The move from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4
By Brendan Wolmarans09 May 2022
Google Analytics is a web analytics service that offers basic analytical tools and data for search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing. It is used to track the performance of a website and gather data about its visitors. This data can then be used by businesses to determine the leading sources of their traffic, assessing the success of their marketing activities and campaigns, tracking goal progress and completions, and identifying patterns and trends in customer engagement.
In October 2021, Google announced the most momentous change to Google Analytics ever: Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Google is calling it their ‘next generation measurement tool’ and have announced that it would be replacing Universal analytics (the previous generation of Analytics). This move is set to officially take place on the 1st of July 2023, when Universal Analytics will stop processing new hits. Users of Universal analytics have been given 6 months after the 1st of June 2023 to view and use their data.
How is GA4 Different?
One major difference is the ability to analyse web and app data from a single place, compared to using multiple platforms. This allows for a better understanding of marketing channels due to the fact that a user’s entire journey can now be tracked from app to web.
The IP addresses of users are now automatically anonymous and cannot be viewed, compared to Universal Analytics where this function can be disabled. This has been done to protect user data and keep companies GDPR compliant. The platform also has free connections with Big Query and Explorations, these are platforms that enable you to access raw data, perform advanced analyses, and view reports that only GA3 360 users could in the past.
The data structure as well as the data collection logic are both significantly different in GA4. Users may be used to working with sessions, but the platform has now been built around users and events. A model based on events processes user interactions as standalone events, which allows for the tracking of a user’s multiple touchpoints on a site or app, compared to just a single session. The focus being moved from sessions to events has benefitted marketers, as GA4 now allows for cross-platform analysis and an upgraded capacity for pathing analysis. This also allows for better prediction of user behaviour.
Google is planning on changing the game with GA4, but users, and marketing professionals are being advised to prepare now. With GA4 being so different from its previous version, a new tag is required to be added to websites, and with it, comes a clean start on Analytics. Until Google officially makes the move over to GA4, Universal Analytics and GA4 are able to run side-by-side collecting data. For now, there is no clear way to migrate data from Universal Analytics to Google analytics 4, but historical data can be built up by setting up a Google Analytics 4 tag on a website, collecting user data, and planning for when Universal Analytics stops processing data.