What is GA4: Why Google Ditched Universal Analytics




Blue gradient background with tthe GA4 logo or google analytics 4 logo

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So you may be wondering why Google is tentatively planning to sunset its UA or Universal Analytics platform in June 2023 and replace it with its new GA4 or Google Analytics 4 platform. What is GA4, and why is GA4 important?

GA4 is Google’s next generation of website analytics, allowing for measuring traffic, conversions, and events on your website. GA4 now uses event-based data in place of session-based. This allows more privacy-based controls such as cookieless measurement and conversion modeling.

As with any significant product shift, many people hate the way Google Analytics 4 tracks and doesn’t present data in the same way as the older Universal Analytics has.

Today we discuss why this change happened and why it’s a good change.

Blue gradient background with tthe GA4 logo or google analytics 4 logo

So, What is GA4?

The latest version of Google Analytics, GA4, has been renamed for clarity and combines data from both apps and websites. All Universal Analytics properties can be ‘upgraded’ to GA4 by creating a new Analytics property.

If you had a Firebase Analytics account (for apps), it would have automatically upgraded to GA4.

Any new Google Analytics accounts created will be GA4, with older versions known as Universal Analytics eventually being phased out.

You can set up a GA4 property for an app, website, or both – it’s recommended you have a separate GA4 account alongside any existing GA accounts to allow time for data collection without losing anything currently stored in your GA accounts.

Since the introduction of GDPR, websites have been required to get user consent before tracking their activity with cookies.

GA4 will start reducing this reliance on cookies by using machine learning to ‘fill in the gaps’ where user consent is not given for tracking. This will make it more stable against future industry changes and prevent any gaps in your data.

With GA4, the focus was fully kept with the future in mind. The new design is scalable and adaptive, so your business can grow.

Why Is GA4 Important To Visitors and Site Owners?

GA4 focuses on user privacy and building better data for site owners. It is important to understand what data is being collected and how it can be used to improve website performance for both users and owners.

The key features that make GA4 stand out are:

  • User-centric data: focus on the individual rather than devices, sessions, or platforms.
  • Cross-platform measurement: track users across apps and websites.
  • Improved conversion modeling: more accurate conversion attribution.
  • Enhanced data collection: collect more data points for better analysis.
  • Increased flexibility: use machine learning to fill in the gaps where needed.
  • Better privacy controls: give users more control over what data is collected about them.

What Does This Mean for the Site Owner?

Overall, Google Analytics 4 will provide more accurate data to help you understand your website visitors and what they do on your site.

This will allow you to make better decisions about what content to create, what products to sell, and how to improve your website experience for your users.

As a site visitor?

you can expect more privacy-conscious controls over what data is being collected about you and how it is used. This includes opting out of certain types of data collection altogether.

Overall, Google Analytics 4 is a good chance for both site owners and visitors.

It provides more accurate data for owners to make better decisions about their websites and gives visitors more control over what data is being collected about them.

Benefits of GA4

The new Google Analytics 4 comes with many new benefits, including:

Focus on User Engagement

GA4’s robust new user metrics and dimensions, which utilize AI to predict customer actions, is one of its best features.

GA4 provides us with new user buckets like ‘Acquisition,’ ‘Engagement,’ ‘Monetization,’ and ‘Retention’. GA4 also has a separate ‘Audiences’ report where you can define user definitions, making the platform specific to your business needs and goals.

This helps to identify what users are doing on your site, their interests, and how likely they are to convert. These are all critical factors in understanding what’s important to your website visitors and what you need to do to keep them engaged.

Simplified Goals and Events

With Google Analytics GA4, you get a suite of pre-made actions and events that used to require manual setup on Universal Analytics GA3. These include clicks, scroll behavior, transactions, file downloads, and user first visits.

While you may not have your form submissions and e-commerce goals automatically set up, the process has been dramatically simplified.

It will now take less time to implement than in previous versions of Google Analytics.

AI Insights for Predictive Metrics

GA4’s new predictive metrics let you make informed decisions on a grander scale, understand your target market better, and create audiences based on potential behavior.

From there, you can campaign for them through Google Ads or other social media tools.

Not only can you enhance retargeting initiatives with these latest metrics, but you can also improve website performance, all by tailoring custom funnels to distinct audiences.

By taking into account behaviors and needs, you’ll be able to set up a separate funnel for each group of users.

Focus on the User’s Journey

With Google Analytics 4, you can finally focus on a user’s journey and all of the events that lead up to it. The new data model means you don’t have to juggle multiple metrics and dimensions; now, you can use one set for your web and app data.

GA4’s new feature of tracking a user that visits your website on their mobile phone comes back on their desktop, and then downloads, purchases, or registers through your app is very beneficial.

It means you can see what marketing touchpoints are working and which aren’t.

Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics

UA tallies up and reports data according to a session-based model, which means that user interactions are gathered together within a certain amount of time.

The event-based model GA4 uses is more flexible and provides for accurate reporting that allows various types of user interactions to be passed along with it, such as value for purchase, page title, and user location.

In this model, every time a user interacts with your website, GA4 records it as a separate event. This differs from how UA properties work, which bundles all hit events into one session.

The benefit of the GA4 model is that you can include up to 25 additional parameters per event– much greater than the four a UA setup currently allows (Category, Action, Label, Value).

Get Started Quick With Google Analytics 4

Why does GA4 not have many reports?

Because Google wants you to use Google Data Studio for reporting or create your reports from scratch using the Explorations report templates, GA4 does not come with many reports.

This allows you to tailor your reporting to what is essential for your business without being bogged down by unnecessary or irrelevant data.

It also allows Google to direct you towards their products, such as Data Studio, which they hope you will find indispensable and eventually pay for.

Final Thoughts on GA4 and the Future of Analytics

Overall, Google Analytics 4 seems like a step in the right direction for the future of analytics.

The event-based model will provide more accurate data, and the ability to pass more information into GA with each interaction will give marketers a better understanding of what users are doing on their site.

The new predictive metrics and AI insights seem promising and could change the way we do marketing for the better.

Only time will tell how well the masses will adopt GA4 and what future features and improvements will be made to the platform.

For now, it seems like a good idea to start using GA4 on your site if you’re not already using Universal Analytics. Google Analytics 4 is the future of Google Analytics and will only improve from here.

What do you think about GA4? Have you started using it on your site? Let us know in the comments below!

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