The time has come. Google’s Universal Analytics’ data recording has been turned off and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is now the premier website analytics product out there. It still integrates with Google’s Search Console, Google Ads, and other Google products. There are, however, a few differences between UA and GA4 that can make a huge impact on how you view and analyze your website data. So let’s take a look at what these differences are.
Events vs Sessions
The primary method of tracking visitors to a website in UA was Sessions. Each time a user would visit a website, it would trigger a Session, which would then track additional data such as time on the site, bounce rate, etc. Sessions have now gone the way of the dinosaur. GA4’s main tracking mechanism is now called Events. An event can consist of many things, including first visits, page views, scrolling to the bottom of the screen, form starts, form submits, and more. You get the idea. This is much more flexible right out of the box, as it tracks many events by default.
Conversions vs Goals
In UA, you could set goals and assign values to them as you saw fit, creating a list of revenue-generating items (limited to 20) that you could track each day, month, etc. Now, in GA4, each event (as noted above) can become a conversion event. You’re no longer limited to 20 “goals” but rather you can add up to 30. That’s an additional 10 slots for you to access and count multiple conversions. You can still assign a value to them, and that is always a good idea.
Gone are the reports of UA and in are a new set of reports for GA4. The default reports are very similar to the informational reports you could get in UA. They include reports covering Life Cycle, User Attributes, and Tech. Of course, there is still the Real Time reporting, showing visitor information from th last 30 minutes on the site.
Exploration is a collection of advanced techniques that goes beyond standard reporting to help you discover deeper insights about your customer’s behavior. They have seven basic templates to start with, plus use cases and industry breakdowns. You can also creat a new exploration on your own. It’s definitely a different take on reports, and the data dive can be refreshing.
The advertising section works in conjunction with a linked Google Ads account. It produces basic reporting on performance, attribution models, and conversion paths. Each of these sub-sections can be modified by filters and adjusted by desired dates of the report.
Whether you’re new to GA4 or just now moving over from UA, it offers a new array of data analysis for us to explore. This is by no means an exhaustive guide, but an overview of some of the changes and new features of GA4. If you’re looking for a good guide to GA4, I recommend checking out the following resources: