Here, we will take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of these two options and what you can do to get the best results from both.
How to Transition from Google Analytics UA to GA4
Universal Analytics (UA) will be depreciated from July 2023. To be precise, it will stop working for standard UA properties on 1st July 2023; for UA 260 properties, the cutoff date is 1st October 2023.
Making the switch from UA to GA4 may seem like a daunting task – you may be wondering where to even begin, or how to ensure a smooth transition that does not disrupt your business operations.
This article guide will explain the steps to start using GA4 and will also review some of the major differences between the two platforms. After all, GA4 is not an update to UA, but a completely new approach to tracking. With that in mind, let’s start by reviewing the key differences between them.
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What Are the Differences Between UA and Google Analytics 4?
Universal Analytics has been in use since 2012 as Google’s analytics platform, designed to provide comprehensive data about website performance and user behavior.
Google Analytics 4, UA’s replacement, is more advanced thanks to its use of machine learning, which enables users to derive more accurate insights from their data. It has enhanced predictive capabilities and more free integrations with tools such as BigQuery.
In addition, it has more robust privacy controls than UA, helping businesses ensure user data is being used responsibly.
With that said, let’s look at some of the main changes in more detail.
UA used different types of hits such as ecommerce, social and event hits – but with GA4, everything is classified as an event – pageviews, downloads, video plays, and so on – essentially, any user interaction with the website or application is now recorded as an event.
This event-level analysis of user interactions helps businesses gain insights into how their audiences are engaging with content and identify potential opportunities to optimise pages for conversion.
GA4 gives users the options to select from Automated Events, Recommended Events, and Custom Events – the latter lets you define your own range of parameters, enabling more flexibility when tracking metrics.
Combining Website and App Data
With GA4, you can now track both app and website data within the same property. Not only does this improve overall efficiency, but it allows you to track user behaviour across multiple devices, which is essential these days given how many of us use multiple devices every single day.
In this way, GA4 is going to make it much easier to provide a high-quality omnichannel experience by enabling users to better understand complex customer journeys.
The way Google defines certain KPIs in GA4 is different. For example, the bounce rate is no longer the percentage of users that don’t view more than one webpage. With GA4, bounce rate is defined as the percentage of sessions that were not engaged sessions.
What are engaged sessions? Sessions exceeding 10 seconds and featuring two or more page views – or featuring one or more conversion event.
The engagement rate = number of engaged sessions / total sessions within a given period. Some other new engagement metrics in GA4 are engagement time and engaged sessions per user.
There are also differences in the user metrics. While in UA there were only two – total users and new users – GA4 also has a metric called active users. An active user is one that has an engaged session running; however, a user can also be defined as active when Analytics detects certain parameters depending on the device being used.
For a website, it needs to detect either the first_visit event or the engagement_time_msec parameter. For Android, the same parameters apply and for iOS, it’s either the first_open or user_engagement event.
These are just a few examples of the metric changes in GA4 – there are also changes in metrics relating to pageviews, purchases, traffic acquisition metrics, and more.
Several new types of reports are available in GA4, including customer lifecycle reports covering acquisition, engagement, monetisation, and retention. There is also improved reporting for funnel analysis, segment overlap, and user lifetime.
GA4 comes with a BigQuery connection for free. If you’re not familiar with the platform, BigQuery is a serverless data warehouse by Google that is able to run complex queries on terabytes of data within seconds. This platform helps users to focus on analysis by taking care of the infrastructure required to store and manage huge volumes of data. It is also equipped with machine learning capabilities that allows businesses to make predictions about user behaviour.
Improved Data Visualisation and User Interface
GA4 has improved data visualisation capabilities, enabling you to gain insights and notice trends faster. The improved user interface has more features and options for customising reports, while UA had a much simpler design.
How to Get Started with GA4
Set Up Google Tag Manager
If you don’t already have this set up, you’ll need to do so if you want to simplify the process of connecting GA4 with your website. Google’s setup instructions can be found here.
Set Up a New Property
Once you have prepared for the migration, you can begin transferring your data and settings from UA to GA4. The first step is to go to Account > Property in order to set up a new GA4 property. This will enable you to create a new tracking ID for your GA4 property, and you can then add the tracking ID to your website or app.
Add a Data Stream
Next you will need to add a data stream by navigating through Property > Data Streams > Add Stream. From there, you can add a stream from an app or website.
Connect GA4 to Your Web Pages
To do this, you need to add the Google tag to your web pages. Navigate as follows:
Data Streams > Web > (select the data stream required) > Google Tag > View Tag Instructions > Installation Instructions > Install Manually.
There is a quicker way to do this for sites built using Wix, WordPress, Google Sites, HubSpot, or WooCommerce. Simply paste the G-ID into the Google Analytics field in your Content Management System (or into the custom HTML section if your CMS doesn’t provide this option). You can find this ID under the ‘Data Streams’ section.
To get set up with minimal disruption, you can use dual tags to maintain your UA property while setting up the GA4 property. Data will then be collected for both properties until you complete the switch.
Keeping both UA and GA4 running for a period of time after the migration will allow you to compare the data between the two platforms, ensure that the migration was successful, and identify any discrepancies or other issues. See Google’s instructions for more details on having them run in parallel.
How to Connect Your GA4 Property With Google Ads
To start seeing Google Ads data in your GA4 property, you need to link the Ads account. To do this, must have admin access to the Ads account you’re linking it to (and editor access to the GA4 property).
Click ‘Admin’ in the required Google Analytics account then under the ‘Property’ section, select the GA4 property, then click ‘Setup Assistant’. Next, under linking, select ‘Import existing Google Ads links from your connected Universal Analytics Property’, then click ‘Get Started’.
You will then need to select the Google Ads links to import into the GA4 property. After that, select ‘Import selected Ads links’ and click ‘OK’.
Now that you have successfully imported the Ads links, you need to complete more actions if you plan to use bidding and remarketing features. For bidding, follow the instructions for ‘import conversions’ and for remarketing, it’s ‘add audiences to a campaign or ad group’.
You may also want to activate Google Signals as this allows for more comprehensive remarketing and reporting options. This will allow you to gather data from users that have Ads Personalisation switched on, letting you harness cross-device reporting, remarketing, and conversion export to Google Ads.
With just a few months until Universal Analytics is depreciated, now is the time to make the transition. The major differences between UA and Google Analytics 4 include the use of event-based tracking, where all types of user actions are classified as events.
Another development is the unification of data across platforms, helping businesses gain a detailed understanding of complex user journeys. Other changes include improvements to the user interface and the redefinition of and addition of several metrics.
Connecting GA4 to your website or application is a straightforward enough process thanks to the Google Tag Manager. It is also recommended that you run both UA and GA4 in parallel for a while in order to make sure the transition was successful.
If you’re looking for assistance with your marketing campaigns or simply don’t have time to manage them yourself, get in touch – my team and I would be happy to assist.