GA4 Is Here
We got here! Welcome to the official, mandatory beginning of GA4.
But, don’t panic! Tractorbeam is here to help you with the transition. We’ll do our best to make things super easy for you, but as always, hit us up if you want to chat. We’re here for you.
Tractorbeam will provide a roadmap for the transition from Google Analytics 3 (aka, Universal Analytics) to Google Analytics 4 (aka, the platform nobody asked for and everybody got).
Why Is This Happening To Me?
It’s not just you, it’s all of us!
Let’s look quickly at some of the differences:
- Universal Analytics (UA) collects data based on web sessions and hits, aka pageviews or events, that use a very narrow set of descriptors.
- UA powered by first-party and third-party cookies
- UA event tracking has to be manually set up and requires developer involvement
- Data in UA is not 100% accurate and relies on action to record
- With UA measuring users across devices is difficult, which artificially inflates data
- GA4 uses first-party cookies and signals to enable cross-device data collection and reporting
- GA4 tracks users across devices
- GA4 solves privacy concerns about third-party cookies
- GA4 events describe actions in a more substantially granular way, by default
- No manual configuration is needed
Can I Keep My Old Data?
If you want to go through the hassle, sure!
Universal Analytics data is going away. The entire world is starting from zero. It’s Y2K all over again, but this time, it’s real.
Sadly, you cannot import your Universal Analytics data into GA4. Ultimately, the data structures, calculations, and dimensions are just not the same.
Even if you’re not on GA360, there are some ways you can try and store your old data.
Exporting your data to Google Sheets, using the GA Query Explorer, or using the Google Analytics Sheet Add-on tool in the Google Workspace Marketplace can all help you store your data.
So, What’s Different?
Universal Analytics hit types include page hits, event hits, ecommerce hits, and social interaction hits.
In contrast, Google Analytics 4 data is event-based, with the principle that any interaction can be captured as an event. As such, Universal Analytics property hit types translate to events in a Google Analytics 4 property.
This means that GA4 events are going to stress you out. In the olden days, Page Views were a dimension and now they’re an event. Transactions were a dimension and now they’re an event.
Therefore, your event data is going to skyrocket. It’s ok.
Google Analytics 4 events have no notion of Category, Action, and Label unlike Universal Analytics. Therefore, it’s better to rethink your data collection in terms of the Google Analytics 4 model rather than import your existing event structure to Google Analytics 4.
Metrics Won’t Match… Don’t Panic
(Ok, Panic a Little)
Active user calculation
User activity is detected automatically in Google Analytics 4. In contrast, Universal Analytics relies on manual instrumentation (firing of an interactive event). A user can launch an app and be considered an active user in Google Analytics 4, but not in Universal Analytics. This may lead to higher active user counts for Google Analytics 4.
Some aspects of session counting in Google Analytics 4 differ from Universal Analytics. In Universal Analytics, a new source will start a new session regardless of activity. In Google Analytics 4, a new campaign does not begin a new session. This may lead to lower session counts in your Google Analytics 4 property.
Other reasons data won’t match:
- Late hits: Universal Analytics processes hits within 4 hours if they arrive within 4 hours of the close of the preceding day. In Google Analytics 4, events are processed if they arrive up to 72 hours late
- Settings, tagging, and configuration settings can cause variations
- Filters in UA vs GA4
- Tag implementations and rules
UA to GA4 metrics / report
- Pageviews are now events
- Real-time is not real-time any longer. It’s more “in the last 30 minutes”
- Source / medium is no longer a standard report (you have to decide if you want first user data or session data)
- Goal completions are now events which can be marked as conversions
What Do I Really Need To Know?
What you really need to know is that if you haven’t created your GA4 account, do it now. Make sure you’re tracking your manual events and your purchases.
That said, here are a few more tips:
- GA4 combines desktop and mobile data, which allows for seamless data collection
- Third-party cookies are going away, allowing more privacy and protecting the users
- GA4 will change key metrics, such as bounce rate
- Events are everything
What Are Our Go To Reports Now?
Source / Medium
At Tractorbeam, our general go-to report in Universal Analytics is the Source / Medium report. This report does exist in GA4, though, it is a bit different.
To access it, go to Reports > Acquisition > Traffic acquisition > then change your dimension to Session user source / medium, and boom.
We use Traffic acquisition and Session data because it’s what closely matches UA. If you’re fan of first user data, and ngl we are too, then use the Acquisition report and First User data.
You can then add secondary dimensions and see singular events and conversion data per source / medium.
(First user means first time a device or a browser loads your website content)
You can create filters for the data, much like in UA.
You can also easily build up to 5 filters for the data, which allows for even more granular information than in the previous UA filters.
The Events report, inside of Engagement, gives you a detailed breakdown of all the events happening on the site, including the automatic events and the manually created events.
Here, again, you can add a secondary dimension, like for source / medium, and create filtered views.
The Attribution model tools also still exist, though they’re strangely in the advertising section.
The cool thing about the new Model Comparison Tool is that you can add filters here, too.
There’s a lot to learn, but we are here to help. We trust that once you start using GA4 regularly, you won’t even remember that old analytics tool.
Feel free to reach out, we’re here for you!