For nearly two decades, Google Analytics has been the premier service for analyzing website traffic and digital media, allowing businesses to gain further insight into who visits their site, what regions users are located, and other key demographics. Google is constantly looking for ways to update their platform to improve its functionality and expand on its capabilities. Whenever Google Analytics is updated, businesses must stay up to date with new features, formatting changes, and data collection methods in order to maximize its effectiveness and generate the most accurate data.
What is GA4?
Google Analytics 4 is the latest version of the platform that provides in-depth data on customers’ interactions with advertisers’ apps and sites. The changes that Google has made in GA4 are a result of the implementation of stricter online privacy policies, as well as evolving consumer behaviors.
Google Analytics 4 vs. Universal Analytics
GA4 is set to fully replace Universal Analytics (UA), which has been operational since 2013. For the past two years, Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics have coexisted and were able to be used interchangeably. However, this will change in 2023, as Google plans to phase out Universal Analytics completely. Since Universal Analytics will be out of commission, it is very important for users to understand the differences between the platforms and adapt to GA4 before July 1, 2023.
The primary change between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics is that GA4 features an event-based data model while Universal Analytics is session-based. But what does this mean exactly? Universal Analytics defines the period of time a user spent on a website as a session, or 30-minute visit on the site. Data is then pulled from this session to form reports.
Google Analytics 4 functions much differently. Instead of relying on sessions, each user interaction such as pageviews, scrolls, clicks, downloads, video starts and completions, purchases, and form submissions are all categorized as events, giving businesses much more flexibility and freedom over data measurement.
Another big point is cookies. While UA tracks users by dropping a cookie on the web browser, GA4 references multiple forms of cross-device identity measurement including “Google Signals” from users who have opted into ads personalization.
Transferring from Universal Analytics to GA4
The deadline to migrate from Universal Analytics to GA4 is approaching quickly. Universal Analytics will stop processing new hits on July 1, 2023, for standard users. After July 1, 2023, previously processed data will be accessible in Universal Analytics properties for at least six months. Premium Universal Analytics users will have three extra months to move to GA4.
All historical UA data will be deleted beginning January 1, 2024. Therefore, it is essential for standard Universal Analytics users to export and save valuable reports for historical analysis.
GA4 specializes in providing customizable reports with some standard templates, so users may want to reference or replicate UA reports when building GA4 reports.
Enlisting the services of digital developer to help transition between UA and GA4 will considerably reduce the stress of switching platforms. For e-commerce brands, a developer is especially needed to set up the event tracking code for purchases. Once your brand is set up on Google Analytics 4, having a developer optimize your tracked events will create an improved understanding of customer behavior on your site. For e-commerce brands this data is especially invaluable, as it provides an in-depth look at how customers navigate between product categories and which products they view most.
If your company is interested in learning more about Google Analytics 4 or would like access to our talented team of web developers, contact [email protected].