Google released a new version of its web analytics service in October 2020 which collects data and analyzes web traffic. This version is known as Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and is the new default for Google Analytics (GA). Millions of businesses use GA to monitor their marketing channels and measure their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
GA4 has many features that make it quite different from its processor, Universal Analytics (UA). The new data modeling capability is one of the biggest of these, as it uses artificial intelligence (AI) to fill in gaps left by UA. The user interface (UI) of the new Google Analytics is also different from UA. Businesses will also need to consider these and other differences between the two versions of GA when deciding whether to upgrade to GA4.
What Is GA4?
GA4 is also based on the same platform as the “App + Web” system that Google released in 2019, which gave marketers a way to track users across applications, software, and websites. The main goal of all these capabilities is to analyze the behavior of users, especially their journey toward becoming customers. Events are also a major part of GA4 since they describe the presentation of data.
The primary purpose of GA4 is to provide a next-generation approach to AI-based predictive data, privacy-first tracking, and x-channel measurement, according to Google. GA4’s advanced machine learning (ML) models also allow it to provide data for user behavior and website traffic without relying on the hits for each page.
GA4 is particularly useful because website visitors are increasingly likely to opt-out of cookie usage and other means of data collection. Furthermore, Mozilla Firefox can now block GA, and many websites require consent from visitors to define their GA tracking. New privacy protection laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) reduce the usefulness of traditional analytics like UA. Businesses that rely on these services often experience problems with missing or inaccurate data due to the cookie consent options these laws require. GA4 is built to adapt to a future with or without cookies.
Highlights of GA4
The major highlights of GA4 include its seamless integration with Google tools, ML capability, and scalable cross-platform analytics.
Integration with Google Tools
GA4 is closely integrated with YouTube and Google is currently working to improve its evaluations for YouTube advertising campaigns. These changes could allow users to track view-through conversions, which would measure a campaign’s effect on the involvement of specific audiences, bounce rates, and website events.
Deeper integration of GA4 with Google Ads allows users to run campaigns that provide relevant and useful offers to specific audiences, regardless of the device they’re using to surf the web.
In addition, the BigQuery Export feature is free for all GA4 users, whereas this feature is only available to users of the paid version of UA. GA4 also has resource settings that allow users to activate data collection in BigQuery cloud storage.
GA4’s machine learning (ML) capability and natural language processing (NLP) functions are one of its main benefits of Google Analytics 4, as they allow users to estimate the probability of converting a visitor into a customer. Users can also develop audiences for Google Ads based on that probability and receive notifications on conversion trends, such as how product demand is changing user requirements. GA4 can also predict customer behavior so users can make the investments needed to retain them. Google will continue developing GA4 to add additional forecasts like average revenue per user (ARPU), allowing users to further adjust their marketing strategies and increase their return on investment (ROI).
It has been historically difficult to analyze a visitor’s transition between platforms, such as a website to an app because there has been no universal standard of visitor behavior. For example, UA builds its information around visitor sessions, while Firebase, Google’s platform for developing mobile and web applications, uses events. GA4 addresses this limitation by using an event-based approach to analytics that collect standardized data across multiple platforms. This approach improves the data quality and provides users with a single report across visitor paths.
Quotas limits are set by Google to prevent users from overloading the API with too many requests at the same time. These quota limits act as a guardrail to make sure that the system does not receive more data than it can handle. According to Google's Developer Quota Resource, these can vary and are subject to change.
Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics
Application and website owners who are migrating from UA to GA4 need to understand the specific differences between the two analytics services. These include events, sessions, and hit types.
Event handling is fundamentally different between UA and GA4. UA events have a category, action, and label, while GA4 doesn’t recognize these concepts as they exist in UA. For example, the categories for GA4 events include automatically collected events, recommended events, enhanced measurement events, and custom events. Unlike UA, each hit is an event in GA4, so GA4 doesn’t distinguish between hit types. Migrating to GA4 therefore requires a new event structure for collecting data in most cases, rather than simply porting the existing structure over to GA4. However, automatically collected and enhanced measurement events don’t require the user to add code to an application or web page.
A session is a set of interactions between a visitor and a website within a given timeframe. They usually end after 30 minutes of inactivity or until a qualifying event resets the session. UA sessions comprise multiple pageviews, events, interactions, and transactions. However, a GA4 session is explicitly defined by the session_start event, which is an automatically collected event. The time span between events determines the end of a session in GA4.
