Google Analytics 4 (GA4) Overview

A great way to help with your ongoing digital marketing goals is to have Google Analytics setup on your website.  This allows you to collect and analyze data for users to your website.  As with other software, Google Analytics is always looking to improve their product.  In this post we help you understand this new product. 

The new Google Analytics 4 was announced just over a year ago.  Google helped to explain some reasons for the change in this introductory blog post, particularly highlighting major shifts in both consumer behavior and privacy changes.  The current Universal Analytics (GA3) could not keep pace with these changes.

Google explains that the new GA4 is more intelligent with machine learning at the core.  It is also privacy-centric by design.  Universal Analytics currently relies on cookies for data, where GA4 is designed to adapt to a future with or without cookies.

What else is different between Universal Analytics and GA4 besides the user interface?  The main difference is hit vs event.  Universal Analytics data is recorded as hit types such as page hits, event hits, ecommerce hits, and social interaction hits.  In GA4, this has changed as the data is now recorded as event-based.  Example of this is that in Universal Analytics when a user viewed a page, it is considered a “page view”.  In GA4, this is an event equal to page_view.

Other differences to note:

  • GA4 does not report Category, Action, and Label for events.  When you convert over to GA4, you will have to rethink your event setups.
  • Do not compare Universal Analytics and GA4 pageview data as they are calculated differently.
  • A session is also calculated slightly differently in GA4 vs Universal Analytics as a GA4 session is derived from session_start which is a slight nuance.
  • GA4 processes events that arrive up to 72 hours late.

If you need help setting up Google Analytics on your website, contact Josh (josh@simplersite.co).  We can also help with adding GA4 to a site with Universal Analytics.  Our recommendations for companies that are currently using Universal Analytics is to start tracking with GA4.  You are currently able to use both, so this provides an opportunity to start to get comfortable with GA4 while still being able to pull data from Universal Analytics.

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