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Google Universal Analytics vs GA4

Google Universal Analytics vs GA4 700 460 Nicola Lapenta

What to do with the new Google Analytics Properties now?

Content index:

Introduction

Google Analytics is a free web analytics service provided by Google that allows you to analyze detailed statistics on visitors to a website. It is the most used statistics service on the web, with a world market share of 84.1% (data of 22/01/2021 source W3Techs.com).

In mid-October 2020 the 4th generation of Google Analytics platform was officially announced; this announcement involves many changes for owners and operators of sites and apps. The old Universal Analytics property will work until June 30, 2023 so from July 1, 2023 properties will stop processing new hits.

This article aims to inform users about the new changes introduced to start setting up a gradual migration strategy. To know how the Javascript tracking technology that Google uses works you could read the article Google Analytics Technology.

New paradigm

The big change introduced by GA4 is the transition from a session-based model to an event-based model. A session is a group of interactions with your website over a specified period of time.

Instead of using a Universal Analytics session-based model, which groups user interactions over a given time frame, the new GA4 experience uses an event-based model, where each user interaction is processed as a standalone event across devices and platforms.

differences between GA4 and universal analytics
Figure 1 Google Analytics 4 events vs Universal Analytics

Therefore, the controversial concept of Bounce Rate disappears, to make way for that of Engaged Session, triggered by a user’s stay on the site or app for more than 10 seconds or by 2 or more screen views or by the activation of an event; ex. button clicks or document downloads.

Numerous basic interactions with your website or app are already automatically collected by the new property as events, without having to intervene on the website code. For example, the first time a user visits your website, the property will record the action as a “first visit” event. Many valuable events are collected automatically, but development is required in order to measure others that are significant for our business (ex. retail and e-commerce). In Figure 2 there are some example events taken from the Google Merchandise site.

table with GA4 events

Figure 2 Google Analytics 4 events

The hits are replaced by events of over 500 different types, each of which has the possibility of containing 25 parameters. Also, as in the old Universal Analytics experience, if we use Google Ads we can link our Google Ads account to the new property so they can access each other’s data.

The extent and number of new features introduced with the new version is truly impressive, the main ones recently activated are listed below:

  • improved user interface;
  • integrated data collection from both mobile and web apps;
  • advanced segmentation;
  • the bounce rate is no longer available;
  • entirely cross-device and multi-platform relationships;
  • the views disappear and the user properties are born;
  • greater integration with Google Ads;
  • customer-centric data measurement;
  • integration with the BigQuery platform;
  • more granular data controls (RAW mode data);
  • advanced features available to everyone.

An important novelty is also the predisposition not to use cookies.

Migration strategy

Google has brought forward the end date for the use of the Universal property by more than a year to allow users and webmasters to change tracking configurations in time. Specifically, until July 1, 2023, you will be able to continue to use and collect new data in your Universal Analytics properties. After July 1, 2023, however, you will only be able to access previously processed data in your Universal Analytics property for at least six months.

By starting to configure the new GA4 property and using it in parallel with the current Universal property, you will have the ability to make a gradual change and be ready to use the new features on time for July 1, 2023.

That’s why I think the best strategy is to update the new property as soon as possible.

What to do now?

There are a lot of topics to go over and new configurations to update, it’s really important to get started now. This way the transition will be gradual and allow you to get familiar with the new user interface and start collecting data in the new property, thus increasing the level of understanding of future analyses.

Below are some tips for setting up the migration:

  • Analyze the Google UA account structure
  • Create a Google Analytics 4 property
  • Create data stream
  • Activate data collection
  • Create custom events map
  • Migrate goals and conversions
  • Migrate audience segments
  • Add users

All the features announced with GA4 will provide a broader understanding of how customers interact with online activities. If you need more information book an appointment in the Contacts section, I’ll help you plan and implement this important migration.

If you want to learn more about the history of this platform from its first version read this article Google Analytics Generations.

Useful information

Information to create the new GA4 property from official Google support: Upgrade to a Google Analytics 4 property. Official article of the announcement published: Introducing the new Google Analytics 

Published by Nicola Lapenta

Credits Official Blog Google Analytics productsOfficial Blog Google Marketing Platform, Google Marketing Platform , Google SupportWikipedia, Blog Avinash Kaushik, W3techs.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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