Transition to Google Analytics 4: Everything You Need to Know
Starting from July 1, 2023, Google Universal Analytics will no longer process search queries. Historical data will remain available for another six months. The era of a new analytics tool, GA 4, is upon us. How and when should you prepare for these changes? What are the advantages and disadvantages of Google Analytics 4, and what are the most common mistakes marketers make when implementing it? Let’s delve into these topics.
Key Differences between Google Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4
The significant distinction of the new analytics version lies in its event tracking algorithms. While previously sessions were based on pageviews, the new system emphasizes event tracking. The user’s path and actions become the primary focus, rather than their visits to the website. Therefore, a crucial feature of GA4 is the ability to track user behavior across various platforms and devices. Machine learning is employed to track and analyze user behavior, aiding in the formulation of hypotheses regarding your target audience. Furthermore, the new analytics collects data not only from websites but also from mobile applications. This will be crucial for data accuracy and behavioral analysis.
While the previous version of analytics had a hierarchical parameter structure for events, the new version does not require it. However, GA4 provides the flexibility to create, combine, modify, or label events as conversions within its interface.
Instead of “Views,” GA4 introduces “Data Streams” that are created separately for each platform: Android, iOS, and web.
In Google Analytics 4, enhanced security measures have been implemented to preserve data confidentiality. The new analytics no longer relies on cookies but operates based on the gtag.js library, making user data the foundation of its statistics instead of cookies. Previously, if a person visited a website from two different browsers, Universal Analytics would track them as two separate users with distinct Client IDs. However, in GA4, they would be considered as a single user.
|Settings||Google Universal Analytics||Google Analytics 4|
|Data accounting||User sessions||Events on the site: transitions, clicks, page views|
|Fixing views of the site page||The number of views is counted||Views regardless of the number are counted as one event|
|Data flow from website, mobile application, CRM system||Separate settings and reporting from each source||Single data flow and reporting from all sources|
|Sessions||Calculated based on the user’s actions on the website over a certain period of time||Calculated based on event data|
|Statistics||Generated on the basis of cookies||Generated on the basis of user data – device ID|
|Client ID||Separate for different devices and browsers||One for one user, regardless of the number of browsers and devices from which they are accessing|
|Database storage||Unlimited data storage period||Data storage period – 14 months|
|Features of e-commerce analytics||Advanced report for e-commerce||One report for all users with individual settings|
|Reporting||More than 100 ready-made reports||2-5 reports in each of the 6 blocks|
|Uploading data to BigQuery||Only when you connect «Analytics 360» and for a fee||Free use of the service|
|IP address||Enabled, can be disabled||Disabled by default|
|Content groups||Content is automatically grouped to understand the total number of page views and more||There is no such thing as a content group|
|User characteristics||Not tracked||Age, country, type and brand of the device from which the app was downloaded are tracked|
Events in Google Analytics 4 and Their Types
Analytics events are a set of parameters that the system automatically recognizes and uses to determine when a specific event occurred. After implementing GA4, automatically recorded events are immediately captured, providing data on user actions on the website, such as searches, scrolling, clicks, notification views, and more.
In addition to automatic events, there are events that can be customized. There are two types:
- Recommended events: These are events designed for websites and mobile applications and can be configured based on the business sector to track traffic, conversions, and generate more informative reports.
- Custom events: These are events with scenarios that can be customized to track parameters not captured by automatic or recommended events. For example, a thank-you page that appears after a user completes a specific action, such as making a purchase, payment, or providing contact information for communication.
Advantages of Google Analytics 4
- More data for analysis, allowing for detailed and accurate statistics. The newly created automatic events enable better evaluation of traffic quality and tracking of user behavioral factors.
- Cross-platform data collection enables the aggregation of website and mobile app statistics into a unified database, providing comprehensive reporting.
- Previously restricted services are now accessible to all users. For instance, the free BigQuery allows viewing raw Google Analytics data, while the “Analysis” report provides data for advanced traffic analysis.
- There are no limitations on the volume of data that can be sent to analytics properties.
- The ability to compare behavioral factors across different audiences.
- Enhanced real-time reporting, providing a more convenient view of event geography and page view statistics in a single window.
- The ability to track the path of individual clients across websites and apps, providing insights into user journeys before making a purchase, analyzing the effectiveness of marketing campaigns on different devices and platforms, and resolving attribution issues between them.
- A new report that tracks revenue generated from advertising in mobile apps.
- Simplified cross-domain tracking setup—there is no need to add a Client ID parameter; configuring cross-domain tracking is sufficient on the analytics resource and the necessary domains.
Disadvantages of Google Analytics 4
- Limitations in filter settings.
- Historical data from Google Universal Analytics is not retained.
- Longer query processing time (up to 72 hours).
- Reduced number of built-in reports.
- Additional learning curve for report-building tools (e.g., Google Looker Studio).
What You Need to Know When Implementing Google Analytics 4
Transitioning to Google Analytics 4 is inevitable as the old version will no longer be supported starting this summer. You should decide on your course of action. Here are three possible options:
- Wait until July for the system to automatically transition to the new analytics. However, specific events (such as pop-ups or page views) will need to be manually added. We anticipate that due to this sudden change in analytics, advertising campaigns relying on automated bidding, dynamic ads, retargeting, and performance campaigns may lose up to 80% of their effectiveness. On the other hand, campaigns using manual bidding will not be significantly affected.
- You can create a Google Analytics 4 account right now and add the code to Google Tag Manager. The system will start accumulating data, and when the time comes, you can connect the necessary analytics to Google Ads and configure regular reporting.
- Create a Google Analytics 4 account immediately, either on your own or with the assistance of a knowledgeable specialist. Set up events and conversions and start using the new analytics, accumulating at least 21 days of statistical data on conversions.
To learn how to set up the integration between Google Analytics 4 and UniTalk, please refer to the documentation provided.