Understanding GA4 and What We Need to Do Next



February 20, 2024

7 mins read

What is GA4?

GA4 is the latest version of Google Analytics (GA) that combines data from apps as well as websites. GA4 is a completely new way of looking at analytics, with an updated interface and reporting capabilities it’s a  long way from the widely-used Universal Analytics. 

GA4 is already the default option for reporting on Google Analytics but from  1st July 2023, it will replace Universal Analytics and become the only option when it comes to analysing your website’s performance using GA. Due to the collection and sharing of people’s data becoming more regulated in recent years, there’s no wonder Google is sunsetting Universal Analytics in 2023. GA4 is claimed by Google to be “Privacy-centric by design”. As well as having a bigger focus on privacy, GA4 enables marketers to measure users’ interactions within mobile and single-page apps as well as correcting data that has been impacted by cookie restrictions.

Whilst providing marketers with improved customer journey tracking and user engagement analysis as well as simplified goals and events set up, GA4 is truly the future of analytics. There are massive differences when comparing Universal Analytics to GA4, most importantly GA4’s use of machine learning to help share insight from the data collected. In this blog, we’re going to take a look at some of the biggest differences between Universal Analytics and GA4 and how you can set up a GA4 property for your website. 

How GA4 is different from Universal Analytics

The biggest difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 is the different measurement models they use. GA4 uses a different data structure and data collection logic. Everything on Universal Analytics is built around sessions, which is a group of user interactions that have taken place, sessions can include multiple pageviews, events, and transactions. 

Whereas, GA4 uses a measurement model that focuses on events and parameters which means that any interaction can be captured as an event. In GA4, there is no category, action, or label which can be confusing to those used to  Universal Analytics. To make it slightly easier to understand events in GA4 they are grouped into 4 different categories, which are explained below. 

Automatically collected events

Automatically collected events are basic interactions with your website or app and are automatically tracked when you install GA4. They include events such as ad_click, ad_exposure, and page_view. 

Enhanced Measurement Events

Enhanced Measurement Events are automatically collected and can be enabled or disabled. This includes events such as scrolls, outbound clicks, site searches, and file downloads. 

Recommended Events

Recommended Events are events that Google recommends you set up for your app or website. Google has split the recommended events by industry type and events such as ad_impression, sign_up, and add_to_cart are all included. 

Custom Events

Custom events are events and parameters that you can set up based on your website requirements, you can currently set up a minimum of 500 unique events. 

Key features of GA4 to know

GA4 provides marketers with cross-platform analysis and the ability to predict user behaviour. By using enhanced machine learning to fill in the missing data gap, GA4 makes it possible to track users as they travel across multiple platforms, using different devices. GA4 has a simplified reporting interface and with the addition of summary cards, marketers are now able to easily spot key trends and anomalies within data. Below are some of the key features and changes in GA4 when compared to Universal Analytics. 

1. Explorations 

The reporting view of GA4 comes with a new set of reports which is called ‘Explorations’ which allows you to conduct advanced analysis. Previously, this was only available to GA 360 users. 

2. No limits on volume of data

There are currently no limits on the volume of data you can send to a GA4 property. However, there is a limit on the number of events you can use. 

3. Enhanced measurement

Another useful feature of GA4 is ‘enhanced measurement’. Enhanced measurement enables automatic tracking for events such as scroll tracking, video tracking, exit tracking, and site search tracking without adding any additional code. 

4. Debug view

Useful for apps, the ‘debugView’ report allows you to validate your analytics configuration. 

5. New engagement metrics

GA4 includes a new set of engagement metrics (Engaged Sessions, Engagement Rate, Engaged Sessions per User, and Engagement Time). These new metrics allow you to accurately track users’ engagement on your website or app. GA4 also presents data very differently from Universal Analytics. With all data being combined in an overview section and widgets displaying each piece of information. The scorecards on GA4 allow you to explore more information, such as comparing additional parameters with similar events. Whilst this layout could be tricky to get used to, it does make it much easier to spot key trends within your data. 

Free connection to BigQuery

BigQuery is an excellent tool for accessing raw data. This is extremely useful for businesses that handle massive amounts of data. With the help of BigQuery integration within GA4, you can get better reporting and analytics. 

When should you make the switch to GA4?

There are some important differences between Universal Analytics and GA4 and before you stop using Universal Analytics it’s essential you’re fully aware of these changes. We suggest setting up a GA4 property to run in parallel with Universal Analytics to help make your future analysis more concise. 

How to set up GA4

Use the instructions below to create a new GA4 property that collects data in parallel with your existing Universal Analytics property. If your website is hosted on a Content Management System that doesn’t already use gtag.js then you will need to paste the global site tag (gtag.js) snippet manually into your website’s CMS’s custom HTML field. If you would like some guidance or help with this (we understand the weight of the task) please get in touch by emailing us at enquiries@helloseed.co.uk!

Setting up GA4 for a CMS-hosted website

Setting up Google Analytics for websites that use content management systems such as WooCommerce, Drupal, and SquareSpace is simple as they currently accept the “G-“ ID.  However, if your website is being hosted by CMSs such as Shopify, Magento, and PrestaShop it will be slightly more complicated to set up GA4 as they still require you to enter a “UA-“ ID. Therefore, you will have to paste the global site tag (gtag.js) snippet manually into your website’s CMS’s custom HTML field.

Need help setting up a GA4 property?

GA4 is the next generation of Google Analytics, with a focus on cross-device measurement and with the help of machine learning GA4 is an essential tool for any marketer. With major differences compared to  Universal Analytics, GA4 has updated reports and a new-looking interface. With the help of the team at Seed, we can help you understand the capabilities of GA4 and how to find better insights about your users. With a vast knowledge of GA4, we can help you to learn how to use audiences and parameters as well as other GA4 specific elements. Get in touch with us and have expert support during your transition from Universal Analytics to GA4. 

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