Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is very different to the previous version of Google Analytics (GA), also known as Universal Analytics (UA) and has an entirely different User Interface (UI). It will also give you time to gather the same data you are currently reporting on in UA, allowing you to compare data from GA4 to historical data from UA when you are ready. GA4 does not collect data retroactively. The data is only collected from the date you install the tracking code (or connect your web property to GA4.), So it’s worth linking now.
What Is Google Analytics 4?
GA4 is the latest version of Google Analytics. The 4th version. The previous version was Google Analytics 3, which is also referred to as Universal Analytics.
Each version of Google Analytics requires a different tracking code. So you will need to add the new tracking code to your website to start using the latest GA version.
- GA3 (aka Universal Analytics) uses the universal analytics tag (analytics.js)
- GA4 uses the new global site tag (gtag.js)
There is nothing to stop you from having both installed. This is what we recommend doing. Then, you just need to add the additional tracking code to your website.
What Is The Difference Between UA & GA4?
The most significant advantage of GA4 is that it tracks both website and mobile app usage. Unfortunately, UA only follows website data, so up until now, you’d need to use Google Analytics for Firebase as well as UA. GA4 combines web and mobile app data in a unified report, allowing anyone with both a website and a mobile app to monitor the customer journey across both platforms. The GA4 interface looks utterly different to UA. It has different sets of reports and a whole new learning curve. UA is based on sessions and page view measurement, whereas the new GA4 is based on ‘event’ tracking. Examples of events would be watching a video, visiting a page or scrolling down the page.
Why Use GA4?
Google is likely to discontinue UA at some point, so for this reason, it’s worth learning and collecting data via GA4 as soon as possible, even if you continue to use UA for your reporting.
GA4 does have some powerful new features:
- New identity methods
- Improved real time reporting
- Filters and property settings can be applied retroactively (though not before the date the tracking code was installed)
- Ability to create segments based on events
- Easier set up of goals to track KPIs
- AI powered insights and predictions
Our Verdict After Real Life Use
GA4 is a very different beast to UA. The UI, reporting structure and terminology have changed, so there’s a lot to learn. Moreover, given GA4 is not yet fully developed and lacks 3rd party integration, it’s unlikely to meet the requirements of most businesses yet.
However, due to its unified web and app reporting and other powerful features, along with the likelihood that UA will be phased out eventually, we have set up GA4 alongside our existing UA reporting. Therefore, we will run both in parallel until GA4 has everything we need. In fact, Google recommends running both together for the time being.
So we recommend the same for our clients.
How Can We Help
If you’re struggling to set up Google Analytics or analyse data for your website and need help, please get in touch.