What is Google Analytics 4 and do I need to update?

As you may know, Google Analytics is a digital analytics service from Google that allows you to track and analyse your website traffic. It's the most widely used analytics platform on the web, and most of us would be completely lost without it.


This allows us to see where visitors to our site come from, how they move around and interact with our site and its content, what marketing efforts are working or not working, and much more.


What is Google Analytics 4?


Google Analytics 4, commonly referred to as GA4, is Google's 4th and most recent version of its analytics platform. Pretty clever naming convention, huh?

Although GA4 isn't technically new — it officially launched in October 2020 — Google has continued live product development for the past 18 months. While there were a few bumps and bruises along the way for early adopters, this release is now ready for prime time.

So ready, in fact, that Google has announced that it will be phasing out Universal Analytics on July 1, 2023. This means, and this is really, really important, ALL of your analytics tracked under Universal Analytics will be gone by July 2023. Which means you 'll only have data for comparison from the date of conversion to GA4.

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How is Google Analytics 4 different from Universal Analytics?

GA4 turned Google Analytics, as we know it, on its head. Although we could write a short novel about all the differences between Universal Analytics and GA4, here are the main changes you need to know:

The Data Model

GA4 changes the way data is collected, with a focus on tracking individual user journeys, so you can more easily glean data about how a user browses and interacts with your web properties.

Universal Analytics was based on a session model. User interactions have been grouped based on a time frame, or session. GA4 takes a very different approach to data colocation and data structure, focusing on users and events. Now, each user interaction is tracked as a stand-alone event as part of the event model. This means that Google Analytics is better able to deduplicate users. Ultimately, GA4 wants you to focus on conversions, rather than traffic.


User Interface Changes

GA4 boasts a streamlined reporting interface with the aim of making it easier for users to spot trends and irregularities in data than was possible in Universal Analytics.

While we're all about the idea, we have to warn you: the new interface has a steep learning curve. Since your data is now tracked differently, the reporting is different. The reports you used to view are now in different formats and in different areas of your Google Analytics dashboard.

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Enhanced Event Tracking (More Granular Reporting)

Dans Universal Analytics, Google Tag Manager était nécessaire si vous souhaitiez suivre le comportement d'un utilisateur spécifique sur une page donnée de votre site Web. Sans Google Tag Manager, Universal Analytics vous indiquerait uniquement que quelqu'un a consulté une page particulière de votre site Web, mais ne vous dira pas s'il a cliqué sur un bouton, jusqu'où il a fait défiler ou cliqué sur un carrousel, par exemple. Vous deviez mettre en œuvre Google Tag Manager pour collecter les données sur ces événements spécifiques.

In GA4, events such as file downloads, scroll depth, and clicks on external links are now tracked natively. While you'll still need Google Tag Manager to track custom events specific to your organization and data collection needs, it's good to have more advanced event tracking out of the box in GA4 .

Finally, GA4 allows you to mix data from your apps and website. This happens through a unique property and Google Analytics data feeds. So yes, now you can have full reports on the usage of your digital properties.


Should I upgrade from Universal Analytics to GA4?

  • Because eventually you will have to. Google recently announced that it will be deprecating Universal Analytics on July 1, 2023. In July next year, analytics in Universal Analytics will be gone, so if you want at least a year's worth of data, you should upgrade now.
  • Because it will take time to redo your event tracking, update your Google Data Studio reports, and develop your new reports.
  • The more data you have in GA4 the better, even if you don't have all the necessary reports to configure. You won't be able to transfer your data from UA to GA4, so you need to start collecting it in GA4 now!

How to Transition from Universal Analytics to GA4

Regenerate your custom Google Analytics reports or Google Data Studio reports, if you have them. Be aware that this can get a bit complicated. If you need help, Matrix Group can help you, as well as your Google Analytics partner, if you have one. (If you don't, give us a call!)

Train yourself. Google has an entire academy dedicated to GA4. The more you know about this new analytics platform, the better it will be for you and your organisation.

Plan to download and archive your Universal Analytics data, because that data will go poof! come July 2023. Download raw data, download reports and take screenshots of your favourite reports. Even if you cannot integrate old data and reports into GA4, you will at least have the reference and comparison data.

Once again, Google is making free and powerful tools available to the world. You might faint the first time you see the GA4 interface, but over time you'll come to appreciate the power Google is now making available to all of us.

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Contact

Jill Smith, CEO

(P) 615-555-5555

(F) 615-555-5525
1312 5th Ave N.

Nashville, TN 37208

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