An Introduction to Google Analytics 4

July 15, 2022

Find out everything you need to know about GA4 right now

You could be forgiven for having missed the recent news from Google Analytics, but if you’re a regular user of Universal Analytics or a less frequent visitor, then you’ll need to pay attention.

In what is set to be the single biggest change to Google Analytics as we know it, now is the time to start swotting up on what to expect. But fear not, you can leave the hard work to us… Our marketing experts have been beavering away in the background to decipher what the changes mean for you.

Prepare for the next generation of Google Analytics by reading our introduction to Google Analytics 4…

What is Google Analytics 4?

Described by Google as ‘a new property designed for the future of measurement’, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a bespoke analytics service designed to enable you to measure the number of visitors and level of engagement across your website and any associated apps. The platform offers a new kind of ‘property’ (‘property’ refers to the set of Google Analytics reports and data for your website and/or app) enabling users to access different reports compared to what the current Universal Analytics (UA) provides.

The next generation of Google Analytics is set to take over on 1st July 2023 and is here to stay. GA4 boasts many benefits as it aims to streamline the process for users, while adapting the landscape it currently adopts from a visibility perspective. Here are just some of the changes you can expect:

  • GA4 will collect both website and app data in one hit to better understand the overall customer journey.
  • GA4 will use ‘events’ as measurement instead of session-based data.
  • GA4 will include privacy controls – such as cookieless measurements – to further understand visitor behaviour to help with a more accurate form of conversion modelling.
  • GA4’s new predictive capabilities will offer guidance to the user, without having to navigate the existing more complex set-up.
  • GA4 will provide direct integrations to benefit various media platforms, which in turn will help drive distinct actions on your website or associated app.

What you need to know about Google Analytics 4 right now

We appreciate that what you really want to know is how the implementation of Google Analytics (GA4) will affect you. To cut through the clutter, we’ve listed the top five things you need to know about GA4 right now:

  1. The current Universal Analytics (UA) programme will stop tracking on 1st July 2023, to make way for the bigger and better GA4 model – and there’s absolutely no flexibility in this deadline date – so no excuses!
  2. The new GA4 user interface looks very different from the original UA set up, so visually, there’s a lot of new elements to get used to.
  3. GA4 is organised in an entirely new manner based on a hierarchical system; Organisation, Analytics Account, followed by Analytics Property. For example, products and users are collected together in what’s called an ‘organisation’ which effectively represents your company.
  4. ‘Analytics Intelligence’ has been introduced to help users gain a better understanding of GA4. This includes a search and questions function that means you can access data quickly and get instant answers to queries you may have.
  5. Google has implemented machine learning technology to GA4 – the robots have officially taken over! This form of predictive intelligence analyses data to second-guess future actions of your website or app visitors.

Google Analytics 4 explained in more detail

While we’ve highlighted the main elements to expect with Google Analytics 4 (GA4), our own in-house Google Analytics expert has given us a more in-depth understanding of how these changes will be implemented across the platform. Read on to discover more about GA4…

Google Analytics 4 Users

On Google Analytics 4 (GA4) there are two main differences between ‘Users’ (people who visit your website) in comparison to the existing Universal Analytics (UA). These are:

  1. In the current UA, the primary focus is on what’s called ‘Total Users’ – that’s anyone who visits your website. In the new GA4, the primary focus is instead on what’s described as ‘Active Users’ – these are classed as users who have visited the website in the last 28 days.
  2. In the current UA, ‘New Users’ are people who visit your website for the very first time. Alternatively, in the new GA4, ‘New Users’ are instead people who visit your website for the first time AND trigger the first assigned ‘Event’ – this is fired automatically by GA4.

Google Analytics 4 Pageviews

Using the current Universal Analytics (UA), we often report on what’s called ‘Pageviews’. Pageviews are quite literally the number of pages viewed by a user per session. This data then gives us a better understanding as to whether a user is interacting well with the website. Again, there are two major differences when it comes to how the pageviews system works between UA and Google Analytics 4 (GA4):

  1. In the current UA, we look at pageviews to determine the total number of pages viewed on your website – repeated views of a single page are counted too. In the new GA4, the change is actually minimal by comparison, however pageviews are now called ‘Views’. The reason for this is because it will include website AND app data – of course, apps don’t have pages – repeated views of a single page or screen will still be counted.
  2. In the current UA, ‘Unique Pageviews’ are counted – this is classed as the total number of pageviews, excluding duplicates. In the new GA4, unique pageviews don’t exist anymore. Instead, we will have to perform a manual calculation to work this out if we want more detailed data.

