Migrating to Google Analytics 4 is a Pain in the butt!

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With Google announcing that they will be sunsetting Google Analytics Universal on July 1st, 2023, the time is NOW to start the transition!

Migrating from Google Universal to Google Analytics 4 is no simple task. Sure, account setup is relatively straightforward, but setting up the proper conversion tracking is much more complicated now. Google Analytics 4 has its advantages and disadvantages, but like all new forced changes, it will take time to get used to. Google Analytics 4 will actually be an improvement on your analytics data as it is based solely on events and parameters. 

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Differences to Know About Google Analytics vs. Universal Analytics

For marketers and website owners following recent developments from Google, you’ve likely noticed that Google Analytics 4 is not an upgrade to Universal Analytics as many assumed. It is essentially an entirely new product that leaves web designers and digital marketers curious to understand what this means. Curiosity is highly focused on what new features will be offered by Google Analytics 4 that makes it a unique entity from Google Universal Analytics. Many marketers appear excited to make the switch, but what is all the buzz about?

Google Analytics is a vital tool used to better understand user behavior and create the best user experience possible. This tool is used by over 30 million websites. With this mass dependence on this important marketing tool, marketers and website owners are left with several questions concerning Google’s switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

Basic comparisons that we will explore further include:

  • GA4 and Universal Analytics are based on different models
  • GA4 provides predictive metrics and audience
  • GA4 provides additional cross-device reporting

GA4 and Universal Analytics are Based on Different Models

The difference in ease of use between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics relies heavily on the different models used. Google Universal Analytics model relies on using page views as the main means of tracking information. While page views are important, there is an increased need to explore other metrics as well. For a person managing their website, they would have to change settings and deploy Google Tag Manager to discover additional information. This can quickly become complicated.

Google Analytics 4 takes this method of tracking a step further. GA4’s model revolves around the concept that page views alone are not enough analytical data to provide an optimal user experience. This model not only tracks page views, but also tracks button clicks, video plays, and other important measurable metric data that can help marketers and website owners. With GA4, the necessity for extra settings is reduced, since these metrics come standard.  

Universal Analytics relies on a session-based model to gather important information concerning user experience and website utilization. GA4 differs in that it relies on an event model for tracking valuable information. Event-based measurements track IDs differently than the method used by Universal Analytics, which relies on pageviews and sessions. Google Analytics 4 uses metrics such as page views as events that trigger data tracking. This allows GA4 to create a single-user journey from all the data associated with that specific ID. Tracking how a specific user interacts with a website can help increase website optimization for marketers and website owners.

Google Analytics 4 Offers Predictive Audiences and Metrics

One of the largest differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics is that GA4 has machine learning capabilities that use predictive metrics to learn how to better target content and advertisements. Predictive audiences use metric data gathered by user tracking to better understand consumer habits and interest in a certain product or service. AI can take this information and fill in any information gaps. This allows marketers to better target the correct audience.

With predictive audiences and other predictive metrics, business owners and marketing teams can use predictive analysis to better identify and understand their target user base. This can help boost engagement which ultimately helps a business thrive in the digital marketing world.

Cross-Device Reporting

Between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4, there is a significant difference in the way reporting works across devices. It is no surprise that one of Google’s recent algorithm updates switched to tracking mobile-friendliness across all websites, an upgrade from the previous algorithm that focused on newly launched sites. This was a necessary upgrade due to the continuous rise of consumers using their mobile devices for their major online searches. This has also pushed for analytical tools to adapt to provide the most accurate results possible.

The major difference between these two analytical tools is a result of the different ways that these platforms record user interactions. GA4 relies on event-based tracking. This form of tracking is defined as any user interaction on the site. This includes elements such as page views, video plays, social interactions, and transactions. This allows GA4 to get a better understanding of how a user explores a website in its entirety.

Universal Analytics relies on a session-based model. This model records data based on grouping user inaction within a specific timeframe. This model is extremely limited in providing cross-device reporting. It would likely require a roll-up reporting to gather the same type of information that GA4 can with their event-based model.

Cross-platform and cross-device reporting can provide a better analysis of customer behavior across websites. This can help marketers, and website owners develop better interactive content and track what works and what doesn’t for the different pages of their website. This can provide a significant boost in SEO.

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