Transitioning to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
What is GA4?
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is Google’s newest data collection and analytics program that allows websites to track their traffic totals, determine trends, and label conversions. Google launched GA4 in 2020 with the intent to completely replace its previous program, Universal Analytics (UA). Data Driven Marketers (DDM) used UA as one of the primary data-collection platforms to obtain necessary information for analyzing site performance, giving client feedback, and measuring overall successes. We now use and help business adopt GA4 to analyze site performance and marketing campaign success.
Why is DDM switching from Universal Analytics to GA4?
We have to; in fact, everyone does. Google has already stopped processing data through UA, and all data from UA will be inaccessible after July 2024. DDM has prepared our clients for this transition by setting their Google Analytics profiles to produce data in both Universal Analytics and GA4 properties to keep the data flowing. We’ve also exported all of the data Google has processed on their website through UA to preserve this valuable data into easily usable reports.
Don’t panic if you haven’t migrated to GA4 yet—we’re here to help. We’re assisting more and more new clients every day with their migration and setup of GA4.
What are the differences between Universal Analytics and GA4?
There are many benefits to the way GA4 collects, organizes, and presents data. Here are some of the key differences between Universal Analytics and GA4:
Event-based tracking in GA4
Universal Analytics is session-based, while Google Analytics 4 is event-based, providing much more data on how the user is interacting with your website. The ability to track events such as link clicks, form submissions, and video playbacks is built into GA4.
This is a huge upgrade from UA. With GA4, it’s possible to track users whether they’re accessing your website or app from their phone, desktop, or tablet, even as they transition from one device to another.
GA4 uses machine learning to provide insights and give predictions. This can be especially useful when trying to determine why your site is performing above or below expectations.
Privacy-friendly data gathering
Universal Analytics relied heavily on cookies to provide its data. GA4 employs a user ID that provides a lot less specific information about the user, increasing their privacy.
GA4 integrates with powerful tools
Google Analytics 4 allows you to connect your account to Google Search Console to pull query and keyword metrics. This information is vital for successful SEO, and the integration makes that process easier.
What key metrics have changed in GA4?
Here are some of the primary metrics that have changed with GA4. For the full list with additional information visit Google’s help center.
Universal Analytics provided two user metrics: Total Users and New Users. Google Analytics 4 adds a third metric, Active Users, which counts the number of distinct people who have visited your website or app. With UA, this would have been counted as two users, skewing your data and providing misleading metrics.
Pageviews will largely remain the same. However, app and web pageviews will now be combined into one number. This is important to consider when looking at previous data and understanding where your customers are coming from.
In Universal Analytics, sessions would automatically stop and start as a brand new session for users accessing your site at midnight in the time zone where the company is based. With GA4, the user has to have at least 30 minutes of inactivity before a new session will be counted. This will be especially impactful if you’re a national or global business, as overall sessions may seem to be decreasing.
Engagement Rate/Engaged Sessions
Prior to GA4, an engaged session meant there was some interaction with the site. GA4 gives more specific parameters for what is considered an engaged session. An engaged session must meet one of the following criteria:
- It lasts longer than 10 seconds.
- It produces a conversion event.
- It produces two or more page views.
How does all this affect DDM’s reporting?
While this change is significant on the back end, we have worked hard to make this transition as seamless as possible for our clients. The changes to the specific metrics we evaluate are minimal, as our strategy and how we use the data isn’t changing. How we present the data is changing. With the transition to GA4, we’re now using Looker Studio as our data visualization tool. Looker Studio’s ability to integrate with Google Analytics 4, its customization options, and its ability to create presentations and dashboards give us a lot of options when it comes to reporting your data. One example is the ability to have a living data report that also functions as an analytics presentation, such as this report for one of our clients.
The other significant difference in reporting will be evident when businesses try to look back at previous data. Starting on July 1, 2024, businesses will no longer be able to access their previous Universal Analytics data. Google highly recommends that accounts export their data to ensure they don’t lose any valuable information.
How can Data Driven Marketers help?
DDM has a team of experts in Universal Analytics, Google Analytics 4, and Google Tag Manager. We manage the migration to GA4 to ensure your data is still being collected. If you haven’t set up GA4 yet, your website isn’t collecting data. Since Universal Analytics data will sunset in July 2024, it’s critical that you do everything you can to preserve your data. We can do that for you! We’ll not only export the data but we’ll also build a personalized report for you that will make navigating the past Universal Analytics data a breeze.