Google announced the sunsetting of Universal Analytics on the 1st of July, 2023. That’s not the best news for companies that use Universal Analytics as their primary analytics solution. Many organisations analyse their website data daily, including paid traffic, social media and organic traffic. What will happen to them?
Google introduces Google Analytics 4. The new analytics tool was created from scratch to track website and app data in one view. Google Analytics 4 brings its benefits and drawbacks. The main disadvantage is that it will require hours and hours of adoption for users who got used to Universal Analytics reports. You or your analysts will need to learn about GA4 features. Of course, for many companies, it also means new investment in upgrading from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4.
They can also have many other solutions that rely on that data, such as Google Optimise, Google Ads, and Google Data Studio (recently renamed Looker Studio). Just imagine that you will need to update 10 or 50 GDS dashboards.
Although all of that sounds demotivating, let’s figure out what GA4 is.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4 is the next-generation measurement solution built by Google to measure website and app traffic in one place. That means you can now see the whole users’ journey from the first website visit to the uninstallation of your mobile app on their phones. You can see all transactions, page views, website events, app actions, etc.
Besides, GA4 is a good fit for companies that operate under GDPR and CCPA. GA4 is built for privacy and gives you complete control of users’ data. The process of deletion of the data is much more accessible. You can also control the cookie duration inside GA4.
And there is one more significant difference, GA4 allows you to use machine learning and AI-based algorithms for free. It can predict anomalies and create a data-driven attribution model.
How does Google Analytics 4 differ from Universal Analytics?
Even though I already mention a few key differences, and you can read them in detail in my other post: “Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics | 8 Key Differences”, I will mention them shortly here:
- Google Analytics 4 uses an event-based measurement model vs a session-based model used by Universal Analytics.
- Google Analytics 4 has no data limits vs 200,000 hits per day in Universal Analytics.
- Google Analytics 4 measures some actions by default without needing to install tags.
- Google Analytics 4 was created to track users across different devices and websites.
- Google Analytics 4 offers AI and Machine Learning solutions for free.
- Google Analytics 4 is highly customisable, and you can set it up for your needs.
- Google Analytics 4 can be integrated with BigQuery, and you can analyse your data using SQL for free.
- Google Analytics 4 allows you to organise your data better to suit GDPR and CCPA.
Google Analytics 4 offers a list of modern features to small companies that Universal Analytics didn’t have. Yes, we will need to learn how to use GA4, but in the long term, GA4 will give us ways to understand our users, follow laws better, and grow our business to an even more lucrative level. However, new tools always come with a new setup.
How to switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4?
There are two ways of switching from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4:
- The easiest way to use GTAG.js. If you use GTAG.js for Universal Analytics, you can also use it for Google Analytics 4.
- If you use Analytics.js or Google Tag Manager, you must update/create tags manually.
Although the first step is more attractive since it requires you to spend less time and start to use GA4 soon, the second step allows you to reconsider existing events and structure. GA4 doesn’t follow the same event format that UA had. This means that such event parameters as event category, action and label won’t be the best fit for GA4.
If you are interested in exact instructions on how to transit yourself from UA to GA4, please follow my dedicated post: “How to upgrade to Google Analytics 4”. If you are an e-commerce company, SaaS or interested in tracking revenue in GA4 too, you can follow my other post: “How to setup ecommerce tracking in GA4?”.
How to improve your Google Analytics 4 knowledge?
When you migrate from UA to GA4, you will want to know more about how to use Google Analytics 4. Although there are many options to improve your knowledge, and you can find your own, I will mention a few ones to guide you on where to start:
- eBooks. There are a few valuable resources where you can read more about GA4: https://www.analyticsmania.com/google-tag-manager-e-books-and-guides/ and https://learn.optimizesmart.com/google-analytics-4-ga4-ebook
- Courses. Paid and free courses are available on the market. You can select the best one for yourself by reading my dedicated article: “Best Google Analytics 4 Courses: Free and Paid”
- Youtube Videos. If you prefer video content, you can start with videos on Youtube. You can check a few good tutorials: “Google Analytics 4 Tutorial for Beginners”and “Google Analytics 4 Tutorial”.
When you improve your knowledge using one of the options above, you can consider passing the exam and getting the GA4 certificate.
Despite the facts I mentioned already regarding GA4, we should keep in mind that GA4 is the future of analytics. It brings additional benefits to the business. You will get the raw data you can work with the way you want. It becomes accessible for you in BigQuery when you integrate GA4 with it. After that, you can execute a SQL query or work with the data in Google Sheets (BigQuery – Google Sheets Connector).
Universal Analytics didn’t have this capacity, and its measurement model was a bit outdated because it was mainly built for ecommerce businesses when digital companies didn’t look at metrics such as LTV, LTV/CAC, retention and churn.
Let’s try Google Analytics 4 and Discover the Future of Analytics!
Google Analytics 4 is the next-generation measurement solution built by Google to measure website and app traffic in one place. That means you can now see the whole user journey from the first website visit to the uninstallation of your mobile app on their phones. You can see all transactions, page views, website events, app actions, etc.
Google Analytics 4 is named this way because it’s the fourth generation of Google Analytics. The first three were Urchin from Google (2005), Classic Google Analytics (2007) and Universal Analytics (2012).
Of course, Google Analytics 4 is a powerful analytics solution that brings its benefits compared to Universal Analytics, such as:
#1. Data Privacy Management
#2. Data Streams
#3. ML and AI features
#4. No data limits
#5. Integration with BigQuery
#6. Automatic event tracking
Here are the critical differences between GA4 and UA:
#1. Google Analytics 4 uses an event-based measurement model vs a session-based model used by Universal Analytics.
#2. Google Analytics 4 has no data limits vs 200,000 hits per day in Universal Analytics.
#3. Google Analytics 4 measures some actions by default without needing to install tags.
#4. Google Analytics 4 was created to track users across different devices and websites.
#5. Google Analytics 4 offers AI and Machine Learning solutions for free.
#6. Google Analytics 4 is highly customisable, and you can set it up for your needs.
#7. Google Analytics 4 can be integrated with BigQuery, and you can analyse your data using SQL for free.
#8. Google Analytics 4 allows you to organise your data better to suit GDPR and CCPA.