GA4 101: The New Google Analytics Property for Site Tracking

Yaro Flores

1 year ago



On July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics (the standard version of Google Analytics) will stop accepting new data. Universal Analytics 360 properties will benefit from three months of additional data processing, which will end on October 1, 2023. After those dates, Google Analytics 4 will be the only Google tool available to track your website’s activity.

To help you understand the importance of using the new GA4 property and the new migration process that needs to be carried out before the UA (universal analytics) properties get deprecated, we will explain some of the core mechanics and the differences between UA and the new generation of Google Analytics tracking.

Everything You Need to Know About Google Analytics 4

What Is GA4’s Main Goal?

Google Analytics 4’s main goal is to provide more data throughout the customer journey’s entire lifecycle. In other words, after a customer is acquired, more data is available, such as their level of engagement, monetization, and retention processes.

GA4 is a new type of property designed for the future of measurement that may include benefits such as the capability of gathering information from websites and apps to better understand the customer journey using event-based data rather than session-based data, as well as confidentiality controls such as cookieless measurement and behavioral and conversion modeling.

Google Analytics 4 is ready for Google to introduce new analysis technology without the need for additional codes. GA4 is fully functional and will be the default property type when creating a new Google Analytics property as of October 16, 2020. Also, as time passes, Google will gradually add more basic functionalities to this next generation of properties.

What Is the Difference Between UA and GA4?

The most noticeable distinction between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics is that GA4 allows you to report on activity on websites and applications, helping you cover any events you might want to track across the systems that you use. 

google analytics 4 vs universal analytics

There are some other distinctions, including:

Customer-Centric Measurement

A more customer-centric approach to tracking the customer journey, which is typically a fragmented experience involving multiple devices and platforms. This is another primary upgrade you should consider when switching to the new GA4 property.

GA4 Gives Marketers More Control

GA4 allows you to customize the dashboard so that you only see the reports that are important to your business. It also integrates well with Google Data Studio, allowing you to create custom visualizations of the collected data.

A Fresh Approach to Data Protection

The new Google Analytics is intended to adapt to the new privacy landscape by providing more granular controls over the collection, retention, and analysis of user data. They are specifically working on a data collection strategy that does not rely on cookies or identifiers. Instead, the new platform will rely more on data modeling to fill in gaps in the customer journey where data may be insufficient or unavailable.

When Should You Switch to GA4?

You could indeed wait until UA is deprecated on July 1, 2023, before switching to GA4, but we strongly recommend that you do so asap. Switching to GA4 early on will let you gather the necessary historical data and usage in the new environment, preparing you for continuity once Universal Analytics is no longer accessible.

If you want to know more about UA’s deprecation timeline, please refer to some of the documentation provided by Google. 

google analytics timeline

Can You Run Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics at the Same Time?

Yes, you can typically manage both platforms at the same time. However, be aware that UA will stop collecting data in the summer of 2023, so make sure you have GA4 implemented regardless of whether you’re quite ready for the switch or still waiting to operate with UA until its last days of functionality.

In addition to what was mentioned before, you do not need to worry about uninstalling or replacing your current UA property from your websites or applications. Since both platforms work as separate apps, if you already have a UA property setup on any of your systems, you just need to install the new GA4 property as if you were installing a new property.

What Happens to the Information You’ve Stored in UA? Will That Transition to GA4?

Since the data models used by UA and GA4 are different, Google Analytics does not support the migration of historical data. Google recommends exporting data from your Universal Analytics property and plans to provide more information on data export as Universal Analytics is phased out.

It might seem scary to switch out to GA4 without being able to transfer all your historical data. Still, to avoid any fears or doubts about using the new Google Analytics, it is recommended not to remove your Universal Analytics tag from your page source or tag management system. Rather, the best practice is to tag all website pages with Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 to make the transition to this last one as smooth as possible.

Closing Thoughts

Google Analytics 4 is on track to become more powerful than Universal Analytics and to provide more relevant information as to why users are visiting your website or app. It enables you to incorporate data from multiple data streams into a single property and attribute actions to users across devices more accurately. So, It is imperative that all site owners start implementing GA4 as soon as posible.

While GA4 will not provide you with all of this data right away, early implementation will allow you to benefit from the improved data. Moreover, since you cannot import data from the legacy version, it is best to create a new GA4 property as soon as possible. In other words, before completely replacing the legacy version, you should begin collecting data and becoming acquainted with the tool.

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