Since its introduction in 2005, Google Analytics has undergone a range of improvements and upgrades. Now the internet mogul has announced it will remove one of its most commonly used sections from the toolkit. As of 1 July 2023, Universal Analytics will no longer process any data. While the traditional reports can still be accessed for some time after, any new data will then solely be processed by Google Analytics 4 (GA4) which was first introduced in 2020.
What is Google Analytics?
Part of the Google Marketing Platform and free for anyone who has a Google Account, Google Analytics is a service that collects and analyses the data of website visitors to give insights into their behaviour and demographics. The results are essential for marketing campaigners and web designers who are trying to attract as many people to a website as possible and turn visitors into purchasing customers.
Universal Analytics, also known as Google Analytics 3, has been part of the Google Analytics toolset since its roll-out in 2012. It has been the default analysing tool since. In 2016, Google also released Google Analytics 360 which is an enterprise-level software suite including Tag Manager, Optimise, Surveys and more.
What will change?
From July 2023 onwards, Google Analytics 4 will completely replace Universal Analytics in terms of data processing. Considering that GA4 is the latest version of Google Analytics, it will hopefully offer a range of more advanced features and services compared to its predecessor.
Events: GA4 is now event-based rather than session-based. It makes tracking anything from button clicks to video plays a lot easier as those features are built-in and do not require any additional setup.
Devices: While Universal Analytics was built entirely around website traffic, GA4 will now give business owners the opportunity to view customer insights across all devices including websites and apps.
Intelligence: Thanks to machine-learning technology, GA4 will be able to share insights and make predictions.
Below is a list of additional metrics that will most likely change once you have made the switch.
While Universal Analytics offers insight into 2 different types of user metrics, GA4 goes one step further. In addition to measuring the traditional total number of users and the number of users that are interacting with your site for the first time, GA4 also gives you the number of users that have been active on your page within the last 28 days. GA4 also focuses on active users rather than anyone who has ever interacted with your site in the past.
Both versions count the number of repeated views of a single page when displaying general pageview results. However, unlike Universal Analytics, GA4 also includes duplicates in the unique pageview. GA4 also combines web and app data which Universal does not, but GA4 does not currently support any filters such as excluding certain geographic regions when displaying pageviews.
If a unique transaction_id is obtained, both analytics tools should display similar results.
Displaying session times might show the biggest differences between Universal Analytics and GA4. In Universal Analytics, sessions will restart if certain parameters are met which includes periods of inactivity or the user still being on the website at midnight. While GA4 does restart sessions under those parameters, it currently does not support any filters to exclude specific data.
Depending on your settings, Universal Analytics and GA4 will measure conversions quite differently. Universal Analytics counts one conversion per session for each goal you have set. Goals can be events, so-called smart goals, destinations, duration goals or page and session goals. In GA4, you only specify conversion events and every event is counted, no matter how often it occurs during a single session.
Bounce vs. Engagement Rate
Universal Analytics counts the bounce rate of a website, the percentage of single-page sessions where the user does not trigger any interaction event. Bounced sessions are considered to have a 0-second duration, even if a user lingers on your website for several minutes. GA4 measures the percentage of engaged sessions. These either lasted longer than 10 seconds, had a conversion event or at least 2 page- or screen views.
How to make the switch
After its release on 14 October 2020, GA4 has become the default tracking tool for websites. If your website has been created prior to that date, you are most likely using Universal Analytics. Before you take any action, make sure you check which version of Google Analytics you are currently using.
Should you have to make the switch to GA4 manually, it is recommended to do this as soon as possible to make for a smooth transmission. Furthermore, you can use the Google GA4 setup assistant to run Universal Analytics and GA4 simultaneously until the earlier one is being phased out, to ensure your existing parameters continue to be used.
The assistant takes you through the 12 steps necessary to set up your website or app for GA4. Once you’ve completed this process, you will be able to see your Analytics data in your Google Ads account. Your previous Universal Analytics data will also be accessible for at least 6 months after 1 July 2023 to give you the chance of exporting it should you wish to do so.
For help switching to Google Analytics 4, talk to the friendly experts at Energise Web today.