You’ve probably seen the emails and notifications from Google about Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and the end of Universal Analytics (UA). If you, like some of our clients, are not sure what this means for you, read on . . .
Data analytics plays a vital role in optimising your business’s digital impact. Most businesses use UA as their primary analytics tool because it provides all of the data they need — or think they need.
Times have changed.
Universal Analytics (and Classic Google Analytics before it) was built to track desktop web traffic. User behaviour, along with technology, has significantly changed since UA was launched. Not only has web traffic moved from desktop to mobile, mobile apps give users the opportunity to interact with businesses via another channel. This has made the traditional tracking of data via UA a challenge.
An early solution was tracking mobile app usage using Firebase, a separate, purpose-built platform. This meant you needed two platforms (GA and Firebase) to get the complete picture of your data. To address this cumbersome process, in 2020 Google released GA4, which unifies the tracking between app and web interactions.
While some users have been reluctant to make the move, from 1 July 2023, UA will no longer be an option to track desktop and mobile traffic meaning business owners must migrate to GA4 now.
The key differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics
GA4 offers significant improvements over UA.
One of the most significant differences between UA and GA4 lies in their underlying data models. UA relies on a session-based data model, focusing on cookies and client IDs to track user interactions. In contrast, GA4 introduces an event-based data model, which captures individual user interactions as events. This means you can can better track user journeys based on customer’s engagement or interaction with your online platforms.
UA primarily focuses on website tracking, whereas GA4 expands its scope to include cross-platform tracking. GA4 offers the ability to seamlessly track users across multiple platforms such as mobile sites and apps, providing a unified view of user behaviour across a range of touchpoints.
Enhanced User-Centric Analysis
With GA4, each user is assigned a unique User ID, providing the ability to track users across devices and platforms, even in cases where cookies are not available.
Compared to UA, GA4 has a much stronger emphasis on user-centric analysis. It introduces a new metric called “User Engagement.” This metric tracks how users engage with content and provides insights into their behaviour patterns, such as active users, engagement rate, and engagement time.
This user-centric approach allows for more accurate and comprehensive user insights, facilitating greater personalisation and targeting capabilities.
GA4 incorporates machine learning capabilities to provide automated insights based on user behaviour data. It uses the power of AI to identify trends hidden in the data that can become actionable insights. GA4 helps businesses measure key conversion metrics, optimise marketing campaigns, improve user experiences and drive overall business growth.
Simplified Event Tracking
Event tracking in UA required manual setup for each event. GA4 simplifies this process by introducing an enhanced event tracking system. It provides a set of pre-defined events and parameters, making it easier to track common user interactions like pageviews, clicks, video plays, scrolls, leads generated and file downloads. It’s also possible to define a wider range of custom events and parameters, and track specific user actions relevant to unique business goals, such as critical conversion points.
Integration with Google Ads
GA4 offers seamless integration with Google Ads. You can link GA4 properties to, your Google Ads account. You can import conversion analytics into Google Ads accounts and see your Google Ads campaigns in the GA4 acquisitions report. This lets you identify highly-engaged or high-value audiences and target them with paid campaigns.
Privacy and Data Control
Privacy and data control have become increasingly important in the digital landscape. GA4 addresses these concerns by introducing several features aimed at providing greater transparency and control over data collection and usage. It includes features like data deletion controls, consent mode, granular options to manage data sharing, and allows users to define their own data retention periods. GA4 aligns with evolving privacy regulations and empowers businesses to maintain compliance and build trust with their users.
The time is now
From 1 July 2023, UA will not record any new data insights. You need to install GA4 tracking on your website and link it to your various accounts (Google Ads, Search Console, Merchant Center etc.) to gather the data insights you need to drive your business forward.