Georgina Thorne

Ecommerce PPC Blog, General, SEO, Websites

Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: Making the Switch

If you’re marketing analytics nerds (like us) you’ll know that Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the new replacement for Google Universal Analytics (UA), and that UA will stop processing new hits as of July 2023.

The new functionality is designed to provide superior analytics in a third-party-cookieless world, which is great, but there are some questions about when you should move over and what will happen to your universal data. 🤔

So, we’ve dedicated this article to explain Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics, and how you can migrate over to GA4 smoothly.

Why is Google Analytics important?

As a business, you need data to tell you how your website is performing – how many people are visiting, when they’re coming and what they’re doing there.

You also need to know which actions users are taking on your site, like sales, form fills and email subscriptions to identify your best-performing channels and content. This helps to review whether your digital marketing services are working for you.

Google Analytics provides that information and will help you drive the results you want and improve your overall website and business performance.

This is of particular importance when it comes to evaluating the impact of ecommerce SEO services.

So, What’s Happening to Universal Analytics?

Universal Analytics (UA) has been around since 2013, with an estimated 30-50 Million websites using the tool. 🤯

Back in October 2020, Google introduced GA4 to better understand the customer journey. While there was no definitive end date of UA at that point, Google is now making it compulsory to upgrade from UA to GA4, largely due to compliance with data privacy laws and regulations.

However, there are some exciting new features too, like event tracking, predictive analytics, creating custom reports and being able to track both web and app data.

Here’s a list of all the new features of GA4:

  • Insights and predictions powered by artificial intelligence
  • Deeper audience integration with Google Ads
  • Improved Customer Journey Tracking
  • Improved user engagement analysis
  • More intelligent user privacy and tracking features
  • Simplified Goals and Events Setup
  • Improved conversion tracking

To understand the full scope of GA4 this helpful article from Google compares UA and GA4 👇

[UA→GA4] Comparing metrics: Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics 

Why should you consider setting up GA4 now?

While you can still use UA and it will continue to process new data. Setting up a GA4 property now will ensure that you have as much data as possible in your new account before Google sunsets the existing product in July 2023.

The good news is you can set up and use both GA4 and UA properties at the same time in your Google Analytics account to help you get ready for the change.

Here are a few other reasons why you should set up GA4 now:

  • You can gather data from this point onwards. Having historical data in your account can be extremely useful to identify trends.
  • You can set up the appropriate events, goals, filters and more so that your account is running smoothly by the 1st July 2023.
  • Google Analytics 4 properties are also free to use.

Dual Tagging

Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: Dual tagging

Dual tagging allows you to build historical data in Google Analytics 4 whilst you still use Universal Analytics.

By dual tagging you can send events to both your GA4 and UA properties and keep your Universal Analytics implementation in place while you set up Google Analytics 4.

This dual tagging approach will allow you to build a historical record in Google Analytics 4 while you continue to use Universal Analytics and are ready to switch over.

Avoid using data from both properties

If you do have both properties set up at the same time, I would recommend not trying to apply the data from both properties at the same time. UA and GA4 will quantify site activity in different ways, so the data will never match. And trying to reconcile both sets of data will fry your brain.

So, I would suggest that you continue to use and apply data from your UA property in the short term, and let GA4 run in the background, gathering data over the next 12 months, so you have plenty to work with when UA is no more.

Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: Final thoughts

Whilst GA4 is still missing a few features like Views, Google Optimise integration and site speed metrics, there will be work arounds and these areas may well be addressed in the future. Ultimately this year we should see the full maturity of the GA4 features and hopefully see it exceed Universal Analytics.

But even without some of these more basic features, I would still recommend taking that leap into GA4.

It might not be ready to be your only analytics platform at the moment, but it offers enough to be on your radar and collecting data for you.