Starting July 1, 2023 Google Universal Analytics (UA) is getting replaced by Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Google Analytics is used to track your website or app activity, along with the information on the source of the traffic, and because Universal Analytics and GA4 are different instances, a lot is changing. A big driver for the change was to build a new version with greater consumer reporting and privacy needs in mind.
In this blog post we’ve broken down the changes you need to be aware of as you set up your new property and tips from Karen Forrest, VP of Marketing at JanPro Systems International about lessons learned after setting up their instance.
What’s different between Google Universal Analytics (UA) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?
As technology advances, so does the way we measure and analyze digital journeys. Google introduced GA4 as its next generation of analytics to meet the new age of increased privacy concerns, the depreciation of 3rd party cookies, and the increased use of machine learning and predictive analytics. Because of this, the way data is collected, analyzed and reported on will be different. Here’s the top differences franchise and multi-location brands need to be aware of:
Universal Analytics Relies Heavily on 3rd Party Cookies, GA4 Does Not
One change with GA4 is that it eliminates the need for 3rd party cookies. Instead, GA4 uses its own first-party cookie (which won't be deprecated) and combines it with data from other sources such as Google Ads, Firebase, and BigQuery. This allows marketers to collect more accurate data without relying on third-party cookies. Additionally, GA4 also offers features such as audience segmentation and real-time insights, which allow marketers to gain more insights into their audiences than they could with traditional web analytics platforms.
Another benefit of GA4 is that it offers more control over user privacy settings. Marketers can set up custom settings for each individual user or group in order to protect their data from potential breaches or misuse by third parties. This helps ensure that users' data remains secure while still enabling marketers to track key metrics such as page views, time on site, and conversions.
Universal Analytics is Session-Based, while GA4 is Event–Based
In UA, a Session is defined as a group of interactions that occur within 30 minutes of each other from the same user on the same device or browser. Therefore, UA tracks sessions based on time rather than specific events or actions taken by users. This means that if a user takes multiple actions within 30 minutes of each other, they will be counted as one session in UA. However, if more than 30 minutes passes without any new interactions from the same user on the same device or browser, then those interactions will be counted as part of separate sessions in UA.
In contrast to UA, GA4 uses Events to track Sessions rather than time-based rules. An Event occurs when a user takes an action such as clicking a link or downloading an asset from your website or app. When an Event occurs, GA4 will count it as part of one Session regardless of how much time has passed since the previous Event took place. This means that if multiple Events take place over an extended period of time—even weeks or months later—they will all be counted as part of one Session in GA4 as long as they all came from the same user on the same device or browser.
This means that the way marketers track website traffic will not be apples to apples comparison between the two instances and you need to run the two instances in parallel to understand what the new metrics equate to in the old world.
Universal Analytics was Built Around Desktop Web Traffic, While GA4 Provides Visibility Across All Websites and Apps
UA allows marketers to measure user activity across multiple devices and sessions by using an ID called the Client ID. This unique identifier allows UA to link together multiple interactions from the same user, even if those interactions span different devices or browsers. The Client ID is automatically generated by UA when a user visits your website to track cross-device activity.
GA4 takes cross-device tracking one step further by allowing marketers to track users across apps as well as websites. Additionally, GA4 uses an anonymous identifier rather than a Client ID that is linked to an individual user’s profile. This means that all of the data collected by GA4 can be used without worrying about violating any data privacy regulations. It also provides more accurate tracking when measuring user engagement across multiple devices because there is no need to rely on cookies or other identifying markers.
GA4 Uses Machine Learning Technology to Share Insights and Make Predictions
One benefit GA4 provides over UA is enhanced machine learning capabilities that allow you to gain deeper insights into customer behavior over time—including understanding website visitors who have not yet converted into customers or leads. GA4 also includes an AI-powered assistant called “Google Insights” that can provide recommendations based on your data for optimizing performance across all channels.
Hear What Other Franchise Marketers are Saying
As franchise and multi-location marketers enter 2023, it’s important that they stay ahead of the competition by using the latest analytics tools to best understand the local digital journey. At Netsertive, we live and breathe localized digital marketing and would love to connect if you have any questions or need help with your digital strategy.