If you’re involved in digital marketing, you’ve likely come across the buzz surrounding the rollout of Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Launched by Google in 2020, GA4 is set to replace the well-known Universal Analytics (UA). But what exactly does GA4 bring to the table? Are there significant differences between the two platforms? The short answer is yes.
Today, we’re diving into the specifics. Every marketer needs to know seven critical differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics. That’s why GriffinWink Advertising is offering this quick overview here.
1. User-Centric Tracking vs Session-Based Tracking
One of the most crucial differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics is how they track user interactions. UA employs session-based tracking, focusing on individual sessions from different devices. On the other hand, GA4 adopts a more advanced, user-centric approach. It tracks the customer journey across different devices, allowing you to understand the multi-channel user experience more effectively.
2. Event Tracking
UA and GA4 differ significantly in how they handle event tracking. With Universal Analytics, setting up event tracking involves some extra work. You need to implement custom tracking codes on your website.
However, GA4 simplifies this process considerably. It automatically tracks several events like page views, scroll depth, and video engagement, which saves time and provides a more accurate representation of user interactions.
3. Data Integration
UA allows the integration of Google Ads data, but the process could be more straightforward. However, GA4 has stepped up its game, offering seamless integration with Google Ads and YouTube, providing marketers with a more comprehensive view of campaign performance across platforms.
4. Predictive Metrics
The introduction of predictive metrics is another significant shift that GA4 brings. It uses machine learning to anticipate future actions that users may take, such as churn probability. In contrast, Universal Analytics does not offer predictive metrics.
5. Free BigQuery Access
For businesses that want to run complex analyses on their data, GA4’s integration with Google’s BigQuery is a game-changer. BigQuery was only available to Google Analytics 360 users, which comes with a substantial cost. However, GA4 offers free access to BigQuery for all its users, leveling the playing field for smaller businesses.
6. Codeless Tracking
GA4 enables codeless event and conversion tracking by allowing you to set up events within the interface. This is a departure from Universal Analytics, where custom code or Google Tag Manager is required to track events and conversions.
7. Lifespan of User Data
Universal Analytics retains user data for 26 months by default, but this period can be modified. GA4, on the other hand, holds user data for a default of 14 months. Although shorter, it ensures a better alignment with GDPR and other data privacy regulations.
Transitioning to a new platform can be daunting. However, Google Analytics 4’s enhanced features – from improved tracking to predictive metrics – make it a worthwhile shift. It’s worth noting that Google has confirmed Universal Analytics will eventually be phased out, so getting familiar with GA4 sooner rather than later is a smart move.
At GriffinWink Advertising, we are always ready to help navigate these shifts in the digital marketing landscape. Whether setting up GA4 for your business or optimizing your current analytics strategy, our team of experts is here to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for any assistance you need. Happy analyzing!