The determination of active users is another difference in session definition between the two analytics tools. UA relies on manual instrumentation like an interactive event to establish when a user is active, whereas GA4 detects user activity automatically. This difference means that a user who launches an application is active under GA4 but not UA. These differences can result in discrepancies in sessions between UA and GA4. For example, GA4 generally has a higher active user count than UA.
UA hit types include event hits, eCommerce hits, page hits, and social interaction hits. However, GA4’s property measurements are event-based, meaning it can capture any interaction as an event. As a result, GA4 translates UA hit types into events within a GA4 property.
Should You Switch to Google Analytics 4?
Users must consider a number of pros and cons before migrating from UA to GA4.
GA4’s AI and ML capabilities are one of its biggest advantages over UA. These capabilities make GA4 a better analytical tool, as they allow it to predict the future. It isn’t perfect yet, but GA4 can already notify users of developing trends. ML lets users make better sense of the data they collect, allowing them to predict visitor behavior more accurately.
Codeless tracking of events is another great feature of GA4. Users can now track events in real-time without any coding knowledge, providing more information on how visitors interact with a website. GA4 adds video to UA’s existing tracking events, which include page scrolls and clicks present. This addition means that users can count the number of visitors who are watching a video in real-time.
Users with a lot of experience in UA may not want to upgrade to GA4 right away due to the many changes that GA4 introduces. These changes greatly affect the data that users receive and how they view it. For example, the tools for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data are now separate, so GA4 users have more options to deal with. The organization of data is also different since UA has the tiers of
Account, Property, and View, whereas GA4 only has Accounts and Property. Furthermore, some of the UA reports are missing in GA4. It’s Marcel’s recommendation to our clients we run GA4 in parallel with the existing UA. That way, when we decide to make the transition, we will have historical data in GA4. We do not recommend comparing performance across platforms for many of the reasons listed above.
How to Set Up GA4
Setting up GA4 on a new application or website requires the following steps:
- Create an Analytics account
- Create a GA4 property
- Add a data stream
- Setup data collection
Create an Analytics Account
You only need to create an Analytics account if you’ve never used any version of Analytics before. Click Create Account in the Admin section of the Account column. Enter your account name, and configure the data-sharing settings to specify the data you want to share with Google. Add properties to the account by clicking Next.
Create a Google Analytics 4 Property
Enter the property’s name, reporting time zone, and currency. The time zone is the day boundary for reports, regardless of their data’s origin. Changing the time zone later only affects future data. Click Next to select industry category and business size. Click Create, and accept the terms of service and data processing amendment.
Add a Data Stream
Click Data Streams in the Property column. Click Add Stream, and then select the stream type by clicking Android app, iOS app or Web.
Set Up Data Collection
Add the Analytic tag to each web page for which you want to collect data in your GA4 property. Add the global site tag to a website builder or Content Management System (CMS)-hosted websites like Shopify or WordPress. You also need to add the global site tag directly to your web pages by using Google Tag Manager.
Google Analytics 4 is designed to help businesses measure multiple data types while meeting the increasing demand for user privacy. It enables website owners to see user journeys across their sites and apps. Additionally, GA4 helps you predict new insights with machine learning technology.What do I need to know about Google Analytics 4? ›
At its core, Google Analytics 4 is focused on providing more data throughout the entire lifecycle of the customer journey. In other words, more data is available after a customer has been acquired, including their level of engagement, monetization, and retention.What are the main difference between Google Analytics 4 GA4 and Universal analytics UA? ›
Universal Analytics tracks screenviews in separate mobile-specific properties, whereas GA4 combines both web and app data in the same property. If you are tracking both web and app data in your GA4 property, be sure to take the additional app traffic into consideration when comparing pageview metrics between the two.Is GA4 replacing Google Analytics? ›
Google Analytics 4 is our next-generation measurement solution, and it's replacing Universal Analytics. On July 1, 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing data. We strongly encourage you to make the switch to Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible.Which are the main sections of Google Analytics 4? ›
Analytics creates a single user journey from all the data that is associated with the same user ID. Unlike Universal Analytics, a Google Analytics 4 property incorporates User ID natively across all reporting, analysis and insights and does not require a separate User-ID reporting view.What is Google Analytics 4 for dummies? ›
GA4 is a new kind of property designed for the future of measurement: Collects both website and app data to better understand the customer journey. Uses event-based data instead of session-based. Includes privacy controls such as cookieless measurement, and behavioral and conversion modeling.How long does it take to learn Google Analytics 4? ›
How long will the course take to complete? If you go through all the course content sequentially, we expect the course to take 4-6 hours to complete, depending on your level of familiarity with the course content. If I have a question about the course, who should I ask?What is the advantage of GA4 over universal Analytics? ›
Google Analytics 4 gives you and your users more intuitive and precise control over what personal data is collected, which will help you comply with current and future privacy regulations. For example, with GA4 you can now exclude specific events and user properties from ads personalisation.How does GA4 track users? ›
A User ID in Google Analytics is a feature that allows tracking of user activity across devices and sessions by assigning a unique ID to each user. There is a dedicated report in GA4 called “User Exploration”. You can click through and see the different interactions each anonymous visitor has completed on your website.
