The transition from Universal Analytics to GA4 isn’t just an upgrade – it’s a complete shift in how Google Analytics works.
GA4 offers advanced analytics insights and various features designed to help website owners make data-driven decisions and better understand their customers by providing a complete picture of user behavior across multiple platforms. The insight is crucial because it allows website owners to leverage collected data with GA4 to enhance the user experience and drive more conversions. GA4’s new features also help those in the marketing and advertising industry, as they’ll have access to better insights into the efficacy of their campaigns.
Gain a complete understanding of GA4 with the comprehensive content we’ve prepared.
Everything You Need To Know About Google’s Transition to GA4
To keep pace with the ever-evolving demand for data analytics, Google is replacing Universal Analytics (UA) with its next-generation measurement solution, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), effective beginning July 1, 2023.
Standard UA properties will no longer measure website traffic and create reports when the change takes effect, leaving UA users that don’t migrate their property settings to GA4 at risk of losing critical data.
The implementation of GA4 represents a significant leap forward in the world of data analytics by giving marketers and analysts more control over the data they collect. With this shift comes many changes, but planning ahead will help ensure a seamless transition.
This guide clearly defines GA4 terminology, outlines the differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4, and provides details on how to make the switch to GA4.
Also, be sure to check out the resources Google has shared around the migration, as well as what to expect. We’re dropping our FREE open-sourced checklist – the same one we used! – if you give us a follow on LinkedIn and shoot us a comment on any of our GA4 posts.
Glossary of Terms
In order to effectively navigate and utilize GA4, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the new terminology introduced in this next-generation solution. The following are some of the key terms you need to know.
In GA4, events play a central role. They are user interactions with your website or app, such as page views, button clicks, form submissions, and video plays. Events can be used to track specific actions and behaviors of your users.
Conversions refer to the completion of specific goals or desired actions on your website or app, such as a purchase, form submission, or newsletter sign-up. GA4 provides enhanced tracking and reporting capabilities for conversions.
User properties are attributes or characteristics associated with individual users. They can include demographic information, user preferences, device information, or any custom data you choose to collect. User properties help segment and analyze user behavior.
GA4 introduces the concept of streams, which are data sources that contain user interactions and events from your website or app. You can have multiple streams for different platforms or apps, allowing you to track and analyze data separately.
BigQuery is a powerful data warehouse solution by Google. GA4 offers integration with BigQuery, allowing you to export your GA4 data for advanced analysis and custom reporting outside of the GA4 interface.
By understanding and utilizing these key terms, you’ll be better equipped to navigate GA4 and leverage its advanced measurement capabilities effectively.
Enhanced Utility of Events
GA4 has adopted an all-events model designed to enhance the utility of Events.
Instead of the Event structure used by UA users — Event category, Event action, and Event label — GA4 provides 25 slots for users to add event parameters, making managing Events easier.
The 25 slots, also known as custom Event parameters, refer to the available slots or spaces where users can add custom parameters to their Events. These custom Event parameters allow users to attach additional information or context to their Events, providing more flexibility and granularity in tracking and analyzing user interactions.
GA4’s Event-driven model allows you to capture a wide range of user interactions beyond traditional page views.
Types of Events
The following types of Events are featured in GA4. The first two are collected automatically, while the latter two must be implemented in order to see them in GA4.
- Automatically Collected Events
- Page view: Represents the loading of a web page or screen in a mobile app, automatically captured by GA4 when the page or screen is displayed.
- Scroll: Captures user scrolling behavior on a webpage, providing insights into how far users scroll through the content.
- Session start and end: Marks the beginning and end of a user’s session on your website or app.
- Enhanced Measurement Events: GA4 includes a set of enhanced measurement events that can be enabled with minimal code changes. These events provide additional insights into user interactions. Some examples include:
- File download: Tracks when users download a file from your website.
- External link click: Captures clicks on links that lead users to external websites.
- Site search: Records when users perform searches on your website’s search bar.
- Video engagement: Measures user interactions with videos, such as play, pause, seek, and complete.
- Social interaction: Tracks social media interactions, such as shares and likes.
- Recommended Events: GA4 provides a set of recommended Events that cover common user interactions. These Events are predefined and can be used without additional customization. Some examples include:
- Add to cart: Tracks when users add items to their cart or basket.
- Begin checkout: Captures the initiation of the checkout process.
- Purchase: Records successful purchases made by users.
- Generate lead: Tracks lead generation actions, such as form submissions.
- Complete registration: Marks the completion of user registrations.
- Custom Events: GA4 allows you to define custom Events to track specific user interactions unique to your website or app. Custom Events provide flexibility in capturing and analyzing actions important to your business goals. You can define Event names and parameters based on your requirements.
By leveraging the Event-driven model in GA4, you can gain deeper insights into user behavior, analyze user journeys, and optimize your website or app based on specific actions and interactions.
Configurations and Features
A new GA4 property will automatically be created for current UA users. Although UA configurations will be copied to the newly created GA4 property, not all UA configurations have a GA4 equivalent. Thus, all your UA settings may not carry over to the new GA4 property.
Review the following to clear up any misinterpretations regarding GA4 configurations and features.
Similar Configurations and Features Between UA and GA4
Although UA and GA4 each have their own unique set of configurations and features, some similarities do exist between the two, including the following:
- Basic Tracking: Both UA and GA4 offer basic tracking capabilities, allowing users to track page views, Events, and conversions.
- Custom Dimensions: Users can define and use custom dimensions in UA and GA4 to track additional data specific to their website or app.
