What is Google Analytics 4 & Do You Need It?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with Google Analytics – the free Google service that provides stats and analytical tools to help you understand the traffic that comes through your website and the actions users take once they are on your website.

You’ve also likely heard by now of Google Analytics 4 or ‘GA4’. Maybe you’ve even been prompted to set it up. But what is Google Analytics 4 and do you need it?

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 or GA4 is intended to be a replacement for Universal Analytics, the current version of Google Analytics, and the final switch will be made on 1 July 2023. Google views this change as an upgrade, which is why they are encouraging users to make the switch and familiarise themselves with the new-look Analytics.

What are the differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics?

GA4 is very different from Universal Analytics (UA). UA was built around ‘sessions’ and ‘page views’, which viewed a user’s interactions within a specific time frame, such as the duration of their visit to your website.

GA4, on the other hand, centres its structure and data collection method around ‘users’ and ‘events’. GA4 processes each interaction such as page scrolls, form submissions, product clicks, and transaction completions as standalone events, which they say helps you better understand user journeys. You can set up parameters for each of these events, meaning you can determine what constitutes the interaction. 

Basing the new structure on ‘events’ also helps to protect user privacy and even includes privacy controls such as cookieless measurement, which is becoming a popular request for internet users in a data-conscious world.

Can the same data be tracked in Google Analytics 4 as in Universal Analytics?

For those who don’t like change or are anxious about the switch – don’t worry. You can track the same goals and conversion data in GA4 that you were tracking in Google Analytics. However, you will have to set these up within the new GA4 structure; they won’t automatically transfer over. 

Migrating existing UA data to GA4 is also not possible and data needs to be collected by the GA4 tracking code. You will need to create new events for your GA4 property instead to start collecting data using GA4, but this could also be a good opportunity to rethink whether your current data collection works effectively within the new GA4 model or whether it is time for a change.

Can Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics be run simultaneously?

You can have both a UA and GA4 property tracking data simultaneously for now, which is recommended, but this will only be the case until July 2023. After this, GA4 will be all that is left, and it is worth getting used to how it works soon as there are key differences between the two and you won’t be able to seamlessly transition between them.

Do you need Google Analytics 4?

The bottom line is, if you use Universal Analytics, then you don’t really have a choice in switching to GA4. However, it is worth getting a headstart and getting to grips with GA4 now, while still tracking data using UA while you can. This way, when the switch does happen, you won’t miss a beat.

If for whatever reason you are not already using Google Analytics to track your website data, then you might as well start now while everyone is learning the new system. By implementing a GA4 tracking code on your website you can start collecting data now, which will be beneficial in the long run, even if you’re not sure how to put that data to good use yet. 

If you need advice on adding Google Analytics 4 tracking to your website, you can get in touch with our team of developers.