Google Analytics 4 (GA4) vs (UA) Universal Analytics
I Like Using Google Universal Analytics. Why Do I Have to Switch to GA4?
In a nutshell, we all have to make the change to GA4 because Universal Analytics (UA) will be sunsetted in July 2023. It’s not time to panic as we still have several months yet before the switchover, but it is definitely time to start planning and getting familiar with GA4 because like it or not – Universal Analytics is going away. If you start with learning some basics and taking baby steps now, the change won’t feel so daunting come July 2023.
What is Changing for GA4
Over the last few years, privacy and how companies are using customer data has become a high-priority issue, and governments have implemented GDPR, CASL, CCPA to try and enforce responsible data management. As a result, Google has had to adapt to remain in compliance with these new privacy regulations and GA4 reflects this with changes to how it handles privacy including:
GA4 will not be logging IP addresses at all
Advanced options to turn off location-specific data
It is easier to delete data in compliance with Forget Me requests
Defined data retention option – state what the data is being kept for and why
Cohesive Data Streams
Google Universal Analytics wasn’t designed for a world where companies had a website AND an app. It really couldn’t track the journey of users between a website and app accurately and so the best option was to track the data separately and try to cobble the missing pieces together. GA4 is designed to work for all users across devices and platforms so the data is combined in one place.
Now there will be reporting across devices and platforms. So, for example, when a user is on the bus on their way to work and navigating your website on their phone, and then later that day they use their work laptop to check something else on your website, and then a few days later they check your website but from their desktop computer at home – GA4 can de-duplicate users across data from different devices. The fragmented customer journey that Universal Analytics had difficulty tracking is now recognized as a single user journey in GA4. That means better more accurate data and better reporting.
Everything is Events
In Universal Analytics (UA), it was a session-based model but in GA4 everything is an Event. Now you can create an event with custom parameters. This gives a huge amount of flexibility in defining your own events for tracking and gives your business the ability to track events and metrics most important and relevant to you.
GA4 is also trying to make it simpler to track certain events with automated and enhanced measurement event tracking. If your business doesn’t have a google analytics savvy person on staff this will enable basic event reporting with a quick click in Google Analytics. With the Automatically Collected events option, you can measure events including scroll tracking, outbound clicks, page views, video views, and file downloads.
Have both UA and GA4 running together so you are collecting data now which will give you time to collect data over the year. The data from Universal Google Analytics is not being transferred to GA4 so once UA is gone, your data is gone as well.
Running GA4 and UA together gives you the opportunity to begin learning GA4 while still having access to the platform you are comfortable with. Google has a nifty demo account so you can get used to the new interface without breaking anything in your own account.
In the meantime, we still have many months to go before the switch and the APIs are still a work in progress. ActiveDEMAND is actively coding against the API and will adapt as necessary if the APIs change in the coming months.
Right now, ActiveDEMAND is automatically posting form submit and phone call events in both GA4 and UA so our customers will have access to this data for both versions of GA. ActiveDEMAND also can post a custom GA4 event workflow action which gives users more flexibility and options for reporting. We recommend to our customers that if they are currently using the Post GA Event workflow action to also include the Post GA4 Event workflow action as well.
Get Deeper Insights with ActiveDEMAND
Google is excellent for data tracking and offering anonymous data aggregation but the closer you get to the contact the less information Google will show. ActiveDEMAND fills the data gap, with true user tracking of the buyer journey from the first touch on the website through to purchase, retention, and upsell with attribution on the prospect, the revenue, and full visibility of what users are doing.
Jana Bienz is an online marketing guru that spends the bulk of her time strategizing, creating and executing marketing campaigns for clients. Jana is a Google certified professional with over 15 years of experience. She has seen trends come and go and is always on the lookout for the latest tools to help her clients succeed.