In Report data, click Metrics. Click Add metric and scroll to the gray Session heading. Add "Engagement rate" and "Bounce rate" and click Apply.What is the disadvantage of GA4 Analytics? ›
Lack of migration support from Universal Analytics
The biggest limitation of Google Analytics 4 is the inability to migrate existing data from Universal Analytics. UA will stop collecting new data from user interactions in July 2023, and any data collected in UA will not be available to GA4 properties.
GA4 has an entirely different data model as compared to UA. Instead of being based on sessions and pageviews like in Universal Analytics, the GA4 measurement model is based exclusively on events. Since the data is collected and processed differently, some once-familiar metrics are now gone.What are the biggest changes in GA4? ›
The most significant change in GA4 is how it collects and structures data in comparison with Universal Analytics (UA). The GA4 measurement model is more flexible and robust with better visualizations and report snapshots. UA uses the measurement model which is based on sessions and pageviews.How do you use GA4 effectively? ›
- Create a new GA4 property.
- Create a data stream.
- Copy the Measurement ID.
- Create a Google Analytics 4 Configuration tag.
- Paste the Measurement ID and set the tag to fire on All Pages.
- Preview/test the new tag.
Properties are the containers for your reports based on the data you collect from your apps and sites. You can create up to 2,000 properties in an account. Properties can be any combination of Google Analytics 4 properties and Universal Analytics properties.Why should I switch to Google Analytics 4? ›
Improved data model
One of the most important changes in GA4 is how data is collected. In Universal Analytics, data was collected via tags placed on each website page. GA4 uses 'event-based tracking', which means that instead of relying on pageviews, it tracks user interactions—or events—as they happen.
Why You Should Migrate to GA4 Right Now. Google Analytics 4 is the next generation of web analytics, and it's very smart. Google is really working hard to bring automated insights, upgraded event tracking and more to all its users. Also, Universal Analytics will completely stop tracking your traffic on July 1, 2023.What is life cycle in Google Analytics 4? ›
The Life cycle collection helps you understand each stage in the customer journey — from acquisition to retention. The collection allows you to understand how people use your website or app, rather than information about your users, which you can find in the Users collection.
Google Analytics collects the following information through the default implementation: Number of users. Session statistics. Approximate geolocation.Is Google Analytics 4 legal? ›
₹16,15,599 - ₹18,93,532.Is Google Analytics 4 accurate? ›
When properly configured, Google Analytics (Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4) is moderately accurate for global traffic collection. That said: Google Analytics doesn't accurately report European traffic. According to GDPR provisions, sites using GA products must display a cookie consent banner.What happens if you don't upgrade to GA4? ›
That being said, if you don't migrate to GA4, your website will miss out on valuable data that can be used to optimize the user experience. Our team of experts at Galaxy Weblinks helps businesses like yours to make the transition of your data from existing Universal Analytics to GA4 easier and more efficient.What is better in GA4? ›
GA4 allows creating complex conversions. GA4 users' engagement tracking is much more aligned with contemporary browsing behaviour. GA4 makes cross-domain tracking setup much easier. GA4 provides access to far more custom dimensions and custom metrics.How do I see pageviews in GA4? ›
In GA4 Reports > Engagement > Pages and screens, above the list of pages viewed, there is a dropdown with the following options: Page title and screen class. Page path and screen class. Page title and screen name.Does GA4 automatically track clicks? ›
GA4 tracks button clicks automatically using Enhanced measurement. Great for basic needs, this feature is however limited to outbound clicks and file downloads. The alternative and recommendation is to use Google Tag Manager, which allows tracking of all kinds of clicks and more customization.How to identify bot traffic in GA4? ›
In Google Analytics 4 properties, traffic from known bots and spiders is automatically excluded. This ensures that your Analytics data, to the extent possible, does not include events from known bots. At this time, you cannot disable known bot traffic exclusion or see how much known bot traffic was excluded.How many events can be tracked in GA4? ›
|Logged item||Limit (For 360 limits, go here)|
|Event parameters per event||25 event parameters|
|Item-scoped parameters per event||In addition to the prescribed item-scoped parameters for each recommended ecommerce event, you can include up to 27 item-level custom parameters in an ecommerce event.|