Google Analytics 4 Events

Here at 67 Degrees, we currently track events on Universal Analytics (UA) through Google Tag Manager (GTM) to see how users (visitors) are experiencing a website. For example, the user journey may be landing on the homepage, clicking on a button which takes them to another page, and then filling out an enquiry form for submission. As you’d expect, there are some distinct changes to how events work in Google Analytics 4 (GA4):

  • In the current UA, events are assigned a Category, and Action and a Label. Comparatively, in the new GA4, every ‘hit’ is classed as an event in itself, so there are no longer Categories, Actions or Labels.
  • There are four key types of events in GA4, these are: Automatically collected events, enhanced measurement events (also auto collected), Recommended events (based on industry type, i.e. ecommerce) and Custom events (limited to a maximum of 500).

Google Analytics 4 Conversions

Conversions are an extremely important element to track when it comes to data trends. As you’ve guessed, there are some distinct differences between the current Universal Analytics (UA) and the new Google Analytics (GA4). Let us explain more:

  • In the current UA, goals are set up to show where a user takes a specific action, i.e. completes a form or clicks on a phone number. In the new GA4, we have to specify a conversion event for each action we want to count as a conversion. Although this is not too dissimilar to what we already do for you, as we set up events in Google Tag Manager (GTM) already and convert them into goals (it’s not just about ‘thank you’ URLs, we’re much more savvy than that).
  • The current UA supports five different goal types: Destination, duration, pages/session, smart goals, and event goals. By contrast, the new GA4 only supports conversion events.
  • In the current UA, only one conversion is counted per session for each goal (which makes sense as if a user submits two forms, as it will only count one instead). In the new GA4, EVERY instance of each conversion event is counted (this shouldn’t be an issue for 67 Degrees clients as we fire events upon javascript loading, which should only happen once).

Google Analytics 4 Engagement

Here at 67 Degrees, we regularly check engagement metrics when reporting data to our customers. A number of these metrics will be changing from the existing Universal Analytics (UA) to the new Google Analytics (GA4). Here’s how:

  • In the current UA, we look at Bounce Rate (this is the percentage of single page sessions with no interaction). In the new GA4, Bounce Rates don’t actually exist anymore, however it has been replaced with a new metric…introducing Engaged Sessions.
  • Engaged Sessions is classed as the number of sessions that lasted longer than 10 seconds, includes a conversion event OR had at least two page/screen views.
  • We think this new metric makes absolute sense and is probably a better indication than the current bounce rate system, especially for single page websites.

Google Analytics 4 Data Stream

The Data Stream function in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a brand new addition, but does house some similar aspects to the current Universal Analytics (UA) version, including:

  • In the current UA, we can set up different views and these can be used to exclude internal traffic if required. In the new GA4, you will only have one property and then data streams feeding into that.
  • In the current UA, you can have up to 25 views per property, whereas in the new GA4, there is just one property where most of the settings are, so data streams feed into this.

Google Analytics 4 migration for 67 Degrees customers

We appreciate that there is A LOT of information to absorb when it comes to the differences between Universal Analytics (UA) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4). We hope that our dedicated GA4 introduction article has proven useful – or at least given you a basic understanding – so that when it comes to full migration in July 2023, it won’t be such a shock!

If you’re wondering why you can’t just stick to the existing UA platform, it’s because Google is removing it altogether to make way for the mighty GA4. This means that once the switchover has happened, there is no way of retrieving the old data from UA. In fact, it’s important to note that none of the UA data will be transferred over, which is why here at 67 Degrees, we are going to the effort of setting up our customers GA4 accounts now. We’ll be one step ahead by having access to some of the year on year data before it is lost, as GA4 will only allow us to look back over 14 months.

Current 67 Degrees customers can rest assured that we are adding the new GA4 system to their websites right now in preparation for the changeover. New 67 Degrees customers are having GA4 set up as standard, alongside their existing UA account, so whether you’re an existing customer or a new addition to the 67 Degrees family, we’ve got you covered!

If you have any questions or concerns about UA’s migration to GA4, then get in touch and we’ll be only too happy to help.

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