Google Analytics was initially started in 2005 as GA1 Urchin, moved into GA2 Classic in 2008, followed by GA3 Universal in 2013 which we have been using so far, and now the GA4 has been introduced in late 2020.
With the sunsetting of Universal Analytics on 1st July 2023, marketers now have a deadline to make the move to Google Analytics 4. But, what’s different with GA4, and should you be concerned about how this will impact your reporting?
What is the difference between the current Google Analytics and GA4?
GA4 put more focus on capturing user behavior and customer acquisition and seamlessly integrating web + app. The main difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 is in the data structure.
GA4 also comes with a new UI and new types of reports with an enormous of custom insights. GA4 uses a cookieless tracking approach and majorly relies on machine learning to fill in any data gaps. This is something to put attention on for the long term as we obtain more data on our new properties.
New dimensions and metrics available for reporting
If you noticed the mention of scroll depth as a metric to track within GA4, you’ll be pleased to know that GA4 also comes with the addition of new metrics and dimensions right out of the box.
Bounce rate reports have also been removed from reports in GA4. The reason is while bounce rate is useful to understand how many users leave your site after landing on your site’s first page, it can be difficult to attribute the cause. And GA4 introduces a more useful alternative metric: engagement rate.
Google Analytics 4 uses an event-based data model
When it comes to Google Analytics 4, this is probably one of the significant changes that the majority of marketers might be aware of. This model is intended for use across websites and apps with a user-centric approach, which means better data on how users interact with your domain/app.
This means getting used to a whole new system and how we report insightful data. For technical users, this means no more various kinds of ‘hit types’; everything is now the same, but differentiate by parameters. During our exploration of trying the new event-based data model, we feel that this change is quite easy to adapt to because it is essentially Google Analytics catching up with how we work as marketers.
It is true that page views are a good metric, but do they add anything of value beyond this? To be user-centric, we must examine how users interact and engage with the pages of our website and GA4 allows us to do this with the newly available metrics, such as scroll depth, engaged sessions, and engagement rate.
Google Analytics 4 is not yet ready for full reporting
Google Analytics 4 comes with quite basic features. However, with an entire year until UA is no longer exists and GA4 becomes the main tool, Google still has some time to release updates to further develop it. It’s still important to migrate across to GA4 sooner rather than later so that you can configure and customize it in advance to suit your needs, putting you ahead of the curve once everyone has been fully migrated over next year. You can find more detail in our article about how GA4 will impact your business.
We also have highlighted that it does not include all basic reports for the time being. We suggest that you continue to make most of the reports available to you in Universal Analytics whilst it still exists while exploring the GA4 report structure.
The overall impression of GA4
- GA4 has the capability of tracking everything that the old one does.
- Familiarizing with the GA4 sooner is very recommended.
- It has more enhanced tracking including better cross-device and general tracking.
- It is prepared for when we can’t track cookies and privacy issues.
- The platform is still very new and limited and will take a while to get used to.
- New metric options give new possibilities open new possibilities for giving better in-depth reports.