In the ever-changing world of marketing, the times of Universal Analytics are coming to an end, and starting July 1st, 2023, Google Analytics 4 is taking over. Let me back up a little bit. Since 2005, Universal Analytics, or UA for short, has given us the ability to track and report website traffic through “session-based” analytics. Whereas Google Analytics 4, or GA4 for short, runs reports through a more efficient strategy called “event-based” analytics which we will discuss later. According to Google, “Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions, and more easily observable data from cookies.”

As time has passed, the data we are able to observe has become more complex, and the use of Universal Analytics cannot keep up. UA has served its purpose; however, Universal Analytics’ measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete in today’s business marketing world. In today’s blog, we will be breaking down the key components of GA4, the differences between UA and GA4, what this means for your business, and more.

The Difference Between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4:

Universal Analytics has served us since 2005, however back in the early 2000s, the data we had the ability to collect was not even close to as in-depth as it is now. As mentioned earlier, UA runs reports through “session-based” analytics. This means UA collects data from hit types such as page hits, event hits, and social interaction hits. This is excellent for telling you how many sessions a page has but does not give us much more than that.

Google Analytics 4 has been in the works for the past two years and is planned to fully take into effect on July 1st, 2023. GA4 runs reports through “event-based” analytics. According to recent studies, “this focuses on tracking user behavior based on the specific clicks, scrolls, and other website interactions, as well as discovering profound insights based on those findings.” This type of platform offers more profound insights into who the users who made those sessions actually are. In turn, we are now able to get a better look at who we are really marketing our product/service to.

Key Components of Google Analytics 4:

Google Analytics 4 is a very complex platform that will open up our research and analysis in more ways than one. Here are a few more things you should know about GA4 before UA is gone:

1. Universal Analytics properties will not be automatically updated to GA4 however, you have six months to download your data after July 1st, 2023, or UA will update, losing all of your data.

Note! It is highly recommended you create a separate GA4 account asap where you can slowly download your data. This way, you can take your time learning this update while also keeping your data safe.

2. Google Analytics 4 is designed with privacy at its core to provide a better experience for both the customers and the users.

  • GA4 will not be storing IP addresses as UA did
  • It allows the deactivation of Google Signals to prevent linking with Google accounts.
  • You can opt-in for ‘Consent Mode’: “this puts the user in control of their data by allowing website and mobile app owners to adjust how Google tags behave based on the user’s expressed consent.”

Note! This is not to say GA4 will not be monitoring your data; it will just be done in a less abrasive and more consensual way. This data will be used for you, not against you. GA4 is simply used to better understand the customer journey.

3. GA4 will start reducing this reliance on cookies to record specific events across platforms/devices (we all know how pesky those cookie pop-ups are)

  • This is done by using machine learning to ‘fill in the gaps’ where user content is not given for tracking

The end of UA means better, safer, and more detailed data acquisition. GA4 enables you to measure traffic and engagement across your websites and apps, is built to keep up with a changing ecosystem, and overall gives you a better look into who is interested in your product. Universal Analytics was designed for the past, Google Analytics 4 is designed for the future.