In this blog V Formation digital marketing expert Amy Cooper explains the main differences between universal analytics and GA4, gives you a set-up checklist to get GA4 up and running, and lets you know how to get the most out of the platform.
Universal analytics, the Google analytics platform we all know and love, is entering its twilight period. From 1st July 2023, Universal Analytics will stop collecting data, and the current plan is for access to be cut off altogether in January 2024. It will be replaced with its successor, Google Analytics 4 – an updated version of the free to use web analytics tool.
Although 1st July is still six months away, we recommend that you start getting to grips with GA4 now, not only because this will give you a good amount of time to test and learn, but it will also mean you have a large amount of data to work with when the switch becomes permanent.
The key differences
GA4 is an evolved format from Universal Analytics, keeping a lot of the overall appearance and features, but adding many new additions.
Here are some of the improved features that are included in GA4:
- Improved cross-device capabilities
- Improved custom reporting elements
- Improved conversion tracking and attribution
However, some are critical of the new platform, citing that it is missing some of the crucial elements from Universal Analytics. One of the current features lacking in GA4, and what many marketers hope to see in future updates, is the lack of account-level and report-level filters.
For those coming from universal analytics, there is going to be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to the metrics, which are not necessarily like-for-like. For reporting continuity, it’s important to understand the new metric terms from GA4.
For example, a ‘goal’ is now a ‘conversion’.
Google’s support has provided lots of documentation to help guide users through these definitions – here is a handy glossary.
Do expect there to be a difference when it comes to reporting figures, as GA4 is using different algorithms and calculations. For example:
- User counts – GA4 uses a metric called ‘active users’ – which is any user that has engaged in a session, so expect there to be a discrepancy in numbers
- Session and engagement levels will be calculated differently, so you’ll also see a difference in bounce rate figures
Due to these differences, we recommend that you get your GA4 account up and running now, to give you plenty of time to get used to it before Universal Analytics is shut down.
What you need to do now – your set up checklist
As mentioned, it’s important to get GA4 up and running as soon as possible. So what are the fundamentals to get things set up?
- Create your GA4 Analytics property
- Enable data collection
- Link to Google Ads if you have them setup and running
- Migrate Universal Analytics goals and conversions to GA4
How we can help
V Formation’s digital team have spent a lot of time getting under the skin of GA4 to understand its features and help our clients get the most out of the new platform.
If you would like any help migrating to GA4 or tracking your monthly traffic and conversions, please contact a member of the digital team here.