Moving from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

by | May 12, 2023

Over the years, Universal Analytics (UA) has served as an integral part of your digital marketing and business analytics strategy. However, Google is now transitioning from Universal Analytics to the more powerful, machine learning-driven Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

This transition will provide you with more robust insights into your customer’s journey and behavior, and help you better align your strategies with the evolving digital landscape.

What do Google Analytics changes mean for my website? 

Google Analytics 4

The best thing about the changeover from UA to GA4 is that most of your users won’t notice the difference! Analytics is generally something that’s running in the background so it really only affects the website operators instead of the users (except for those that are actively concerned about their privacy – then the Google Analytics 4 users will have a more positive experience anyways). The next best thing with the changeover for Corkboard Concepts partners is that you also won’t be affected significantly by the change, because our team will be handling the setup and migration process for you! We’ll also make it as easy as possible for you to understand these differences. 

The primary difference between UA and GA4 is how information is tracked. Aside from this, there will be some differences in reporting. One of the biggest differences that clients of Corkboard Concepts will experience is the Analytics tab of their Data studio and those are listed below:

  1. Analytics data comparison prior to the implementation of GA4 will not be available in direct comparison. There will still be a Universal Analytics tab, so comparisons can be made – they just may not be automatic. Please discuss this with your Marketing Strategist for more information. 
  2. Some metrics will be replaced or may show different behaviors. There are 3 primary items that will be impacted here: Users, Bounce Rate and Conversions. Our team believes the new metrics added here will be positive contributions to reporting.
  3. The visual WILL change. The analytics section of your dashboard will change. This will not be significant, but it will happen. If you’re concerned about where information is, please make sure that your Marketing Strategist spends more time reviewing it. 


The 5 Differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4

Here are the top 5 differences in reporting between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 that you need to be aware of:

Event-based Tracking: Google Analytics 4

Unlike UA’s session-based model, GA4 is designed around events and parameters, providing a more detailed view of customer interactions on your website or app.

Advanced Machine Learning Models: 

Google Analytics 4 employs advanced machine learning models to fill in the gaps in your data, providing more accurate predictions about customer behavior.

Cross-platform Tracking: 

GA4 allows for better integration between websites and mobile apps, providing a more comprehensive view of user interactions across different devices and platforms.

User-centric Reporting: 

While UA focused on sessions and pageviews, GA4 offers user-centric reporting, enabling a better understanding of the customer journey across various touchpoints.

Enhanced Privacy Controls: 

GA4 is designed with privacy at its core, offering new features that help comply with data regulations like GDPR and CCPA and adapt to a future with limited cookies. 


Will My Analytics Reports Change with GA4? 

There are a number of reports that will change with GA4. GA4 still provides information around Acquisition, User Behavior, and Audience – they just refer to it differently (Acquisition, Engagement, and User, respectively). A comprehensive list of changes between platforms is available on Google’s support center

Conversion rate optimization-Google Analytics 4Bounce Rate Vs. Engagement Rate

One of the biggest differences in Google Analytics 4 is the lack of “Bounce Rate” in default Acquisition Metrics. A “Bounce” was any time a session ended after visiting only a single page. Bounce Rate has long been at the pinnacle of understanding how engaged traffic is once they get to your site and has been used to identify the cohesiveness of ad targeting, messaging, landing page experience, and more – but this rate has always had an incomplete view of engagement.

In place of “Bounce Rate” on GA4 is now “Engagement Rate”, which tells essentially the same thing as a “Bounce Rate”, just takes it a bit further. An Engaged Session is one that has lasted 10 seconds or longer, has 1 or more conversions, or has 2 or more page or screen views. The “Engagement Rate” is now one of the default metrics in GA4. There IS a “Bounce Rate” but the GA4 Bounce differs from the UA Bounce because the latter just looks at the single pageview, whereas the former looks for a session that doesn’t meet any of the Engagement Rate metrics. 

Active Users

Continuing on with engagement, Google Analytics 4 adds to the User view by including an “Active Users” metric. An “Active User” is a user that has broken the “Engagement” threshold of either number of pages, duration of visit, or completion of conversions. This narrows the view of all users by looking at only the users that are engaged. 

UA vs. GA4 Events

Events will also be a major change between UA and GA4. Universal Analytics required manual setup of Events, which generally signaled conversions or KPIs. GA4 is entirely built off of events – every pageview, duration or action is an “Event”. Events

The Future of GA4: 

With all of the Google properties that have historically connected with Universal Analytics, Google will be working on either connecting them to GA4 or replacing them with native features in GA4. One of the more significant platforms that will be replaced with native GA4 features is Google Optimize – Google’s dynamic A/B testing tool and WYSIWYG page editor. 

While change can be challenging, we believe this transition will provide valuable benefits in the long run. We’ll be offering numerous resources to help our partners understand GA4 and make the transition as smooth as possible. For more information about Google Analytics 4 and the transition process, please visit the Google Analytics Help Center or reach out to our support team.

Contact Corkboard Concepts Today!


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