Google’s website analytics platform is going through a major change that will sunset the old Universal Analytics property (UA) this summer and replace it with their new reporting platform—Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

As the deadline quickly approaches, businesses still have many functionality questions, ranging from making the switch and understanding data collection changes to setting up custom events and navigating the new reporting interface

We’ve asked the analytics experts at JB Media to answer some of these FAQs below.

Q: What is GA4?

GA4 is the 4th generation of the Google Analytics property, a product from Google that enables users to collect and measure traffic and engagement across their websites and apps.

Q: When Does GA4 Launch?

The GA4 property has been available since October 2020 but will officially be the only option provided by Google after July 1, 2023.

Q: What Are the Key Differences Between UA and GA4? 

GA4 represents a shift in how data is collected and processed. It was born out of the desire to give users greater privacy, incorporate machine learning, and allow businesses to collect more useful data and evaluate it deeper, in one place, across their websites and apps.

UA tracks screen views in separate mobile-specific properties, whereas GA4 combines both website and mobile app data in the same property. While UA collects data at the property level with a tracking ID, GA4 collects data at the stream level with a stream ID. 

GA4 also has more advancements in analyzing data and understanding trends and more graphs and charts to view data. 

 A few key metric differences include:

  • Bounce Rate: This metric is a percentage of single-page sessions without interaction with the page in UA. In GA4, this metric is a percentage of sessions that are not engaged sessions—sessions that last 10 seconds or longer, have one or more conversion events, or have two or more page or screen views. Think of bounce rate as the opposite of engagement rate. 
  • Sessions: UA would track sessions as the period of user engagement with your website or app. This would include everything from pageviews to e-commerce transactions. Now, GA4 tracks session start events, which are automatically collected events, and associates the session ID with each subsequent event and user interaction in the session. 
  • Pageviews: In UA, pageviews are tracked, which is the total number of pages viewed. In GA4, this is now called simply “views” and includes the total number of app screens and/or web pages your users saw.
  • Events: A UA event has a category, action, and label and is its own hit type. With GA4, every “hit” is an event, and GA4 events have no notion of category, action, or label. 

Ultimately, UA uses a session-based measuring model, whereas GA4 uses an event-based model that tracks more useful attributes than just pageviews and sessions. Your metrics will come with much more in-depth context around the user journey, and you’ll be able to create far better custom reports. 

Q: How Do I Migrate to GA4?

Google will automatically configure GA4 for all current UA customers when UA stops tracking web analytics on July 1, 2023; we recommend making the switch now. This way, users can properly customize the setup for their needs and begin building historical data in GA4.

Google provides a GA4 Setup Assistant that might be adequate for users familiar with the Google Analytics admin and the basics of properties and events. Users with more advanced tracking event setups must reproduce those UA events, audiences, and conversions to work with the GA4 platform.

As of now, you can still keep your UA account running as you upgrade to GA4.  There is a way to install the new GA4 website tag on your website, and you will have to configure it with Google Tag Manager (GTM), and then you will have to set up all your conversion tags on GA4, as well. 

>> The GTM process is not simple if you don’t have experience handling website development. Our team is ready to assist with your GA4 setup and migration. Contact our digital marketing team!

Q: What Are the Benefits of GA4? Any New Features?

For starters, you must switch to GA4—this is a forced upgrade. GA4 is more user-friendly in some ways and should be easier to use if you’re unfamiliar with the UA property. It should also be easier to track metrics across all your web properties, and they eliminated the views column in the admin so you can keep all your conversions and conversion rate nested in one place.

Google Analytics 4 allows users to track and measure data in one place across websites and apps, meaning organizations have more access to more robust information about their users and visitors. If you are using UA, you can take advantage of this more robust platform. 

>> If you are not tracking user data, this is an excellent opportunity to set up enhanced measurement events. Our team would be happy to help! Contact us. 

Q: Can I Use Both UA and GA4?

Yes, for now. It’s best to start learning and using GA4 to make the transition easier. UA will stop collecting data on July 1, 2023. By taking the opportunity to implement GA4 now, you will have access to more historical data in the future.

Our professional recommendation is that all businesses get set up on the new GA4 platform while keeping their old UA account in place. In the coming months, Google will provide a future date for when existing UA properties will no longer be available. After this date, you’ll no longer be able to see your UA reports in the interface or access your UA data via the API.

Q: How to Set Up Conversions in GA4?

Unlike the old UA where you could make basic conversions at the backend of the admin level, now you must use GTM to manage all your triggers and snippets. You have to use GA4 with GTM—there are no exceptions. Since setting up conversions is more difficult now, it would be best to use a skilled developer to handle this task.

Google provides a tool to facilitate converting UA goals to conversion events. Still, it cannot handle all goal types, so users must use Google Analytics Admin to recreate those events. 

Q: How Do I Create Events in GA4?

You can create custom and recommended events in the admin section of GA4. Events track simple clicks and pageviews that differ from conversions, which are those more meaningful actions taking place on your website. You can tackle everything from event names to event parameters in this section.

Although Google provides a tool to convert existing UA events to the new GA4 data model that automatically generates parameters and custom dimensions for the events, more advanced tracking setups may require additional setup via the Google Analytics Admin.

Our team can help with:

    • Google Tag Manager setup (This is necessary for fully utilizing GA4.)
    • The basic setup of your new GA4 account
    • GA4 training
    • Migrating conversion tracking tags to your new GA4 account
    • Auditing your existing GA4 implementation