News & Insights


Google Analytics 4 Explained: What You Need To Know About Next-Gen Analytics

pwd staff OLIVER WOOD
Oliver Wood

|3rd May 2022

Google Analytics 4 is set to replace Universal Analytics. After the 1st July 2023, Universal Analytics properties will be unable to collect new data.

This is the biggest change to Google Analytics since its launch back in 2005. Google Analytics 4 is an entirely new way of tracking and measuring your website traffic.

So what does it mean for your website?

That’s what we’re going to cover in this guide. You’ll learn everything you need to know about Google Analytics 4, including:

  • What Google Analytics 4 is
  • What’s changed
  • How it compares to Universal Analytics
  • The deadline for switching
  • What you should do next

By the time you reach the end of the guide, you’ll know what’s coming and what you should do to prepare.

Let’s get started.

What Is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 is the latest version of Google’s web analytics tool. It collects information about your website visitors so that you can make informed decisions about web design, SEO, and other marketing channels.

As of April 2022, Google Analytics is by far the most used traffic analysis tool for websites.

GA Usage

Google Analytics 4 is the next generation of traffic analysis tool. It promises increased data protection and user privacy.

One of the biggest trends in digital marketing right now is online privacy. Internet users are more concerned about how websites track what they do online.

In a 2020 survey, 78% of Australians responded they were “fairly concerned” or “very concerned” about online privacy.

The release of Google Analytics 4 is a response to the increased concern and legislation around data protection. Some web browsers now block all trackers by default, including Universal Analytics. 

What Has Changed With Google Analytics 4?

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Google Analytics 4 isn’t just an update. It’s an entirely new tool.

The way it collects and structures data is different.

The older Universal Analytics account reporting interface is built around user sessions. Every user action that occurred during a set period was grouped in a session.

Google Analytics 4 has switched to an events-based model. Every user interaction is viewed as an individual event.

That’s the biggest change. And it’s something we’ll examine in more detail in the next section. 

Google Analytics 4 vs. Universal Analytics

So what are the main differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4?

Let’s take a look at what’s changed and what it means for your website and your business. 

Google Analytics 4 Is Event-Based

Google Analytics 4 uses an event-based model, while Universal Analytics uses a session-based model.

So what does that mean?

The Universal Analytics session-based model uses page views to trigger data capture. Everything the user does from the moment they first arrive on your website is reported as a session.

With Google Analytics 4, events trigger data capture. That could be page views, transactions, or other user actions you want to track as a Custom Event.

GA4 Event-Based Reporting

An event-based model means you can gain a more accurate and in-depth analysis of your website traffic. It offers detailed information about how users interact with your web pages.

These insights can be super-helpful when it comes to website optimisation.

Google Analytics 4 Is Easier To Use

Universal Analytics was developed around page views. When the first version was released in 2005, page views were seen as the most important metric.

That’s why you had to spend time setting up your Google Analytics account to track more specific metrics like button clicks.

Google Analytics 4 lets you track these metrics straight out of the box.

GA4 User Friendly Interface

You don’t need to dedicate hours of your time setting up conversion events and other metrics that you want to track. Most of it is ready to go as soon as you connect your site.

That makes it much easier for a beginner to use the tool. 

Google Analytics 4 Is Better at Cross-Device Reporting

Event-based tracking allows for much more accurate cross-device reporting.

Instead of relying on cookies, Google Analytics 4 uses Device ID, User ID, and Google Signals to track users as they switch devices throughout the buyer’s journey.

GA4 Cross Device Reporting

You can identify users that jump from app to website, smartphone to tablet, or browser to browser. This can provide insights into how users engage with your brand across devices.

Universal Analytics is not as well-equipped to track users as they switch devices. Each visit is recorded as a unique user. The way to get around this was to use roll-up reporting, but this feature was only available to Analytics 360 Accounts.

With Google Analytics 4, you can better understand how users engage with your website. You can see which channels drive the most traffic and what actions these users take.

Google Analytics 4 also makes it easier to see which unique users converted and whether they keep coming back to your website once they have become a customer. 

Google Analytics 4 Offers Predictive Analytics

One of the most exciting upgrades to Google Analytics 4 is machine learning capabilities.

You can now take advantage of Google’s AI-powered’ predictive metrics’ feature to segment audiences according to their predicted behaviours.

For example, you can use predictive audiences to identify which users are most likely to become first-time purchasers within the next seven days:

GA4 Predictive Analytics

This can be a huge asset for your Google Ads marketing campaigns.

It allows you to identify which of your users are most likely to become customers. Then, you can use this data in your Google Ads account to increase engagement and conversions.

The use of AI-powered audience segmentation is similar to the capabilities offered by Facebook Ads.

Google Analytics 4 also uses AI to model audience behaviour where data is unavailable. With the death of the third-party cookie, this feature could be super-important over the coming years.

To sum up, Google Analytics 4 is more accurate. It’s more powerful. And it’s definitely something you should be using to track and measure your website traffic. 

When Is the Deadline for Switching to Google Analytics 4?

The deadline for switching to Google Analytics 4 is 1st July 2023. You’ll be able to use and collect data through Universal Analytics up until this date. After the deadline, you’ll be able to view the historical data for your Universal Analytics property for six months. 

Should I Switch to Google Analytics 4 Now?

You don’t have to abandon Universal Analytics completely. But you should set up Google Analytics 4.

Even if you don’t plan to switch all of your reporting to Google Analytics 4, it’s good to get set up and start data collection.

There’s no issue with running both Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics up to the cut off point.

GA4 Switchover Timeline

This will help you see trends in your historical data, and you’ll give Google’s machine learning models more data to work with.

How PWD Can Help You Transition to Google Analytics 4

The better you can understand your audience, the better marketing decisions you can make.

That’s why analytics is so important. It helps you understand how people find your website and what they do when they arrive.

With Google Analytics 4, you can get more detailed insights to inform your marketing strategy.

If you need some help making analytics work for your business, reach out and book a consultation with our PWD marketing experts. Our Perth digital marketing team helps companies like yours get found online.

Google Analytics 4 FAQs

How Is Google Analytics 4 Different From Universal Analytics?

The most significant difference between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics is how data is collected and reported. While Universal Analytics is session-based, Google Analytics 4 uses an event-based model. Instead of grouping user actions into a session, user actions in Google Analytics 4 are recorded as events. 

Why Should I Transition to Google Analytics 4?

The earlier you transition to Google Analytics 4, the bigger the data sets you will be able to access once you are unable to use Universal Analytics. There are plenty of useful new features and measurement tools that you can only access with Google Analytics 4. 

Should I Set Up Google Analytics 4 for a New Website?

You should set up Google Analytics 4 for your new website. However, you can still set up and use Universal Analytics alongside Google Analytics 4 until the switchover deadline. This will allow you to compare data sets and access some reports not yet available in Google Analytics 4. 

Will I Still Be Able To See My Historical Universal Analytics Data?

Universal Analytics will stop collecting new data from 1st July 2023. However, you will be able to see historical data for six months after the Universal Analytics end date. After this period, you will no longer be able to see your historical website data.