Insights

Should You Switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?

Dechay Watts, Director of Analytics & Insights

The simple answer is…yes! Google has launched a 4th iteration of its free web analytics platform (Google Analytics 4 / GA4) to improve user analysis capabilities. While the name isn’t especially creative, the features open up unlimited possibilities for businesses to connect with new customers and grow existing relationships through enhanced data analysis.

There is no harm in being an early adopter because the leading recommendation is to have both a traditional Universal Analytics (UA) property and a new GA4 property together for the time being. The best plan of action is to start using GA4 and UA side by side since data cannot be migrated from UA to GA4. That’s right, there is not a migration path to convert existing UA properties to GA4, which means historical data will not be carried over. The sooner you begin collecting data in GA4, the sooner you’ll be able to benefit from promising new features, which include…

  • Cross-Platform User Analysis to understand actions users have taken on websites, mobile apps, and paid campaigns before making a purchase. You no longer have to set up tracking for websites and mobile apps separately. Gaining insight into this cross-platform journey better informs user experience and sets the foundation for predicting customer needs as brands can follow the path between website browsing, paid marketing campaigns, and purchases that may happen later in an app.
  • Robust Reporting Templates to gain visibility into user behavior that was previously unavailable in UA. The five new reports are: Exploration, User Explorer, Funnel Analysis, Path Analysis, and Segment Overlap.
  • Engagement Rate instead of Bounce Rate to focus on user engagement and completely remove the often confusing concept of a bounce rate. Engaged sessions are defined as any user that has been on the site for at least 10 seconds. Engagement time diagnoses screen sleep time to determine how a user is engaging with your content.
  • Predictive Analytics to alert you to significant trends like products seeing a rise in demand, future actions customers might take, churn probability, and potential revenue you could earn from a particular group of customers.
  • Access to Raw Data through BigQuery Integration, which enables data scientists to pull data from GA4 into spreadsheets, data visualization and BI tools, and data lakes, and opens up unlimited opportunities for data integration and analysis.

HOW TO BEGIN USING GA4

It’s important to note that GA4 operates from a new data model that collects and configures data differently from the current UA property. The new design is event-based instead of being hits/session-based. This means pre-specified data such as pageviews and transactions are not found in GA4. Instead, you have access to a more flexible data model enabling you to create up to 500 distinct event names and send any custom parameters you desire.

To set up your new GA4 property, first make sure you are using gtag.js on your site. Then, simply take a copy of your Google Analytics property and implement dual tagging. Existing Universal Analytics properties will not lose any data and the new GA4 property will begin to collect data.

If you are using analytics.js through direct site implementation or Google Tag Manager (GTM), the first step is to move to gtag.js so development can be done for both UA and GA4. Some tags will need to be reconfigured to begin using GA4.

And if you need help with either of these approaches, contact us and we’ll connect you with one of our analytics engineers. GA4 is an exciting new opportunity for brands to benefit from data and insights, many of which were previously only available in the paid version of Google Analytics (GA360). The technology continues to evolve and we are staying at the forefront of feature rollouts to work with our clients along the way.