Google has announced that from July 2023, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will be the only web tracking analytics option. But what is GA4, and how will it impact and improve your reporting? Our guide tells you everything you need to know about the upcoming update, meaning you can experience a seamless switch over.

What is GA4?

GA4 is the latest version of Google Analytics. The key difference from its predecessors (and plus point) is that it combines both app and web data in one place. This means you will no longer have to add a separate property into your GA to monitor your mobile app data. Instead, this is now integrated into one cross-platform analytics, meaning you can pull more extensive reports that give a full overview of your digital performance.

Does GA4 use cookies?

GA4 is designed to thrive in a cookieless world. As GDPR makes it increasingly difficult to track users who do not consent to cookies, we need a new way of measuring web traffic.

Instead of ‘users’ its focus is on tracking ‘events’ to give a better picture of the user journey. Its extensive machine learning capabilities will fill in the gaps of users who do not consent to cookies, so that we can still gather insights whilst remaining GDPR compliant. 

What are the main differences between Universal Analytics and GA4? 

There are a few stark differences between the current Universal Analytics and GA4 which you will need to get your head around before 2023:

  • GA4 will look a little different – Don’t be afraid of how different GA4 looks compared to the current interface you are used to. Gone are the boxes that break down users and sessions, and instead is a more holistic dashboard that reports on the ‘life cycle’ of a user.
  • ‘Bounce Rate’ is out, ‘Engagement Rate’ is in – Engagement metrics have had a makeover. In order to cover both app and web data, GA4 reports on ‘engaged sessions’, ‘engagement rate’ and ‘engaged time’.
  • ‘Events’ are king – As we can no longer track users and sessions if users do not consent to cookies, these metrics have been replaced with events like ‘first visit’ which will be automatically tracked. Events can be easily customised, created or modified within the interface without needing to change tag triggers.
  • Conversion modelling – GA4 uses machine learning to predict conversions across channels and devices using cookieless signals – imperative in an increasingly cookieless world.
  • Explorative reports – Access new types of reporting, such as Pathing reports and Segment Overlap reporting to gain a better understanding of your user and their journey.

What are the benefits of GA4?

  • Cross platform – Consistent metrics and dimensions for integrated reporting across app and web.
  • Flexible & Efficient – Faster and fully extensible event model for more granular and flexible insights and analysis. 
  • Ad-Hoc Analysis – Improved data visualisation for a deeper understanding of your users and their user journey.
  • Intelligent – Machine learning capabilities that automatically surface insights, anomalies and predictions.
  • Privacy focused – Analytics tool built with privacy-first focus, such as anonymized visitor IPs by default.

When should I switch to GA4? 

The simple answer is as soon as possible. GA4 will be the only option beginning July 1, 2023, so the sooner you get to grips with the tool, the better. 

One of the best options is to use GA4 alongside your current analytics. This will get you used to GA4’s new way of reporting, as well as providing you access to its benefits, whilst keeping the reporting format you are used to. This way you can use a combination of metrics to pull extensive insights on your users.

GA4 will also help to keep your reports robust in a cookieless world. You may see your traffic starting to fall using universal analytics because it cannot accurately track users who do not consent to cookies. This does not mean that there’s a problem with your site, or its rankings, universal analytics just simply cannot track those users who reject cookies. GA4, on the other hand, can fill those gaps to give you a better understanding of your web traffic.

To set up GA4 simply click ‘GA4 setup assistant’ and create a property on your current universal analytics to get started. 

Here at Total Media, we have already started to help clients make the switch to GA4. For more advice reach out to Guillermo Dvorak, Head of Digital, to see how we can help you.

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Guillermo Dvorak - Head of Digital

Author: Guillermo Dvorak - Head of Digital

Guillermo considers himself a tech nerd and has over 10 years’ experience in digital media planning &buying across multiple industries, helping brands develop their digital maturity to improve customer engagement and lifetime value.