Marketers worldwide are awaiting a major change happening on July 1, 2023; the migration from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). That’s when Universal Analytics will stop collecting data. Instead, Google will introduce GA4 as a replacement.
Google Analytics has been one of the top web analytics tools for digital marketers and data lovers to dive into quantitative results for their company’s marketing & SEO performance. The updated platform, GA4, has reports that are much more detailed, to give analysts a better in-depth understanding of the audience.
Due to the nature of how GA4 collects data, in comparison to UA, here are a few tips you should consider actioning:
- Re-evaluate the business requirements and audit the actual Universal Analytics setup.
- Design a data setup solution according to the business objectives for GA4.
- Implement & connect ads services, and data quality assurance.
- Create new custom reports.
A Comparison of Universal Analytics & Google Analytics 4
The new GA4 is app & web-based, meaning it can track data across both websites and mobile apps more reliably and accurately. It also uses an events-based model for its metrics. In contrast to the sessions-based model in UA, GA4 tracks tag events, social interactions, transactions, and page views with a timeframe of 30 minutes. After that time, the session ends and resets. GA4 uses automation and calculates between first and last event. Tracking through events rather than sessions, GA4 has new and improved functionality that enables you to perform a cross-platform analysis, which wasn’t possible with UA. This feature helps to identify user behavior across multiple devices and specific activity inspection from different sessions in real-time. While tracking events requires more setup, it also allows you more freedom to personalize your events using parameters (up to 25 parameters with each event). This is important because it helps you to understand your users and their behaviors at each step of the conversion process, starting from initial contact to retention.
The real-time view on GA4 is not exactly “in real time”—it is actually tracking the last 30 minutes, compared to the “right now” view that you had in UA. It also currently does not have integration with Salesforce (yet) like UA did.
Another important difference to note is that GA4 has removed the annotations function, meaning you can no longer annotate your data to keep track of your events. Instead, you can create an account on GAannotations (a free third-party service) and add annotations directly using the “Add Annotation” feature on your dashboard. You can also export your current annotations to GA4 from UA using GAannotations, and integrate them with many other functions.
The biggest struggle we’ve found with going from UA to GA4 is the migration of data from one platform to the other, and creating a new property that can track data in a different way for GA4. You can, however, keep the old data and view it anytime you want, but besides that, there is no way to integrate the old data with the new.
GA4 is the next step in evolution of the need for understanding multiple user journeys and platforms. It changes the point of view of the data model, from a session-based data model to events-based. GA4 not only captures the data in a different way, but is now also organized to understand the effectiveness of channels across platforms.
Not sure how to use the new GA4 platform? We’re here to help, especially in areas such as monitoring performances, tracking metrics across all platforms, and using that data to better optimize for conversions and overall user experience. That way, you can focus on putting your plans into action without being a permanent resident of graph-land.