Google Analytics 4 blog hero image, with Google colour scheme (blue, green, yellow, red and white). Illustration shows Google Analytics with an arrow pointing to the new Google Analytics 4 on a laptop screen

Last year, Google announced that they will be retiring Universal Analytics (UA).

From 1 July 2023, UA will stop collecting new data about your website or app. And then, at some point after 1 January 2024, all UA reports – with all your past data – may disappear from Google Analytics.

The replacement is Google Analytics 4 (GA4). And though migrating your current UA to GA4 takes work, it will give you new capabilities.

What’s the difference between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics?

The technological foundations of UA and GA4 are fundamentally different.

UA uses session data. A session is a period of time during which the user interacts with your site. After a period of time passes, the session ends.

GA4 uses an event-based data model. It continuously creates a list of events for a specific user, pulling in data from across apps and websites.

Both UA and GA4 can measure key metrics such as page views, social interactions and eCommerce purchases. But GA4 can provide a much richer picture of the user’s journey.

Infographic showing the differences between Google Analytics and Google Analytics 4. Explanation provided in copy

What are the benefits of migrating to Google Analytics 4?

It’s not just about the fact that Universal Analytics is becoming defunct. We’ve found that there are real benefits to using Google Analytics 4, all powered by GA4’s new events-based data model.

Improved customer journey insights

If a user switches between your phone app and website, GA4’s data streams will now connect those interactions together.

User engagement is now the focus of analysis

The old UA graphs of acquisition and behaviour are gone. Instead, GA4 condenses data more neatly into the key areas of the user life cycle: acquisition, engagement, monetisation and retention. This new layout gives you a better understanding of your users.

Predictive audience behaviours
GA4’s new powerful data modelling can now create predictive audiences. For example, GA4 can generate a ‘purchase probability’ audience for eCommerce sites based on users who are likely to purchase in the next week.

Better integration with Google Ads

GA4 audiences can be easily integrated into marketing campaigns within Google Ads. This features includes the ability to quickly import and target GA4’s predictive audiences.

Ready for a cookieless future

When a user opts out of cookies, GA4 will fill this blank space by using modelled data. This new feature enables you to get the full picture, while being less reliant on cookies.

No monthly limits

UA had a monthly limit of 10 million hits per property—but GA4 doesn’t have data limits. There’s no more data sampling, ensuring reliable data informs business decisions.

Free BigQuery integration

And with this huge output of data, G4A now includes BigQuery integration. This means you can analyse terabytes of raw data through SQL.

Better Progressive Web App support

GA4 is built for the modern web. You can now analyse page views for PWAs without complex coding workarounds. And as we’ve written about, GA4 has better built-in capability for Single Web Page Applications too.

New custom reporting tools

With GA4’s advanced Explorations feature, you can create custom reports with more ways to model your data. These new visualisations can help you interpret your data in new ways, leading to new insights.

Real-time debugging

You can now check how your trackers are working in real-time. And if you use Google Tag Manager, you can easily see which tags are successfully firing and sending events.

10 benefits of switching to GA4. Benefits explained in blog copy

How to switch to Google Analytics 4

Because of how GA4 works, it’s not as simple as flicking a switch.

The differences in how the data is tracked will impact your current reporting metrics. Migrating your digital estate will require careful planning.

We recommend the following five steps:

'How to switch to GA4' infographic. Points described in copy

1) Audit your current Google Analytics setup

Make things easier for yourself and only migrate what you need.

If you’ve been using UA for a long time, audit your custom events and confirm that everything is still required.

(Though remember to talk to your teams – there might be someone in a department whose reporting is dependent upon an obscure custom event.)

2) Create a new GA4 property

Create a new GA4 property and connect your data streams. To deploy your GA4 tracking code, we recommend using Google Tag Manager—these two platforms are designed to work seamlessly together.

Read more about how we set up advanced page view tracking in Google Analytics 4 with Google Tag Manager.

3) Wait for data

Depending on the popularity of your site, you will need to wait around three to six weeks for GA4 to produce reliable data.

You may notice differences in the data between UA and GA4. This is because GA4 collects data differently, using a new enhanced event measurement.

4) Create your custom dashboards

Create the dashboards for the teams around your business.

Google Analytics 4 offers many options for different ways of reporting data. It also allows you to save and create groups to appear in the menu.

Currently, not all measurements from UA appear in GA4—but keep an eye out, as this will change.

5) Train your team

Communicate with your team about the changes in GA4.

Listen to your team’s reporting needs. Consider if you could create new dashboards and Explorations that display only the data that is important to them.

Need help migrating to Google Analytics 4?

If you are feeling concerned about migrating Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, Nomensa can help.

Our team hold many Google Analytics qualifications. They can help with:

  • end-to-end GA4 migration
  • training
  • custom dashboards
  • Google Tag Manager setup

Get in touch and find out how our team can support you.

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Free webinar: 'Switching from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4'. Webinar info provided in text.

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Gemma Dolby and Peter Kay will discuss why you should switch to GA4 and their experiences of implementing the new system. They’ll also outline challenges they encountered and the solutions they designed to help them and their clients.

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