Rates above 63% for B2B and above 71% for B2C websites are considered good according to firstpagesage.com. This is based on a sampling of their own client data. Orbit Media also provided the average engagement rate of their client sample of 65 websites. They stated the average GA4 engagement rate was 55%.How is engagement time calculated in GA4? ›
The GA4 engagement rate is calculated in the following way: Engaged sessions divided by Sessions. Engagement rate is a powerful metric giving you an understanding of your user experience and how it can be improved.What is engagement time in GA4? ›
User engagement is the amount of time someone spends with your web page in focus or app screen in the foreground, which allows you to measure when users actively use your site or app.How long does GA4 data last? ›
For Google Analytics 4 properties (non Analytics 360 version), retention of user-level data, including conversions, can be set to a maximum of 14 months. For all other event data, you can choose the length of retention: 2 months. 14 months.Why are there no views on GA4? ›
GA4 simply does not have Views. This is one of the many differences between GA4 and UA and it's because the account structure is entirely different and the data model is completely new.Why is engagement rate 0 in GA4? ›
The reason you can't see engagement rate in Universal Analytics is that GA4 automatically tracks how long your website or mobile app is active in the foreground for a user. At various intervals, Google Analytics records this data as engagement time. Engagement time is not the same as average session duration, though.How many goals can you have in GA4? ›
|Limit||Goals are limited to 20 per reporting view||- Any captured event can be marked as a conversion - 360 users can register up to 30 custom conversion events|
Note: You can create up to 10 data filters per GA4 property.How many conversions can you have in GA4? ›
Conversion events replace "goals"
In GA4, you no longer have to set up goals based on a limited set of conversion criteria. Instead, GA4 automatically marks 4 collected mobile app events as conversions. In addition, you can mark up to 30 more (50 for Google Analytics 360) app or web events as conversions.
Since it is the fourth version, it is called GA4.
The best practice is to use a maximum of 3 data streams per property: 1 single web data stream to measure the web user journey and 1 app data stream each for iOS and Android. App data stream: You can have one data stream for each combination of app-package name and platform.What is an example of a GA4 property? ›
In a new GA4 property, an event is anything that is being tracked. For example, a pageview is sent as an event to Google Analytics, when a session starts it is sent as an event, and purchases are sent as events. Anything you track is sent as an event.What changes in Google Analytics 4? ›
One of the main Google Analytics' changes is that GA4 offers a completely new logic of data collection. In UA, data is collected based on page views, while in GA4, it's built around events. This allows for a better understanding of how users communicate with the website or app.Is it worth upgrading to GA4? ›
Although it may take some getting used to for long-time GA users, GA4 provides a more useful standard measure of engagement. Finally, GA4 enables you to identify visitors across devices more accurately by leveraging Google's user identity data.What are the benefits of Google Analytics 4? ›
- Improved Customer Journey Tracking.
- Improved user engagement analysis.
- More powerful audiences for your ad campaigns.
- More intelligent user privacy and tracking features.
- Simplified Goals and Events Setup.
- Enhanced visualisations and reporting.
- A plethora of parameters.
Analytics uses the ID to identify unique installations of your app and compute user metrics. Learn more about the app-instance ID. By default, the SDK collects identifiers for mobile devices (for example, Android Advertising ID and Advertising Identifier for iOS) and uses technologies similar to cookies.Why is Google Analytics 4 good? ›
GA4 provides much more accurate cross-device insight than GA3. GA4 provides much more robust cross-device and cross-platform tracking than GA3. GA4 provides automatic tracking for certain types of events. GA4 makes event tracking setup much easier.What happens if you don't switch to GA4? ›
Your historical data will not automatically show up in GA4 when you turn it on. If you didn't make the switch yet, you will lose the critical ability to compare performance year-over-year. The sooner you start implementing the new platform, the more data you will have to compare.Does Google Analytics 4 use views? ›
Send a search event each time a user searches on the site. Since Google Analytics 4 properties do not include views, user access and permissions are handled at the account and property levels. Conversion events are defined for the property, whereas in Universal Analytics, goals are defined at the view level.