Universal Analytics (UA) vs. Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
Where are we?
At this point, it’s probably not breaking news to hear that Universal Analytics is sunsetting and the transition to GA4 is imminent. Google has done a good job of providing information surrounding the upgrade (I've noted a few resources throughout), not to mention the daunting message we see every time we log into an Analytics account.
Still, without a solid understanding of what it means for your business, you're not alone if you've been ignoring this topic. I'm here to tell your (in my loud voice) that this matters, and you need to do something. But don't fret. Your friends and digital experts at ZGM are here to help.
We're proactively working with our clients to answer the following questions:
- How do I set up GA4?
- What is GA4?
- What's the difference between a UA event and a GA4 event?
With the ever-evolving digital landscape, the new measurement tool seeks to give marketers a better perspective on the user journey. Instead of focusing on vanity metrics*, the new platform emphasizes GA4 events. If you have an app, it also places the data in one convenient property for increased S-Y-N-E-R-G-Y.
GA4 (Google Analytics 4) is much more customizable and encourages us (marketers) to look at the metrics that matter. Besides the updated user interface, you will notice other changes— most notably, metrics that we've relied on in the past that have either received a face-lift or dropped entirely.
Out with the old, in with the new.
WHAT ARE THE HIGHEST IMPACT CHANGES?
A variety of metrics within Google Analytics have changed. A bunch of new metrics have been added, and what I will now call "old ones" have been redefined. Here are just some of the changes that you'll see on the updated platform:
Added: engaged session — the number of sessions (engagements) that met or exceeded 10 seconds OR had two or more page views OR had at least one conversion event.
Updated: "average engagement time" instead of "average session duration".
Updated: "engagement rate" instead of "bounce rate" — the inverse of this value equals bounce rate. Disclaimer: If you calculate bounce rate using the inverse value of engagement rate, note that the metric is calculated differently and won’t be an apple-to-apple comparison to UA.
Google has a complete list of all the changes and how they will impact your reporting. Getting going on GA4 now is wise as it provides the opportunity to compare the differences between the platforms before UA is gone.
GET IT BEFORE IT'S GONE
The deadline to upgrade from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 is July 1st 2023, but Google will start transitioning accounts early in 2023. Six months after the deadline, historical data will be inaccessible. And this is a big deal because year-over-year (YoY) comparisons help us establish benchmarks and assess performance. Once this update happens, such comparisons will be unavailable through Google. Ensure that you and your team have a plan, whether backing up data onto Excel/Google Sheets or partnering with a data warehouse.
A few things worth mentioning:
- Parts of this implementation can be confusing if you don't have a digital team. If that sounds like you, we recommend you partner with an agency. Switching to GA4 has me tapping into our development team, and I work in Google Analytics daily.
- The new property has removed the rigid naming criteria of event category, label, and action and allows us to state, name, and set any parameter we desire. Parameters are additional details behind an event. They provide advertisers with the option to differentiate actions or group them. Click text is an example of this. You may have an event for link clicks, but you want to bring the parameter of click text to determine what is being clicked on your site. These parameters are often pulled from the site, so if you have a developer on your team, it doesn’t hurt to sit down and chat with them about the different parameters you have at your disposal.
- For anyone of my eCommerce friends, the enhanced eCommerce checkbox for GTM is no longer available. In the past, if your website code was correct, all you needed to do was check a box. A digital marketer must now collaborate with a developer to determine which events should fire and what parameters will be sent to the site for eCommerce implementation. If you're a DIYer, I recommend working with a developer and referring to this article from Google.
What you should do
It is in the best interest of everyone reading this to get a head start on GA4 and implement it sooner rather than later. If you want to do it yourself, I recommend the following resources:
The creation of the GA4 view is simple. If you know the space, you won’t have trouble with the switch. What creates complexity, and consumes time, is the creation of past events, conversions, recording e-commerce, and determining what to do with past data.
*Vanity Metrics - a vanity metric is a metric that doesn't give you a lot of information. It may make you feel good, but they lack substance, won't help you with your strategy, and can't be directly tied to a business objective.