  • By default, GA4 only retains two months of data but this can be updated to 14 months. You will want to make this update when you set up your Google Analytics 4 property.
  • Google Analytics 4 is still in beta there are a lot of unanswered questions. The property is still missing features and has bugs but you should having it running to collect data.

Is Google Analytics 4 an update of Google’s Universal Analytics.

Google Analytics four (GA4) is actually a replacement for analytics when compared to Universal Analytics. It is not an upgrade, it is not an enhancement. It’s a completely different way of collecting data. So when we look at Google Analytics 4, it’s focused more on the user and how they’re interacting with the website, what are they doing, it tracks them across devices, if you have an app, or if you have multiple subdomains and different web entities, you’re actually able to track a person more holistically across all of your digital properties, where Universal Analytics is focused more on the individual pages that a user is interacting with.

For this reason, it’s not easy to compare apples to apples between Google Analytics for and Universal Analytics. When we look at this, we’re looking at different metrics, we’re looking at updates to how we’re tracking. And as we start to look at what does this mean for KPIs strategies and different analytics tactics that you have in place, it’s going to be a completely different way for us to start analyzing how somebody is interacting with our website, when they come to our digital properties.

What are the biggest differences between Universal Analytics and the new Google Analytics for? 

Google Analytics 4 is actually a large shift philosophically for this platform. And one of the main ways that they differentiated is with the actual metric terminology. So we look a lot about behavior metrics with Google Analytics, including bounce rate, average time on page and average pages per session.

Well, those metrics aren’t exactly what Google Analytics 4 is looking for you to measure against anymore. The primary focus for GA4 is on this things like engagement rates, average engagement, time per session, and views per user. Now these are more ‘packaged’ as things like engagement and focusing on the user themselves. Whereas before, the metrics were more based on pages and page URLs and things like that.

So while we’re focusing more on the user experience than ever, Google Analytics 4 plays a lot into that. Lining these behavior metrics up, the example of Universal Analytics metric would be bounce rate, the comparable metric within Google Analytics 4 is engagement rate.

The primary difference is they’re basically metrics flipped on themselves – bounce rate measured the number of people that came to a page and then left immediately of your total sessions, whereas in Google Analytics 4, engagement rate is how many users either engaged in event or stayed on the page for at least 10 seconds. So again, more focus on what users taking action, as opposed to what users being inactive on a page.

Conclusion

Google Analytics 4 is on track to be more powerful than Universal Analytics and provide more relevant data. It allows you to combine the data from multiple data streams into one property and more accurately attribute actions to users across devices.

While GA4 won’t give you all this data right off the bat, early implementation will help you take advantage of the enhanced experience and data sooner rather than later. All site owners should implement GA4 on their sites and apps as soon as possible.

For more insights and set up on GA4 Benjamin Mangold has a great blog and video you can watch here https://www.lovesdata.com/blog/google-analytics-4


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