Nathan Yerby

You’ve most likely read this message in Google Analytics recently: “Universal Analytics will no longer process new data in standard properties beginning July 1, 2023. Prepare now for setting up and switching over to a Google Analytics 4 property.” If you’re wondering how GA4 will be different from the platform you use now and how this transition will affect your data and insights, Gorilla Group has answers.

GA4 is the fourth version of Google’s website performance tracking service. More importantly, GA4 is the current default property type in Google Analytics and has been since October 2020. Many of us still use the older Universal Analytics version, but GA4 is Google Analytics now. Next year, Universal Analytics accounts will stop collecting data and effectively become historical archives. Because you won’t be able to transfer your data from UA to GA4, today is the day to begin using the new platform to gather information about your online business. By the time Google fully sunsets UA, your GA4 accounts will be ready with months of data to be wielded in the new interface. 

What are the differences between Universal Analytics and GA4?

Anyone who knows UA and explores a GA4 property will notice significant changes in layout and terminology, but does GA4 still collect and measure data the same way? Not quite. The difference between UA and GA4 goes beyond formatting. GA4 utilizes an events-focused data model. The new platform records all hits as events and allows users to mark some of them as conversions, which eliminates Goals. 

Because there are no distinctions in GA4 between page, event, and ecommerce hits, users can easily mix and match interactions in custom reports. This streamlining breaks down some of the barriers that hinder flexible analysis in UA. For example, GA4 users can seamlessly align events like scroll depth with metrics like pageviews. GA4 also overhauls the event configuration process by replacing the category-action-label hierarchy with condition-based parameters that users can manage in the Configure menu. 

The GA4 system is designed to address the growing demand in the data world for cross-platform user analysis. Google called this approach “App + Web” when GA4 was still in beta. Nowadays, ecommerce customers don’t always confine themselves to sessions with page funnels on websites. A holistic user experience can involve multiple encounters with an online vendor that range from website visits to mobile app interactions to paid advertisement clicks. For this reason, GA4 complements traditional cookie tracking with Google Signals for visitors who have enabled Ad Personalization. Unlike UA, GA4 allows users to set up Data Streams for website and app visitors in one property. The new platform even provides a report for “In-app purchases” so that GA4 users can summon data for app revenue alongside data for website revenue.

Here are some other ways in which GA4 diverges from UA:

  • GA4 counts numbers of conversions per event instead of calculating conversion rates, which are nowhere to be found in the new platform. 

  • GA4 replaces the bounce rate with a new “engaged sessions” metric. (GA4 classifies a session as “engaged” if a user remains on the website or app for more than 10 seconds or triggers either at least one conversion event or at least two pageview events). 

  • GA4 omits entrances, exit rates, average time on page, and the Site Speed report.

  • GA4 does not feature a Landing Pages report. (You can access landing page data by filtering page paths by the session_start event under Pages and Screens.) 

  • GA4 does not feature a Site Search report. (You can apply the view_search_results event to find Site Search information.) 

Notwithstanding these changes, there is much in GA4 that UA veterans will recognize. From Channel Grouping to Country to Device Category, most of the classic UA dimensions reappear in the new platform. Many of UA’s metrics carry over to GA4 as well, including pageviews, sessions, and total revenue. In GA4 as in UA, data analysts can build segments, audiences, and custom definitions. 

​​​​What are some of the new features of GA4?

The Explorations section is perhaps GA4’s most powerful new feature. By clicking on the Explore tab in the left-side navigation, GA4 users enter a workshop with report templates that include funnel charts, page paths, cohort tables, and Venn diagrams. GA4 users can also create data visualizations from scratch. To set up a visual report in Explorations, you just have to select some dimensions and metrics from a menu and choose a date range. The highly-configurable funnel and page path reports in the new platform are significant improvements over UA’s comparatively rigid navigation summary and shopping behavior analysis tool. Another noteworthy feature that Google introduces in GA4 is the enhanced Insights panel on the main page, where users can customize anomaly tracking and delve into forecasting. 

We will all need some time to adapt to GA4, but the platform will enhance and unlock analytics capabilities that will be critical for the dynamic future of ecommerce. At Gorilla Group, we are committed to leveraging GA4 mastery to help our partners transition to the new platform confidently and successfully.