What’s In and What’s Out in GA4

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What’s In and What’s Out in GA4

Getting Prepared for the Transition

As Google prepares to sunset Universal Analytics (UA), it is important that you and your clients are prepared for the transition to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). In this post we cover an overview of the key differences between UA and GA4, as well as necessary action items to prepare for the transition. 

What’s Out: Universal Analytics

  • Universal Analytics was built for a period of online measurement centered around desktop web usage and data gathered from cookies. As desires for privacy increase, and cookies phase out, a need for a new kind of measurement has emerged.
  • UA uses a session-based measurement model which collects a group of user interactions (hits) with a website over a certain timeframe as one session.
  • Universal Analytics sessions can include multiple pageviews, events and transactions.
  • In UA, most reporting relies heavily on device ID and when the User-ID feature is enabled, its data reports separately and does not integrate with other identity spaces. Because these identity spaces work separately, it is difficult to measure user journeys across devices.
  • Bounce Rate: A percentage of single page sessions in which there was no interaction with the page. A bounced session has a duration of 0 seconds.
  • According to GA, Bounce Rate was a reasonable measure of site engagement at one time, but has become less useful as websites and apps have changed.

What’s in: Google Analytics 4

  • Every Hit is an Event: GA4 uses a more flexible event-based measurement model in which all user interactions are stored as events. 
  • GA4 events can collect and send pieces of information that better specify the actions a user takes and can include things like purchase value, page visits and user demographics. 
  • Increased Privacy: Google Analytics 4 does not rely exclusively on cookies and will no longer store IP addresses, as users have come to expect more privacy and control over their data.
  • 4 Event Categories: Automatically Collected Events, Enhanced Measurement Events, Recommended Events, Custom Events
  • Identity Spaces: In GA4, data is processed using all available identity spaces (User ID, Google signals and device ID). Once a user is matched, analytics creates a single user journey from all data associated with this identity.
  • Bounce Rate will no longer be an available metric as GA4 transitions to the use of the new “Engagement”metrics to measure page performance.
  • Engaged Sessions: The number of sessions that lasted longer than 10 seconds, had a conversion event, or had at least 2 pageviews or screenviews. 
  • Avg. Engagement Time per Session: The amount of time the user is actually engaging with the page (scrolling, etc) while the page is the primary window being viewed on the screen.
  • Engagement Rate: The percentage of engaged sessions relative to total sessions. According to GA, this metric is more relevant to how websites and apps work today.
  • Reports: GA4 has significantly fewer standard reports compared to Universal Analytics and is designed to encourage the use of custom reports. 
  • In GA4 there are only 3 standard acquisition reports available with a key difference being the removal of the Source/Medium report as a standard view. However, it is fairly simple to update these reports to include your desired dimensions and create custom reports by modifying these existing GA4 reports. You can create custom reports in GA4 using the Explorations feature.
Chart comparing differences between GA4 and UA measurements.
Chart depicting the types of event measurement inGA4.

What’s Next?

  • All standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits on July 1, 2023.
  • The sooner you create a GA4 property, add data streams and enable data collection, the sooner you can begin collecting necessary historical data before UA stops processing new hits. 
  • Migrate existing UA custom events, goals/conversions, audiences and eCommerce measurement to GA4.
  • You’ll want to check GA4 conversion and event accuracy by comparing metrics to UA, which means you will want to make the move with enough time to cross-check data for a period.
  • Link GA4 to your Google Ads account and begin optimizing towards GA4 conversions in Google Ads. 

LeadLab Media has a team of experts ready to help you make the transition to GA4. Request a consultation today to ensure you have the historical data necessary in GA4 to avoid a disruption in collection when UA stops processing new hits.