GA4 Explained: The new analytics dashboard

Regular 'Universal Analytics' users have probably seen the notifications prompting you to move over to Google Analytics 4. What's changing, and what do you need to know?

As our world becomes more protected and we spend more of our time online, privacy becomes a more pressing issue. 

Even if you’re not up to date with all of the privacy law changes being made, particularly in California and the European Union, you may have noticed more websites asking you to ‘accept cookies.’ Sadly, they’re not about to send you a box of choc-chip goodness.

To stay on top of these new privacy laws, Google is changing what data it collects each time you visit a website. If you’re regularly using Universal Analytics (Google Analytics 3), you’ve probably seen the notifications prompting you to move over to GA4 (Google Analytics 4).

But what is GA4 and why should you use it?

What is GA4 Google Analytics 4

What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?

GA4 is the latest version of Google’s popular analytics platform for tracking visitor information to your website. Like any upgrade there are shiny new features, including the ability to track a website and an app from the same account, plus more detailed insights around how people interact with you

Behind the scenes, the big changes between GA4 and Universal Analytics are in the way data is stored and processed. You will have new ways of measuring and analyzing traffic, while individuals won’t feel like their metadata is available for anyone to see.

It’s Google’s goal to get everyone using the new platform as soon as possible. To get you to switch over, they won’t be releasing any new features on Universal Analytics. Plus, they’ll be saying goodbye to that old platform and shutting it off in July 2023, so you may as well jump aboard the GA4 train now.

Differences Between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics

While Google Analytics 4 is similar to Universal Analytics (Google Analytics 3), it does have some pretty big differences. 

GA4 looks different:
Some reports have new names, and some metrics have disappeared entirely. Basically, GA4 has a whole new look and feel.

New Metrics:
GA4 has replaced bounce rate with “engaged sessions.” So, instead of seeing the percentage of people who leave without interacting further on your site, you’ll see data on the people who stayed. Google wants you to focus on raising your Engagement Rate.

Instead of goals, GA4 only tracks events and conversions. You can choose which events count as a conversion in your settings.

New Privacy:
GA4 was built with new privacy laws like GDPR and PECR in mind. Moving over to the new platform will help keep your website compliant.

Smart And Getting Smarter:
As Google’s artificial intelligence continues to advance, you can expect more helpful insights, updates and improvements to become available over time. If you're using Google Ads to drive traffic to your website, you can expect to see new ways to measure your marketing and web performance, including ROI on your marketing campaigns.

New Data:
Finally, and this is a big one, GA4 means starting from scratch. You cannot carry over historical data from your Universal Analytics account. You’ll still be able to see and access the data in Universal Analytics, but you’ll have to switch between that and your new GA4 account to get the whole picture.

Analytics Data GA4 Google Analytics 4 explained

Should I Use Google Analytics 4?

In short, if you’re committed to Google Analytics, you should set up GA4 on your website as soon as possible. You don’t have to use it if you don’t want to, but as long as you have it set up and gathering data, you’re prepared for any updates or new features Google releases.

Because Universal Analytics will stop collecting information from July 2023, you want to get GA4 set up as soon as possible to make sure there are no gaps in your data going forward.

It’s worth mentioning that Google is not the only analytics provider in the game. Adobe Analytics and IBM Coremetrics are two platforms with credible alternatives to Google. Of course each analytics program, including Google, has its own pros, cons and idiosyncrasies. It may just be worth knowing that alternatives are available.  

Sharpen your digital marketing with us

Not sure how to set GA4, or Adobe Analytics up on your website, or you’re having trouble navigating the new platform? Our team of developers and digital marketers can help you get up to speed.

Talk with us about your digital marketing

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