Introduction to Google Analytics 4
Digital marketers and analysts have been deriving insights from Google Analytics for some time now.
Having arrived in October 2020, and running in parallel with the traditional Universal Analytics, Google Analytics 4 is the newest kid on the block.
In this blog post, you’ll learn how GA4 is all set to enable businesses to take a giant leap forward with digital analytics.
You’ll also learn about the differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics, as well as how you should migrate.
The History of Google Analytics
In 2005, Urchin Software Corporation was acquired by Google and rebranded as ‘Urchin from Google’. Core functionality was incorporated and existing clients received support for a while before Urchin was discontinued in 2012.
- Classic Google Analytics
Classic Google Analytics had two versions:
- Synchronous: In 2007, Google introduced the ga.js page tag, which users were required to update on their website. It helped track eCommerce transactions with improved readability.
- Asynchronous: In 2009, Google introduced an asynchronous tracking code snippet. It helped web pages load faster, and improved data collection, as well as website performance.
- Universal Analytics
In October 2012, the beta version of Universal Analytics was launched for premium customers. It was made available to the public the following year. This version supported new tracking code for websites and provided detailed information about user behavior. In 2016, Classic Analytics properties were merged with Universal Analytics and tracking was made available across devices.
- Google Analytics 4
In July 2019, Google released the beta version of the ‘App + Web’ property while Google Analytics 4 (GA4) was released in the last quarter of 2020. Google Analytics 4 has unified reporting between the GA and Firebase instances.
Things You Should Know About Google Analytics 4
Google Analytics 4 enables you to deliver a privacy-first digital experience. An AI-based predictive data analytics tool, it provides cross-channel measurement. GA4 is built on an ‘App + Web’ platform and focuses on data from the user’s first visit to the final conversion.
Here are the top highlights of Google Analytics 4:
- Focus on User Journeys: Data streaming enables measurement of cross-device user interactions. You can also fetch a ‘Lifecycle Report’ detailing the user journey.
- Interactive User-Centric Interface: The ‘Event + Parameter’ measurement model helps generate user-centric reports in GA4. You can also set user definitions such as mobile users and their purchases in a different audience report.
- Free Access to Google BigQuery – Previously, BigQuery was accessible only to Google Analytics 360 (paid) users. In GA4, you get free access to BigQuery.
- Automatic Event Tracking – The ‘Enhanced Measurement’ feature enables you to track events such as page scrolls, video engagement, and more.
- Advanced Tracking Reports – GA4 offers advanced analysis and tracking reports based on segment overlap, user lifetime, and funnel analysis.
How to Migrate from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4
Universal Analytics properties are shutting down from 1st July, 2023 onwards. This means that you need to move to Google Analytics 4.
Collecting a year’s worth of data will enable you to compare data from the two dashboards.
Here are three ways to get started with Google Analytics 4:
- Set up analytics data collection for your website and mobile app.
- Add a GA4 property alongside your UA property and access them from the ‘Property Selector’ in the Admin area.
- Add GA4 to a website builder or CMS-hosted website.
Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics
|Google Analytics 4||Universal Analytics|
|App & Web Property||Formerly called ‘App+Web’ property Available for websites and mobile applications||Available for websites only Additional extensions needed to work with applications|
|Measurement Model||Records every action performed by the user as an event, from page views to website form submissions||Session-based model that includes all user interactions within a defined time-frame|
|Event Parameters||Flexibility in choosing event-tracking parameters||Requires an event category, action, and label with every event|
|Monthly Hit Limits||Captures 500 unique events per property||Captures 10 million hits per month|
|Reporting Interface||Detailed real-time reports with charts and graphs||Categories available in the real-time interface, which can be divided into subcategories|
|Tracking IDs||Measurement ID begins with ‘G-XXX XX’||Tracking ID begins with ‘UA-XXXX XX’|
|View Creation||No views possible Create a new data stream||Create three views: unfiltered data, test data, and main view|
|Event Tracking Automation||‘Enhanced Measurement’ to track website interactions without creating extra tags and triggers in GTM||Need for associating a tag for every website interaction|
|Cross-Device & Cross-Platform Tracking||Uses advanced machine learning for highlighting important information||Less robust and reliable tracking|
|Debugging||Validates debugging from the analytics configuration||No support for debugging|
|Bounce Rate||‘Engagement Rate’ used in place of bounce rate||Has the concept of bounce rate|
|User Count||Calculates active user count via the User ID method||Calculates user count via the Client ID method|
|Spam Data||Spam data issues are resolved using the secret key||Accumulates spam referral data|
|Exploration Reports & Event Modification||Advanced level reporting enabled No need to go to the GTM container to make edits||Beginner-level reporting available Modifications can be made in the GTM container only|
Google Analytics 4 is loaded with exceptional features that will enable you to stay ahead of the curve. That said, it is equally important to familiarize yourself with the technicalities of GA4 and learn how reporting will impact your business.