Google Analytics 4 - SEO

Why the switch from UA to GA4 – and what are the benefits?

If you’re not already aware of this, at the end of last month Google closed its Universal Analytics (UA) platform, meaning all users now need to shift over to the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) model.

Here, we look at the differences between the two, and why Google has chosen to ‘sunset’ (we know, we hate the word too) its UA data system.

In a nutshell, UA was the successor to Google Analytics, the web analytics service from the web giant which tracks and reports online traffic. It was the most widely used online web analytics service, and has been around in one form or another since 2005.

One of the key drivers behind the change has been privacy. This has clearly been a huge concern for consumers in recent years, as their awareness of online privacy has increased. And, of course, GDPR rules changed in Europe five years ago. As we transition into a world without cookies, Google has created GA4 with privacy as a priority. And it works across web and app platforms, so it measures via event-based data modelling without depending exclusively on cookies.

What is the main difference between GA4 and UA?

Put (very) simply, UA was session-based, and used hit types including page hits, social interaction hits and event hits. In this context, sessions are visits, or the different occasions on which someone went on to your website.

For its part, GA4 is event-based; therefore, all hits such as ‘page view’ are now classed as events, or users’ interactions with a website. With GA4, events refer to any user interaction with your website or mobile app and so event measurement is now enhanced.

There are differences in terminology and interface with the new platform which, if we’re honest, hasn’t been universally welcomed across the industry. However, the essentials of analytics remain unchanged.

But not all the same reports are available as previously, and new ones have been added – so familiarise yourself with these changes.

What else will change?

  • You’ll get access to insights across the web and app – previously UA was used for web insights and Firebase for app.
  • Machine learning offers predictive insights into user behaviour.
  • Data-driven attribution (DDA) gives credit for conversions based on how people engage with your ads and decide to become your customers – GA4 means everyone can now use DDA.

Features to kick off your GA4 journey

Here are some of the things you can do in GA4 that may help you to enjoy using it a little more.

  1. GA4 gathers the data needed to create predictive audiences for buyers on your site.
  2. You get access to something called Explorations, allowing you to create custom reports. As long as you have Admin access, you can customise any of the data provided in any of the reports.
  3. You can create and track up to 300 events and 30 conversions.
  4. You can create audience segments without having to save them.

Expert analytics advice for you

At Front Page Advantage, we have many years’ experience of Google’s various forms of analytics, and advise a wide range of clients of different sizes and from very varied sectors on the best way to proceed with getting the best data for their business. Talk to us today about GA4 and how it could help you.