Since it was launched, Google’s Universal Analytics (UA) has grown to be the worlds’ most popular analytics software.
But, from 1st July 2023, it will no longer be available and all users will be required to make the switch to the latest generation of Googles’ analytical software – Google Analytics 4 – better known as GA4!
Don’t worry though! Making the change isn’t as daunting as you may think and the benefits of doing so are many.
So, let’s have a look at what’s new with GA4 and how you can make the change ahead of the July deadline.
Why was GA4 introduced?
In today’s increasingly digital landscape, there is a high reliance on being able to gather data to understand the experiences and behaviours of your customers.
That’s why GA4 has been developed. Through its flexible measuring of a variety of data, it allows you to see a unified user journey not only across your website but multiple websites and apps (if you have them).
GA4 also uses more AI and machine learning to provide more detailed insight into how your users are interacting with your website.
The use of digital analytics to understand how your customers use your online presence can help you improve their experience and better meet your marketing goals.
So, let’s take a look at what’s new and what you can expect from GA4…
What are the main differences between Universal Analytics and GA4?
The new improved dashboard is the first thing you’ll notice when entering GA4! It is much more streamlined and many familiar reports are now gone or accessible in other locations.
Not only is the dashboard updated visually, it has also been updated functionally. You can customise your reporting dashboards to showcase your data in your own way. You can remove report cards you don’t use, add new ones and change their position on the page to prioritise those most important to you.
New event-based data model
The most notable difference between UA and GA4 is the switch from a session-based model to an event-based one.
GA4 goes from having page views as the key metric, to showing all measurements as events.
This means that you can now get a fuller understanding of the way users interact with your website, instead of generalised data which requires more interpretation. You still have the ability to view session-level reporting but you also have the ability to break it down by individual interactions and drill down into more in-depth insights.
This flexibility of data collection allows events and pageviews to combine, giving you the ability to ask and answer more specific queries with the data.
GA4’s data model enhances reporting capabilities in a range of areas, including funnel and pathing analysis (the route which website visitors take). This greatly expands your ability to explore your users’ journey and behaviour.
Another core difference between UA and GA4 is that you can now seamlessly report on activity which occurs on both your website and apps in one dashboard – very handy if you have a core website and a separate customer portal or app.
Alongside a new tracking model, GA4 has also introduced a variety of new metrics which it reports upon, including:
- engaged sessions
- engagement rate
- engagement time
These revised metrics are the new way in which you can analyse ‘bounce rate’.
Rather than a crude metric which does not take into account how users behave when they land on your page, GA4 now gives you a more accurate understanding of just how engaged the user is with your content.
Another significant development for GA4 is its AI integration and machine learning.
This brings together predictive insights powered by predictive metrics which can help you make better data-driven decisions.
For many businesses, predictive insights will have their most significant impact on PPC retargeting campaigns, with AI using metrics like purchase probability to create audiences based on their predicted behaviours.
With this level of insight, it will open up a whole new world of possibilities when creating advertising audiences and targeting strategies.
Automatic tracking options
The prospect of setting up a long list of different events to track a wide range of user interactions across your site can be daunting!
Luckily, GA4 comes with automatic tracking which can be turned on with just a few tick boxes, allowing you to quickly track the crucial data needed to give you the most useful insights.
This makes it much more user friendly for people who don’t have extensive technical experience with the previous Universal Analytics. It’s also a simpler way for businesses who don’t require the vast data capabilities of GA4 to get their hands on the core information they need.
New search function
GA4 comes with a newly updated and improved search function, granting you access to more insights than ever before.
With the new search function, you are able to get instant answers on specific questions, such as how many users visited this month compared to last month. You will also be able to request reports, gather insights and ask property configuration queries.
To begin exploring the GA4, simply try asking it some questions and follow the answers and guidance it provides…
How do you make the switch from Universal Analytics to GA4?
GA4 can be setup one of two main ways, depending on whether it will be used for your website, an app or both.
If you have an existing Universal Analytics account, setup can be easily completed with the GA4 setup assistant. From your UA account, go to the ‘Admin’ area (located in the navigation bar on the left), click ‘Setup Assistant’ and follow the steps.
Alternatively, for an app, you can set-up GA4 from an existing Firebase account. Go to ‘Analytics > Dashboard’ on the left panel, click ‘Begin Upgrade’ and follow the steps. Once established – if you have both a website and app – you can setup multiple streams to collect data in the one place.
Ready to make the most of GA4?
It’s perfectly natural to get nervous when changing rom something which has become familiar. Changing from Universal Analytics to GA4 is no different!
However, it’s important to remember that GA4 is ultimately a much more powerful tool which offers usability and insight which – if digital marketing is important to your business – could be of enormous benefit.
As East Anglia’s leading B2B marketing agency, we help businesses from sectors including technology, logistics, manufacturing and many more, to get the very best from their marketing.
If you need support getting the best from your marketing – including transitioning to the GA4 – contact us here.