Google Analytics has undergone an enormous transformation in the last few months. The latest version, GA4 (GA stands for Google Analytics), is vastly different from its previous versions but still has many similarities to Universal Analytics, another name you may have heard regarding Google’s tracking solution. In this article, we’ll compare both versions so you can decide which one is best for your business needs.
Google Analytics 4 comes with a slew of new features
If you’re used to working in GA3, you’ll see the most significant change: you can no longer access your data through the previous interface. While this may seem like a hassle at first, it means Google has added more features and functionality that will benefit your company in the long run.
First, the math in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is slightly different
When you use GA4, you’ll notice a few things:
- The math is more accurate, precise, and faster than the previous version of Analytics.
- You may see some different numbers in specific areas of your reports because of this new math.
- You can now segment by device type or operating system (e.g., mobile vs. desktop). With Universal Analytics, this was not possible unless you used custom dimensions or segments to do so.
- If you have multiple websites set up with GA4, all websites will show up when viewing data across sites in Google Analytics 4 as opposed to just one website showing up with Universal Analytics. Viewing all data for your sites on a single interface allows you to easily see overarching trends and a holistic view of your data.
GA4 impacts how you access your data
If you’re upgrading from Universal Analytics, there are a few important things to note:
- The data is organized differently. While GA1 and GA2 used an Adobe Experience Cloud (AEC) framework, GA3 uses Google Tag Manager (GTM). This means that different types of data points will be accessible in different ways. For example, if you want to see the interaction rate for your site’s home page on desktop browsers, you’ll find it in a completely different place than before!
- With GA4, all information is available on your dashboard, which means there are now two ways to view your analytics data: by date range or by dashboard (and sometimes both). Instead of reports, you’ll see dashboards. In Universal Analytics 1 and 2, pulling up your data was like opening an Excel file or PDF report: You could go back and look at any previous month/year/quarter by clicking on a specific date range.
GA4’s new Event-Driven Measurement model takes you outside of the reports page
This is because GA4 is more flexible and scalable than Universal Analytics (UA), meaning it can easily handle larger amounts of data.
The data model has changed, too: data is organized more like a database than a file folder system. In this database structure, events are now prioritized instead of attached to your dimensions or metrics like they were in UA. This means there are some changes to how you set up event tracking!
GA4 Enhanced Measurement
Enhanced Measurement is the second significant change of GA4. If you’re new to Google Analytics, this will likely be the feature that makes you want to upgrade.
Enhanced Measurement enables Google Analytics to track all events as they happen on your site—even if they didn’t occur on a page load. This gives you more flexibility and scalability than Universal Analytics ever did; it allows you to track more data without having too much overhead on your servers or slowing down your site for users. In fact, Enhanced Measurement is so powerful that it even lets you track offline conversions like phone calls or emails from visitors who visited your website via an organic search engine result listing (SERP).
With Enhanced Measurement in place by default with GA4 and some additional configuration changes, most of the work with Universal Analytics has already been done for us! All we need now is Content Groupings or Object Groups—which means everything else in our Marketing Attribution model just got easier too!
GA4’s new Data Model
Those who have experience with databases will recognize this structure as similar. You can think of Google Analytics 4 as if it were an Excel spreadsheet from here on out—except that these keep getting bigger and better over time.
If you’re considering upgrading to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), now is the time to do it! The new features will help your team work together more efficiently and save time. You won’t have to worry about remembering which numbers you must focus on because they’ll be clearly labeled and distinguished in the reports. And who doesn’t love that?
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