We’ll cut to the chase. Google Analytics 4 is the next-generation solution from Google and is replacing Google Universal Analytics (UA). We’ve all known and loved UA since its inception in 2012, but it’s now time to move on to bigger and better things.
On July 1, 2023, standard UA properties will stop processing new data. To guarantee there is no lull during your data processing, you should migrate to Google Analytics 4 before this date. If you have not set up GA4 yet, now’s the time to make the move. We know there will be some growing pains, but that’s okay!
We at SteadyRain have already been helping our clients make the transition over to GA4. Making the switch from UA isn’t the easiest process, and that’s why we’re here to help. SteadyRain can assist you every step of the way so you can use your time to focus on other business needs. Let us worry about GA4.
Why is Google Making the Change to GA4?
To put it simply, UA was built on a model that is becoming obsolete. Google’s Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the use of web browsers on desktops, independent sessions, and easily observable data from cookies.
Because most internet browsing now occurs on both mobile devices and desktops, it makes the most sense to pivot how data is gathered. By not relying on cookies, GA4 data can operate across multiple platforms. Google sees this as a more future-proof solution.
UA vs. GA4. What Are the Main Differences?
In UA, a Session is a period when a user is actively engaged with your website or app. A Session ends with 30 minutes of inactivity or when a user leaves your website or app. If a Session crosses midnight, a new Session is created from that same user. New Sessions also start if a user encounters a UTM parameter during their Session.
For GA4, a Session is also known as a session_start. To determine the Session that each event comes from, the session_start event generates a session ID and Analytics associates the Session ID with each subsequent event in the Session. Like UA, a Session ends when there have been more than 30 minutes of inactivity. However, Sessions are not restarted at midnight or when new campaign parameters are encountered.
Events are the foundation for all reporting in Universal Analytics. They are user interactions with content, other than page loads. Downloads, link clicks, form submissions, and video plays are all examples of actions that can be considered Events. An Event has components including category, action, label (optional), and value (optional).
In Google Analytics 4, each user interaction is processed as a standard event. Basic interactions, such as a user’s first visit, are automatically collected. Events have associated parameters that provide more information about the event. For example, session_start has built-in parameters for page_location, page_title, and page_referrer. These can define reports such as landing page reports or session default channel groupings. These event parameters have replaced the category, action, and label event components that were part of Universal Analytics.
One of the most impactful differences when comparing Universal Analytics vs. Google Analytics 4 is how conversions are determined.
UA has you define a goal to indicate that a user action should be considered a conversion. For example, if you define a “Download Now” goal, a conversion will be counted each time a user downloads your specified document. UA only counts one conversion per session for each goal. If a user downloads your document multiple times in one session, only one conversion will be counted.
GA4 lets you specify a conversion event for each action that you want to be counted as a conversion. To use the same example as before, if you make “Download Now” a conversion event, a conversion will be counted each time a user downloads your document. No matter how many times one of your conversion events takes place during a session, GA4 will count it.
In general, GA4 offers fewer Standard Reports than UA. This is because of the Explore Reports in GA4. Explore Reports are completely customizable and more flexible than Standard Reports. They are beneficial for ad-hoc reporting and for quickly accessing frequently used data points.
GA4 also has a Landing Page Report. It shows you the first page that visitors landed on when they visited your website. It’s important to note that the Landing Page Report is session-scoped as opposed to user-scoped. This means that multiple landing page visits can be counted for a single user if they occur during a different session. If a user lands on your home page in one session and then lands on your “About Us” page in another session, each page will have a counted visit. Based on how Google describes the situation, and our experience working with this report, a user landing on the same page multiple times does not create a second landing page session.
Contact SteadyRain for GA4 Help
Those were just a few of the differences between UA and GA4; there are several other important updates and changes we didn’t touch on. Many of the other updates are better explained when diving into actual data.
Switching to GA4 from UA can be a tedious process. We know from experience. If you’re nervous about the need to migrate to GA4, we’re here to tell you that with a little help, you’ll be utilizing the new reporting and features in no time. Don’t forget that Universal Analytics properties will stop processing data on July 1, 2023. Contact us soon!