Summary: After years of teasing, Google is ready to fully switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). What does this mean for marketers? Take advantage of the runway today to get GA4 set up, and enjoy a more streamlined experience in the future.
Google recently announced that after eight years, Universal Analytics will be deprecated in July 2023. Over the past few years, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has emerged as an option for data analysis. In preparation for the change, many companies have been running Universal Analytics and GA4 in parallel. GA4 marks a significant shift in data-driven marketing and website analytics, and will change how we collect and analyze data.
Let’s take a closer look at some fundamental differences between Universal Analytics and GA4 and how you can get your Google Analytics account prepared for the change.
How does GA4 differ from Universal Analytics?
The biggest difference between GA4 and Universal Analytics is the measurement model used to collect data.
Universal Analytics uses a measurement model based on sessions and pageviews. Pageviews are individual views of pages across a website. Sessions are a group of interactions, or hits, with a website that take place over a given period of time. A session can contain multiple pageviews, events, and transactions.
In Universal Analytics, event data is captured as ‘Event Category, Event Action, Event Label’.
Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
GA4 uses a measurement model based on events and parameters. With GA4, any interaction can be captured as an event. Thus, all interactions, or hits, in Universal Analytics translate to events in GA4.
In GA4, events are not captured as a category, action, or label. Instead, events can contain parameters that provide context to the event data. Events are grouped into four categories:
Automatically collected events. These are the events automatically collected with a successful GA4 code implementation. Examples include pageview, ad click, and file download.
Enhanced measurement events. These events are also automatically collected with GA4 implementation but are enabled/disabled based on website functionality. No code changes are required to track these events. Examples include scroll, outbound clicks, and site search.
Recommended events. These events are not automatically collected, but are recommended to be set up in your GA4 account. Recommended events unlock existing and future reporting capabilities. Examples include ecommerce events, login, and sign up.
Custom events. These are events and parameters that you develop and implement yourself. The type and volume of custom events varies based on website requirements. Custom events don’t show up in most standard reports and will require custom reports for meaningful analysis. Examples include menu link click and form submission.
Monthly hit limits replaced with event limits
Another difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 is the removal of monthly hit limits. The free version of Universal Analytics has a monthly hit limit of 10 million. This is going away, and instead, GA4 will have a limit of 500 events that can be captured.
Free connection to BigQuery
BigQuery enables large and complex data sets to be queried quickly. It removes the issue of sampling often found when segmenting Google Analytics’ data. Previously the connection to BigQuery was available only with the paid Google Analytics 360. With GA4, this connection is available for free.
How can I be prepared?
You will need to be set up with Google Analytics 4 by July 2023. If you haven’t already implemented GA4 in your Google Analytics account, now is the time to do so.
Starting in July 2023, data collection will cease in all Universal Analytics properties. To be prepared for this change:
Implement GA4 base code on website
Configure Google Tag Manager (GTM) container for GA4
Set up events in GA4
Audit existing reports to determine where data sources will need to be updated. Note: dimensions and metrics in GA4 do not follow the same naming convention as Universal Analytics, so simply changing the data source will not successfully update report data.
Create new GA4 reports to capture KPIs and custom events.
We can help
Need help getting GA4 set up for your organization’s website? We can help with that! From strategizing what events to track to helping build reports and dashboards, our Marketing and Optimization team are your partners in the new future of analytics. Find out about our GA4 Migration Services or drop us a line for answers to your questions!