Google recently announced they will begin to sunset its Universal Analytics technology next year. Beginning on July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics will stop processing new hits and data collection will only occur in Google Analytics 4.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is Google’s latest property type and is an analytics service that measures traffic and user engagement across websites. It became the default Google Analytics experience in October 2020.
The latest version of Google Analytics, GA4 measures website and mobile app traffic together. Previous versions measured these traffic types separately.
How does GA4 differ from Universal Analytics?
Universal Analytics (UA) is Google’s previous version of its analytics platform. The main difference between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 is that GA4 is event-based, meaning all user interactions on a website are captured as events. In contrast, Universal Analytics tracks hit types such as page hits, social interactions, and ecommerce hits.
GA4 and UA also differ in how they view and track page views and screen views, user sessions, content groupings, custom dimensions, and more. Details on each of these parameters can be found in Google’s support documentation.
Google Analytics 4 brings automated insights on the customer journey and an enhanced look into the user journey on websites. GA4 also lets us group events easier for conversion rate optimization purposes.
For our team, GA4 is configured differently from Universal Analytics. The way certain parameters and tags are set up is slightly different as well.
Some events are also automatically tracked in Google Analytics 4.
And GA4 measures engagement rate instead of bounce rate, as Universal Analytics does.
What the change means for you
With the change from Universal Analytics to GA4 comes a shift in how website traffic and app data is tracked. Google is future-proofing its analytics by relying less and less on browser cookies to track user data.
Google has announced that it will stop processing new hits for Universal Analytics properties on July 1, 2023. It will also delete historical data from Universal Analytics in 2023 or early 2024. We are continually monitoring Google’s resources for updates on this changeover.
All Hennessey Digital clients will be migrated to Google Analytics 4 well in advance of the July 2023 deadline. In addition, we will continue to work closely with our Paid Media team to ensure pay-per-click campaigns we manage for clients are linked and that Google Ads accounts are updated appropriately.
The majority of our clients will not be affected by the shift from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4. We continually monitor our clients’ analytics to optimize website performance and make adjustments to maximize conversions based on data. Our team will also work with clients between now and next summer to educate clients on how to use GA4 should they want a more hands-on experience.
Our take on the change to Google Analytics 4
Because of the enhanced visibility into lead form submissions that Google Analytics 4 provides, we believe this shift is a positive thing for our clients.
Funnel reporting is more precise with improved editing and control functions. We like that Google Analytics 4 gets a lot more granular efficiently with parameters and breaks form submissions out into their own goals and sets rules to modify events. For example, now we can track lead forms specific to scholarships for our law firm clients. This is something that previously took multiple steps using Universal Analytics/Tag Manager.
Hennessey Digital’s Analytics team diligently follows Google’s resources and announcements on what’s changing, new features and tools, and what’s to come. One of our core principles is “stay nimble; never stop learning,” so we’re always looking to trusted sources to learn how others are successful with these new tools as well. (Optimize Smart is one of our favorites.)
As analysts, our job is to pivot and adapt quickly as we analyze the data. We will continue to follow Google’s announcements about GA4 and update our clients accordingly.
(note: all screenshots and images for this post via Surbhi Kumar)