Over the past few months, you may have noticed emails from Google or messages when you visit Google Analytics. about the upcoming switch to something called Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Although the switch from the current version – Universal Analytics (UA) – to GA4 isn’t scheduled until 1st July 2023, our advice is to prepare for this now.
To help, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions about GA4, including how it is different to the current version of Analytics, whether it is necessary to change, whether you can use both versions at once and whether you can transfer data across.
Google Analytics 4 is very different from Universal Analytics. UA was built around ‘sessions’ and ‘page views’, which viewed a user’s interactions within a given time frame (e.g. throughout the duration of a visit to your website).
GA4 uses a significantly different structure and data collection method based on ‘users’ and ‘events’. This processes each interaction as a standalone event, such as clicks on products, page scrolls, add-to-carts, form submissions, and transactions.
This event-based model is a move to both protect user privacy for the future and to help better understand user journeys between multiple channels and devices. It includes privacy controls such as cookieless measurement and behavioural and conversion modelling.
Yes, GA4 is intended to be a replacement for Universal Analytics and the final switch will be made on 1 July 2023. However, as we outlined above, there are some key differences to get to grips with so it is not a like-for-like replacement. This means a transition is necessary to start understanding and using GA4 data for website analytics and reporting.
Yes – but only until 1 July 2023. You can have both a UA and GA4 property tracking data simultaneously for now – in fact, this is the recommended approach – but after this date, Universal Analytics will no longer be accessible and you will have to solely use Google Analytics 4.
That is why we are recommending getting it set up now – so you can start tracking data and also get used to the new model before the final switch happens. You will be able to access your Universal Analytics reports for a period of time after 1 July 2023.
We understand that it is frustrating having to get to grips with a new service when you are perfectly happy with the existing version. However, it’s not really a case of ‘should you upgrade?’ because eventually, it won’t be a choice.
Instead, you should consider that it’s important to get to grips with GA4 as early as possible so that when the switch does happen, you are ahead of the curve!
Yes – we recommend that you start using Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible. You will need to implement a separate GA4 tracking code on your website and being able to collect this data sooner rather than later will help you in the long run.
Google believes that GA4 is superior to UA because it better understands and tracks the customer journey through its events model. It is also intended to improve the privacy of users, which many would see as a bonus in a more data-conscious world.
Whether you consider GA4 to be better than Universal Analytics is likely to be a matter of personal preference, but it’s here to stay!
Unfortunately, directly migrating your existing UA data to GA4 is not currently possible in most cases. There is no way to simply migrate an audience from UA to GA4 because the data has to be collected by the Google Analytics 4 tracking code.
Instead, you need to create new events for your GA4 property using the new event names and parameters. Google suggests that it’s better to rethink your data collection in terms of the Google Analytics 4 model rather than port your existing event structure to Google Analytics 4.
Yes, you can track the same goals and conversion data in GA4 as you were tracking in Google Analytics, but you will need to set these up in line with the new model.
The basis of the Google Analytics 4 data model is events and event parameters. Most aspects of collecting data for GA4 are event-based and also usually include parameters.
An event allows you to measure a specific user interaction on a website or app. For example, loading a page, clicking a link, and completing a purchase are all interactions you can measure with GA4 events.
You can set the parameters for each event you track, including what is and is not required to fulfil it. For example, if your event is a customer beginning to checkout, the currency and monetary value of the event will be required, while adding a coupon can be included but is not required.
Hopefully, that answers some of your questions about the new Google Analytics model! Changes like these can take a while to get used to but it is always best to seize the opportunities to prepare early.
If you have any questions at all or you’d like help with setting up your GA4 property, please do get in touch with us.