The end is looming for Google’s Universal Analytics (UA), with its sunset slated for July 2023. The alternative? Google Analytics 4 (GA4), Google’s entirely new analytics platform, is ready for adoption. Despite this, many marketers remain hesitant, unsure of the critical differences between the old and the new platforms. This article seeks to clear up these uncertainties, explaining the switch, the retained features, and the exciting new attributes of GA4.
The Imminent Migration from Universal Analytics to GA4
The idea of migrating to GA4 may appear daunting, especially for those who have only ever known Universal Analytics. However, there is no escaping the inevitable shift. Fortunately, Google has eased this transition with a migration tool to automatically convert your UA goals into GA4 conversion events, helping bridge the main difference between the two: their measurement models. While Universal Analytics measures sessions and pageviews, GA4 focuses on events and parameters. However, bear in mind that the migration tool isn’t perfect and some goals could be missed, necessitating manual conversion event creation.
Adopting GA4 early allows for parallel tracking on both platforms until July 2023, ensuring that the new platform operates as expected while both are still active.
The Impact on SEO Strategies with GA4
SEO specialists might need to alter their reporting strategies with GA4. The platform provides more informed reports and enables a comprehensive understanding of the customer lifecycle. With more complex reports in GA4, you may need to adjust your reporting strategy entirely, potentially incorporating BigQuery for effective data analysis.
Retaining Familiarity: GA4 vs Universal Analytics
There’s no need to discard everything you knew about UA when moving to GA4. Data and reporting features remain consistent between the two platforms, with a similar range of reports accessible. Some may perceive GA4 as offering more reporting options, but many of these exist in UA under different tabs.
Moreover, GA4 retains Universal Analytics’ price tag, remaining completely free. The interface is also largely unchanged, ensuring that current UA users can navigate GA4 with relative ease.
Embracing Innovation: New Features in GA4
GA4 introduces a plethora of novel features, distinguishing itself from its predecessor. Firstly, it introduces event-based tracking, offering a more flexible and comprehensive data modelling approach compared to UA’s pageview-based system. Secondly, it integrates mobile app and website tracking seamlessly, providing a more comprehensive picture of user navigation.
Privacy is a significant focus of GA4. It allows data collection without reliance on third-party cookies or IP addresses, adhering strictly to major privacy laws. The platform utilizes first-party cookies and AI to fill any data gaps.
GA4 also leverages machine learning for predictive analytics. It offers three predictive metrics: purchase probability, churn probability, and predicted revenue, contributing to smarter decision-making.
Further, GA4 boasts better product integration, particularly with Google Ads, Google Merchant Center, and Big Query, formerly accessible only to GA 360 account holders. GA4 users can now access this multi-cloud, serverless data warehouse for free.
GA4 offers customizable dashboards, a stark contrast to the rigid reporting pages of Universal Analytics. Additionally, it features a more intuitive search feature that enables actual question searches and comparative data range queries.
Shedding the Past: What GA4 Excludes from Universal Analytics?
GA4 drops several features from Universal Analytics, including monthly hit limits and spam referrals. Certain capabilities like blocking IP addresses, creating different data views, or setting up a hostname filter won’t migrate to the new platform. Bounce rates are also omitted from reports, with Google preferring to focus on positive reporting through engagement rate figures.
Transitioning from Universal Analytics to GA4 is an inevitable and beneficial process. The impressive array of new features in GA4 may seem overwhelming, but it merely underscores its robust analytical capabilities, underscoring the necessity of migrating sooner rather than later. Just as Universal Analytics once brought concern and confusion before being accepted as the norm, so too will GA4 inevitably become the standard for data analytics.