From Universal Analytics to GA4: Grasping the Future of Analytics

July 1, 2023, officially marked the end of Universal Analytics and the beginning of a new era– Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This innovative system has been available since October 2020. However, Google is now mandating everyone make the transition once and for all.

GA4 allows an organization to track engagement, identify trends within the data and determine the success of its marketing efforts. What’s more, GA4 prioritizes user privacy while maintaining the ability to track engagement across multiple platforms and sessions. Having a platform that keeps track of company data while respecting user privacy is invaluable and a necessary part of business operations. 

There is much good set to come out of the latest Google Analytics update; still, even Google acknowledges the differences between UA and GA4 are vast, and migration between the two can be complicated at best. Today we will dive into the world of GA4 and discuss some key differences. We will offer industry-leading best practices on how to successfully move data and get the most out of the migration with the help of a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist. Finally, we will close out with an FAQ to help with some of the most commonly asked questions. 

We have much to cover, but let us start with the basics: What is GA4? 

Everything You Need to Know About Google Analytics 4 in 2023

GA4 uses different data tracking methods to make your life easier than with UA. The old system collected data based on sessions in a certain amount of time. GA4 simplifies tracking because it uses events based on metrics you set. These events are tracked across websites, apps and sessions, making the data more accurate to who has interacted with your brand.

What Are Some of the Major Differences Between UA and GA4?

UA and GA4 are vastly different platforms that answer the same questions: Who is my audience, where are they coming from, what are they doing and how well are we reaching them? While both systems attempt to answer these questions, GA4 does it in its own way. The reporting interfaces are completely different and rely on event-based data rather than pageviews and hits. Anything you want to track in GA4, Google considers an event. 

A few things that sunset with UA, include:

  • Segments 
  • Views & Filters
  • Bounce Rate 
  • Fewer Reports 

There are a few new features, including:

  • BigQuery Integration simplifies large-scale data analysis.
  • Cohesive web-to-app tracking allows you to track users across multiple devices.
  • Multiple Attribution Models make tracking indirect conversions from social and paid advertising efforts easier. 
  • User Dimensions will enable you to see users at different source dimensions, such as session and user levels, as well as track them between devices and sources.

Effectively Migrating From UA to GA4 

Migrating from UA to GA4 is no simple task. You must take your time and fully understand what you are doing because a lot can go wrong. It is better to bring in an SEO specialist, but if you want to take this task on yourself, there are a few steps you should follow.

  1. Audit Your Universal Account – Note what you are tracking in UA: events, the latest traffic figures, conversion rates– essentially, anything you find important. 
  2. Set Up Your GA4 Account – Setting up GA4 is easy if you already have a universal account. You can find the setup assistant in the admin section of your dashboard. 
  3. Set Up Tracking for Your Events – ensure the setup wizard copies your event tracking properly. Check the automated goals first; some manually tracked UA goals are automatically tracked in GA4. Manually add any conversion from your audit that did not migrate over. 
  4. Create Custom Metrics – Establishing the custom dimensions and metrics you wish to track in GA4 is a multi-step ordeal. First, you create them in GA4 so that you can then add the necessary code to your website or app. Once you do so, the accounts will be linked. Existing tags may effectively integrate into GA4; however, you will still need to manually set up the event tracking.
  5. Archive Your Old Data – Besides the mandated transition from UA to GA4, Google will delete all UA data on January 1, 2024. While you have some time to work on this, you should plan to archive your data as soon as possible. When doing this, it helps to think about what data you access the most and at what intervals. 

Getting the Most Out of GA4 With Meticulous SEO Specialists

All-in-all, migrating from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 is complex and arduous. In fact, according to a poll taken by Search Engine Land, only 70% of companies plan on keeping this challenge in-house; 14% know they need expert advice and another 12% want to keep their options open. While Google is no stranger to changing its platform, the change in percentage of people who feel equipped to handle this integration is significant. So it begs the question, with such a complex task, how do you ensure your company can get the most out of their effort? 

To truly get the most out of the transition to GA4, it is important to bring on an SEO specialist with in-depth knowledge of Google Analytics and the experience to make changes quickly and efficiently. As a business owner, you understand how influential it is to be on the first page of Google search results; are you also aware that an expertly curated analytics platform can help you attribute success to the right source so that you can prioritize the digital marketing efforts that help push you to those top spots. 

We understand that this topic of discussion is often confusing and comes with many questions. Next, we will dive into the FAQ portion of this article, but remember, if you have any other questions, the SEO experts at Allegiant Digital Marketing are waiting for your call.

UA to GA4 (Google Analytics 4) FAQs

1. How Does GA4 Impact User Behavior Measurements?

There are several ways GA4 measures User Behavior. 

  • The Cohort Analysis tracks users and groups them based on similar characteristics. This facet makes it easier to create more targeted marketing campaigns. 
  • The Privacy First design of GA4 puts user experience first and collects less data than Universal Analytics. It also makes it easier for users to control their data collection and use. 
  • Machine learning capabilities put user experience at the forefront of operation and provide more insights into user behavior.
  • Event-based measurements collect data from user interactions and conversions rather than sessions. These changes make it more difficult for users to opt out of tracking. 

2. Are GA4 User Reports the Same as in UA?

User reports in GA4 are different from those in Universal. UA user reports tracked sessions defined as groups of user interactions taking place in a certain amount of time. 

In GA4, user reports track individual devices or browsers that connect with your website. The significant difference is that individual users can now be tracked across multiple devices and browsers, even if their interactions do not happen in a specific timeframe. 

3. What Should I Remember When Migrating From UA to GA4?  

The migration process from UA to GA4 is a delicate one. First and foremost, you should remember that this is a new platform, and there will always be frustration from learning anything new. 

Next, remember that UA and GA4 do not track the same information, so you may be unable to follow the same metrics.  

Then, cut yourself a break– keep in mind that you are not in the migration process alone. Data migration is complex. You are integrating two separate systems that do things differently; it will take some time to get the hang of them. If you are uncomfortable with this migration process, hiring someone you trust is always better than pushing through. Incorrectly setting up your GA account could impair your ability to collect data and misrepresent your numbers with dangerous consequences. 

4. How Can an SEO Specialist Help With GA4?

An SEO Specialist can help with GA4 setup in various ways. For example, they can help set up your GA4 conversions so that you know Google is tracking the correct information. They can also explain the data to you and help you understand how to understand it. Additionally, a specialist can help you optimize your website to ensure it is indexed and aid in prioritizing the insights that matter the most to your organization. 

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