- Custom Metrics: Similar to custom dimensions, users can define and track custom metrics in both UA and GA4.
- Filters: UA and GA4 both allow users to apply filters to their data to include or exclude specific traffic or modify it based on certain criteria.
- Goals: Users can set up goals in UA and GA4 to track specific actions or conversions on their website or app.
- User-ID Tracking: Both versions support tracking users across multiple sessions using a unique User-ID, enabling you to analyze user behavior across different devices and sessions.
GA4 Configurations and Features
While GA4 aims to provide a more comprehensive and advanced analytics solution, there are some differences in configurations and features compared to UA.
- Enhanced Event Tracking: GA4 introduces automatic event tracking, which captures more events by default, reducing the need for manual Event tracking implementation.
- Data Stream: Instead of the traditional property structure, GA4 uses the concept of data streams, which allows you to collect data from different platforms (web, apps) within a single property.
- Machine Learning and Insights: GA4 incorporates machine learning capabilities to provide advanced insights, such as automated insights, predictive analytics, and anomaly detection.
- User-Centric Analytics: GA4 focuses on user-centric analytics, providing a more holistic view of user behavior across devices and platforms.
- Funnel Analysis: GA4 offers a more streamlined and powerful funnel analysis, allowing you to visualize and analyze user paths and conversions in a more intuitive way.
- Event-Based Model: GA4 moves away from the traditional session-based model of UA and adopts an Event-based data model, providing more flexibility in analyzing user interactions.
Current UA users who want to migrate on their own have the option to opt out of having a GA4 property automatically created. In lieu of automatically created GA4 properties, legacy UA users can use the GA4 Setup Assistant to make the transition.
UA Metrics vs. GA4 Metrics
The key differences in user metrics between UA and GA4 are as follows:
- Users vs. Unique Users
- UA: UA measures the number of unique users who have visited your website or app within a specific time period. It relies on a combination of cookies, client IDs, and user identifiers to track and identify unique users.
- GA4: GA4 uses an Event-based model and measures unique users with a more refined approach. It assigns a unique User-ID to track individual users across different devices and sessions, providing a more accurate representation of user engagement.
- Sessions vs. Engagement
- UA: UA tracks sessions, which represent the time frame when a user is actively engaged on your website or app. Tracking starts with the first interaction and concludes after a period of inactivity (typically 30 minutes).
- GA4: GA4 focuses on user engagement rather than sessions. It tracks user engagement in terms of active users interacting with your website or app within a given time frame, regardless of session boundaries. This allows for a more continuous view of user activity.
- Bounce Rate vs. Engagement Rate
- UA: UA calculates the bounce rate, the percentage of single-page sessions where a user exits your website after viewing only one page.
- GA4: GA4 introduces the concept of engagement rate, which measures the percentage of sessions with at least one engagement event. It considers any meaningful interaction (e.g., clicks, video plays, file downloads) as an engagement event, providing a broader perspective of user interaction.
- New vs. Returning Users
- UA: UA provides a breakdown of new and returning users, categorizing users based on their first-time visit or return visits to your website or app.
- GA4: GA4 also distinguishes between new and returning users. However, with the implementation of the User-ID feature, GA4 can track returning users more accurately across different devices and sessions, leading to improved user identification and reporting.
- Cross-Device Tracking
- UA: UA offers limited cross-device tracking capabilities. It relies on probabilistic methods and client IDs to associate user behavior across different devices, resulting in potential limitations and inaccuracies.
- GA4: GA4 emphasizes cross-device tracking through the User-ID feature. By assigning a unique User-ID to users who log in or provide their information, GA4 can connect user activity across devices more accurately, enabling a better understanding of user behavior and customer journeys.
Making the Switch Manually
To transition from UA to GA4, follow these step-by-step instructions:
- Create a New GA4 Property: Start by creating a new GA4 property in your Google Analytics account. This enables users to track and collect data specifically for GA4.
- Set Up Data Streams: Once your GA4 property is created, set up data streams to capture user interactions from your website or app. You can create different data streams for different platforms or apps if needed.
- Implement GA4 Tracking Code: Install the GA4 tracking code on your website or app to begin collecting data. The code should be placed on all relevant pages to track events and user interactions accurately.
- Import Historical Data (Optional): If you want to have historical data available in GA4, you can import it from your existing Universal Analytics property. GA4 provides options to import data, but note that not all historical data may be transferable.
- Configure Goals and Conversions: Define your goals and conversions in GA4, such as purchases, form submissions, or other desired actions. This allows GA4 to track and report on these key metrics.
- Set Up Enhanced Measurement: GA4 offers enhanced measurement capabilities for certain events and interactions. Enable enhanced measurement to automatically track additional events, such as outbound clicks and scroll depth.
- Customize and Explore Reports: Once data collection is underway, familiarize yourself with the GA4 reporting interface. Explore the various reports and features available to gain valuable insights into user behavior and performance.
By following these steps, you’ll be able to smoothly transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, enabling you to leverage the advanced measurement capabilities of GA4 for your website or app.
By understanding the differences between Universal Analytics and GA4, familiarizing yourself with GA4 terminology, and following our step-by-step guide, you’ll be well-prepared to embrace the next generation of measurement with Google Analytics 4. Get ready to propel your marketing efforts to new heights.
We just released a new integration to track call and lead events in Google Analytics 4.
We also have a FREE, open-sourced checklist to upgrade to GA4 manually. Follow us on LinkedIn and leave a comment for a copy.
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