Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the successor to Universal Analytics and is the biggest update Google has made to Google Analytics. GA4 brings significant changes. Using machine learning, GA4 brings important insights and is therefore going to help you better understand the data. Google announced the first release back in July 2019. But because many features were still missing, many Google Analytics users were still using Universal Analytics. Still many are using Universal Analytics. Often because they still need to get used to the new interface, the technology is not yet in order or because they simply haven’t had the time to switch to GA4 yet.
In case you haven’t switched to GA4 yet either, now really is the time to do so. On July 1, 2023 Google will stop Universal Analytics and you will miss insights into what your users are doing on your website.
What is GA4?
Google Analytics 4 is the fourth generation of Google Analytics (and the successor to Universal Analytics, the third generation) and offers a more privacy-focused approach to tracking users on websites and apps. This improves compliance with the GDPR guidelines and better protects personal data.
GA4 has better and smarter metrics through machine learning. To continue gaining insights from users even if they don’t accept cookies.
Google itself calls GA4 an upgrade of Google Analytics, but it is actually a completely new tool: it looks different, it measures in a different way and so you will have to learn to work with it. This will be the new standard in tracking website visitors.
What are the biggest differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics?
The biggest difference with Universal Analytics is that Google Analytics 4 measures in a completely new way. This new way of measuring makes it clearer where your website’s bottlenecks are and exactly what route your visitors are taking.
In summary, the following components have changed in GA4 compared to Universal Analytics:
- The way a website is measured
- The user interface
A completely new way of measuring
In GA4, measurement is done in a completely new way. It is built on tracking user journeys across multiple devices, allowing it to track users’ sessions as they move between laptops, mobiles, tablets and other devices. This allows you to understand your customers better and better. When users do not accept cookies or they are blocked by the browser, data gaps are created. Through machine learning, GA4 closes these gaps and can continue to provide insights about users while keeping their data anonymous.
GA4 uses an event-driven data model where Universal Analytics uses a session-based data model. This means that Universal Analytics links sessions to user data. However, this way is no longer the best way to collect data due to GDPR guidelines. GA4 measures through events (user interactions that occur within a website, such as scroll depth, page views, outbound clicks, etc.), with each event passing on additional information via parameters. This makes the data a lot more accurate.
In GA4 there are a number of events that are measured by default (you have to enable this yourself): scroll depth, page views, video engagement, outgoing clicks, downloads and the use of site search (the search function on your website). In addition to these standard events, you can also create custom events. This allows you to collect information specific to your business, such as measuring a specific form. You can then mark these events as conversions.
New user interface and reports
The user interface has changed and some reports you are used to from Universal Analytics have been removed or moved. New reports have also been added. This takes some getting used to, of course. For example, the bounce rate in GA4 has disappeared and the number of standard reports has decreased significantly. However, the new reports give better insight into user journeys. The bounce rate may be gone, but in its place is the engagement rate. This percentage is calculated by the number of sessions that last longer than 10 seconds, have a conversion event or have at least 2 page views.
GA4 is there for the user
GA4 is set up to ensure user privacy. The focus is on complying with the GDPR guidelines, and protecting personal data. IP addresses are no longer stored, users are fully anonymized and can request to have their data deleted. In addition, GA4 does not rely on cookies. This is good because more and more “third-party” cookies are being blocked by browsers, making it more difficult to track your website users. Through machine learning, GA4 tries to complete the data as best it can.
Why should I switch to GA4?
If you want to keep insight into what your users are doing on your website, it is necessary to make the switch to Google Analytics 4. This is because Google will stop using Universal Analytics on July 1, 2023.
Besides being necessary, GA4 offers many benefits, including:
- Tracking users across multiple devices such as laptops, cell phones, tablets and other devices.
- User privacy is ensured.
- GA4 is able to make predictions and fill in missing data using machine learning.
- Scroll depth, page views, video engagement, outbound clicks, downloads and use of site search (the search function on your website) is measured by default (you have to turn this on yourself).
- New statistics about engagement, such as engaged sessions, engagement rate, engaged sessions per user and engagement time.
We recommend creating a new property in GA4 in addition to your property in Universal Analytics. This allows you to get used to the new user interface while still using Universal Analytics.
How do I set up GA4 myself?
Step 1: Create a GA4-property and add a data stream
To create your new Google Analytics 4-property, you’ll need the ‘Editor’ role within your Google Analytics account. If you have created this account, then you have this role automatically. On the Admin page, go to the ‘Property’ column and click ‘Create Property’. Then follow the steps. Next, you’re going to add a data stream. Choose iOS app, Android app or web. We recommend turning on ‘Enhanced measurement’. This will measure the following standard events: scroll depth, page views, video engagement, outbound clicks, downloads and site search usage. Again, follow the steps here.
Step 2: Add the GA4 code to your website.
To receive data, the new GA4 code must be implemented on your website. This code (Google tag) can be found with your web stream data and can be added in several ways:
- Through the website builder or in the CMS (e.g. WordPress or Shopify)
- Directly on your web pages
- Via Google Tag Manager
This is the basis of your GA4-property. If you want to set up your GA4-property optimally, be sure to also pick up the following:
- Create custom events and mark them as conversions
- Filter out internal traffic
- Migrate events
- Link Google Ads
How can we help you with GA4?
Need help setting up Google Analytics 4? We’re here to help! With setting up your GA4-property and guiding you through the first steps to defining and adding custom events and conversions that are interesting to you. So you can better understand your customer.
Contact us using the form below and we’ll get back to you soon.