GA4: The New Era of Analytics

Person looking at Laptop to learn about the changes to GA4 and TAG Digital Marketing's reporting enhancements
As a business owner, tracking your website’s performance is crucial to see how it impacts your business. Google Analytics has been the go-to platform to achieve this objective for over a decade. However, Google’s latest update to its analytics platform, GA4, has left a few people scratching their heads. We will explain the differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics, how data points differ, and how data is being collected differently. We will also discuss what you should expect from data deprecation and why.  

What’s the Difference Between Universal Analytics and GA4?

The most significant difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 is the way they collect data. Universal Analytics used cookies to track user data, which became increasingly challenging due to browser updates and new privacy regulations. GA4, on the other hand, relies on machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze and learn from user interactions across different devices. Another significant change is how the data is collected. Universal Analytics collected data in distinct categories, such as page views, events, or conversions. In GA4, data collection is more flexible, and any interaction on your website can be registered as an event. This means that instead of tracking website traffic, you can detect individual users’ behavior on your site, which provides more insights into how they engage with your brand. Moreover, GA4 has introduced a new metric, ‘engagement,’ which shows how long a user has been engaged with your website or app. This metric has replaced ‘bounce rate’ and ‘session duration’ in Universal Analytics. GA4 also provides more in-depth customer insights, such as demographics, interests, and behaviors, which is not possible with Universal Analytics. Data deprecation is another aspect of GA4. When GA4 was introduced, Universal Analytics was not immediately deprecated. However, Google stopped providing tracking, updates, and support for Universal Analytics in July 2023, and it is phasing out UA in its entirety.   

What does this mean for my business?

Note Universal Analytics data and GA4 data are not apples-to-apples comparisons. Due to this change, historical comparisons of Universal Analytics data and GA4 analytics data are not possible because of the different methods and identifiers used to track user behavior. With new privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA, Google and other technology companies can no longer collect the same data as once before. Additionally, browsers, devices, and providers are now allowing users to limit the data shared and, in some instances, block transmission. Because of these limitations, metrics will adjust over time to reflect ongoing changes.    

What is TAG Digital Marketing Doing about the Change?

TAG has upgraded tagDASH and our tracking for clients to GA4; if you have your own analytics, you will need to ensure you have completed the migration in order to be able to continue to have analytics.  As a result of the GA4 rollout, we have made numerous enhancements to our reporting dashboards. Reporting for July will look very different from reporting in months and years prior. We will continue to enhance the dashboard as new capabilities for capturing GA4 data are developed. eCommerce Revenue reporting will be separate from tagDASH at this time due to the changes in GA4 and how it captures and presents that information. eCommerce reports for July 2023 will not be distributed due to data deprecation during the Universal and GA4 migration. eCommerce Revenue reports will be provided individually on the 5th of each month, beginning with the month of August. GA4 is a significant leap forward for analytics and will propel businesses to understand their customers with more precision and sophistication. The new machine learning technology and data privacy regulations have necessitated a shift from Universal Analytics to GA4. TAG is excited about the possibility of the new features and tracking GA4 will unlock, but we also understand this is a complete change in process and outlook towards analytics and will take some time to adjust to different metrics. We will work with our clients to determine the best strategy for your analytics data, how to understand this new data and continue to make data-driven decisions that will help grow your business. Please contact your account manager or TAG for more information about the GA4 conversion, eCommerce Report changes, or other digital marketing questions

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