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Transitioning from Universal Analytics to GA4: What You Need to Prepare For

Google Analytics has been a valuable tool for marketers to understand website and app performance. However, Google has introduced a newer version called Google Analytics 4 (GA4) that offers even better insights. In this article, we’ll explain the transition from Universal Analytics to GA4 in simple terms, highlighting the changes and benefits for everyday users.

Understanding the Change

GA4 is the next generation of Google Analytics. Unlike the older version  — Universal Analytics — which focused on sessions and pageviews, GA4 uses event-based data. This means it pays more attention to user actions and interactions rather than just counting visits.

What Does It Mean for You?

So what does it mean for you? GA4 represents a significant shift in how marketers collect, analyze, and use customer data. Here are three important considerations for GA4.

Transition Process

Starting from July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics will stop processing new data. While you’ll still be able to see your old reports for some time, new data will only be available in GA4. It’s important to export your old reports before the deadline to keep your historical data.

Better Understanding of Customers

GA4 aims to provide a clearer picture of how users interact with your website or app. It connects the dots between different platforms and devices to create a single journey for each user. This helps marketers understand their customers better and make smarter decisions.

Privacy and Cookies

GA4 is designed to prioritize user privacy. It can work with or without cookies, which allow advertisers to track users across the web and serve targeted ads. Google has announced that by 2024, the company will phase out third-party cookies from its popular Chrome browser. (Apple made the same move with its Safari browser in 2020.) This means GA4 respects user privacy while still providing valuable insights for marketers.

Exciting Features of GA4

While transitioning and adjusting will take time, GA4 includes some exciting features.

Predictive Metrics

GA4 uses advanced machine learning to predict user behavior. It can help identify trends and patterns, allowing marketers to make informed decisions and improve their strategies.

App and Web Integration

Unlike Universal Analytics, GA4 combines data from both websites and apps into a single view. This makes it easier for marketers to analyze user interactions across different platforms.

Things to Keep in Mind

As we move into this new era of Analytics, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Channel Performance

GA4 doesn’t support custom channel groupings, which were used in Universal Analytics to measure the performance of different marketing channels. Marketers will need to find alternative ways to track their marketing efforts effectively.

Starting Fresh

Unlike Universal Analytics, GA4 doesn’t automatically pull retrospective data. You’ll need to set up a GA4 property and start collecting data from that point forward. So it’s essential to ensure your GA4 property is properly set up to start collecting accurate data.

Metric Changes

GA4 introduces some changes in metric names. For example, “pageviews” are now called “views.” Additionally, the calculation of the bounce rate is different. Marketers should familiarize themselves with these changes to understand the metrics correctly.

Impact on Reporting Tools

If you use reporting tools like Looker Studio with Universal Analytics data, those reports will break and need to be adjusted to work with GA4 data.

The transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 represents a shift in how marketers understand and analyze user behavior, and although there will be significant changes to adapt to, the promise of GA4 is a more comprehensive view of your customer’s journey, giving you better insights to make informed decisions.


Justin McGee

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