If you have ever worked on a marketing or web design team, you have likely heard of Google Analytics. For years, Google Analytics has been a staple for website owners and digital marketers looking to track and analyze their website traffic.
Now, the technology giant has introduced a new version of the platform, GA4, which will replace the previous version, Universal Analytics, later this year. This new version focuses on AI and machine learning to provide more insights and recommendations for website owners and digital marketers.
So, what sets GA4 apart from the previous version, and what does this mean for those who use Google Analytics daily? Let’s take a closer look.
What is GA4?
GA4 began development in 2017, with a beta version of the tool released in 2019 under the name “App + Web Properties.” While available for a few years now, Google provided a long transition period to allow customers to get used to the new platform while they worked out any potential bugs. That transition period will end on July 1st of this year, meaning Universal Analytics will no longer be available from that point onward.
How does GA4 differ from Universal Analytics?
GA4 is an analytics platform designed for a more intuitive and user-friendly experience for website owners and digital marketers. It focuses on machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide insights and recommendations to help users grow their businesses. While Universal Analytics served as a powerful tool for users for years, its structure and method of analyzing traffic no longer meet current analytics needs.
The most notable difference between GA4 and Universal Analytics is the method used to collect data. GA4 uses an event-based data collection system that tracks user interactions across website and mobile, while Universal Analytics relies on a pageview-based system that tracks each website page a user visits. Under GA4, pageviews, e-commerce purchases, social visits, app usage, and more will be considered events.
Why is Google Ending Universal Analytics?
When Universal Analytics first launched, it provided new insights for marketers and the ability to track what mattered at the time, like pageviews, session duration, and bounce rate.
Now, marketers are interested in different metrics, and UA cannot accurately track user activity across social media and mobile apps, which is where many users are now accessing content and engaging in conversation.
GA4 makes it easier for marketers to track how customers interact with their entire brand rather than just their website. This depth of information is readily available in one place, allowing marketers to make more insightful and well-informed decisions. Additionally, GA4 uses a more user-friendly interface that will allow its users to generate custom reports and track unique metrics much more easily than in the complex architecture of Universal Analytics.
Another difference between GA4 and Universal Analytics is an increased focus on privacy and data protection. GA4 is designed to provide more robust privacy controls, allowing users to control what data is collected and how it is used, which will make it slightly harder for marketers. This is particularly important given the growing concern over privacy and data protection, and the increasing number of government regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union.
One of the steps toward this goal of data privacy is the elimination of cookies. Universal Analytics relies on cookies to track activity accurately, which is also functionally problematic as more companies remove cookies from their website. The event-based tracking method in GA4 does not require cookies to track activity and does not store the IP addresses of customers who engage with the brand.
What Should Companies Do to Prepare for the Transition?
If you’re currently using Universal Analytics, it’s crucial to transition to GA4 as soon as possible. As we approach the end of Universal Analytics, companies will lose access to their historical data stored in the application.
One thing to be aware of during GA4 adoption is that event-based tracking is a different way of collecting data; you cannot directly compare numbers apples-to-apples across the two versions of Google Analytics. As a result, when your team implements GA4, you may see a noticeably different number of page views or other website metrics than you have seen in legacy systems. For this reason, the sooner you can implement the transition, the sooner you can access up-to-date information and make informed decisions on growing your online presence.
Need help analyzing your marketing data?
AVINTIV is an award-winning digital marketing agency with a consulting background with over 12+ years of experience building 400 successful brands. As specialists in local, national, and e-commerce SEO, our skilled team is available to answer any questions about GA4 integration and how this tool provides a major step forward in generating actionable insights for your marketing and branding efforts. Contact Us today to learn more.