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The shift to Google Analytics 4: What you need to know

January 25, 2023
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Have you heard the news? It's time to say goodbye to Google Analytics as we know it and hello to an updated, more detailed tool. 

You've got until July to prepare yourself, and we're here with the low down to get you up to speed. 

The jargon

Before we delve into the good stuff, let's clear up some confusing jargon. 

Universal Analytics: The version of Google Analytics that existed before Google Analytics 4. If you activated Google Analytics before 14 October 2020, this’ll be the version of Google Analytics you use. If you activated Google Analytics after this date, there’s still a chance that you use Universal Analytics as you would have been offered the choice between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4. 

Google Analytics 4 (GA4): The new version of Google Analytics. If you activated Google Analytics on your website after 14 October 2020, you may already be working with this new version but, as we’ve mentioned above, it’s best to check as you (or your web developer) may have opted for Universal Analytics. 

Google Analytics 360: Software that caters to larger enterprises' unique measurement needs. If you haven't heard of this, it's likely you don't use it, so there's no need to worry about any changes that impact the software. 

How do I check if you have Universal Analytics or GA4?

If you activated Google Analytics after 14 October 2020, you’ll need to check whether you’re using Universal Analytics or Google Analytics 4. Log into your Google Analytics account and click on ‘All Accounts’ in the top left-hand corner. This will show you a drop down of your Google Analytics accounts. Each of these will be assigned a series of numbers, also known as a property ID. If the property ID begins with ‘UA’, you’re using Universal Analytics. If the property ID doesn’t have letters before, you’re already using Google Analytics 4. 

What’s actually happening?

Back in 2020, Google announced that its Universal Analytics tool (which, at the time, was the current version of Google Analytics) would be replaced by Google Analytics 4 (aka GA4). 

This new iteration of Google's popular measurement tool refines the analytics process. Additional features provide more detailed insight whilst making accessing the data more efficient. 

Before we get stuck into how you shift to Google Analytics 4, let's look at why and when.

What's the difference?

GA4 is a new and improved version of the former Universal Analytics, providing a complete view of consumer behaviour across web, mobile and apps. Its software includes improved machine learning features, actionable reporting and new integrations. 

 Compared to Universal Analytics, GA4 has a more focused look at users and their engagement with your website; this means that some measurements have been changed to create more refined insights. Some terminology you may be used to in Universal Analytics will look a bit different in GA4 and there are certain nuances that will mean that your current measurements won’t be able to be directly compared. Google has a great article on how to approach comparing (or not comparing) the metrics between Universal Analytics and GA4. 

 Here are just some of the features that make this all possible:  

  • Event-based data will replace session-based data: This expands your insight into what the user is doing on your website rather than limiting you to just seeing that the user existed. 
  • GA4 includes privacy controls such as 'cookieless' measurement: Being designed to work with or without cookies, GA4 can fill in data gaps to help you become less dependent on cookies.
  • The introduction of cross-device tracking: With more users switching across devices when online, GA4 has introduced a feature to measure single-user journies across multiple devices.
  • New AI and machine learning: GA4 makes it even easier to see analytics with automated insights and the creation of forecasts. It even fills in gaps when there are incomplete or conflicting data.

How can GA4 help me?

When announcing GA4, Google stated that the new and improved analytics would help to:

  • Understand your customers across touchpoints
  • Improve your ROI (return on investment) with data-driven attribution
  • Measure engagement and conversions with business and compliance needs in mind
  • Provide greater value from your data
  • Easily activate your insights
  • Address your enterprise measurement needs

When do I need to make the jump to GA4?

  • 1 July 2023: Universal Analytics (the previous generation of Analytics) will stop processing new data from your website. Fear not; you'll be able to access this data for at least six months after this date. 
  • 1 July 2024: If you use 360 Universal Analytics, this is when the production of new data will cease within the software. 

It may feel like July is a lifetime away (especially in gloomy January), but we'd recommend making the transition to Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible

Warning: if you wait until 1 July to make the direct switch to GA4 then the difference in stats may make you want to tear your hair out. GA4 and Universal Analytics work in a completely different way. This means they record data differently (hence the terminology being different, as mentioned above). Having Universal Analytics and GA4 running alongside each other gives you the opportunity to compare and see what the differences are. 

What should I do next?

If you currently have Universal Analytics, you'll need to switch to GA4 manually. In this article, Google takes you through the steps to make the transition. 

If you still need to activate Google Analytics on your website, there's no time like the present. 

If you have a CMS-hosted website, click here to find out how to set up Analytics. 

If you don't have a CMS-hosted website, click here to set up GA4. 

If you activated Google Analytics on your website after 14 October 2020 and opted for GA4 then (good news!) there’s nothing you need to do right now. The next step is learning how you can use it to your advantage. There are many great resources, including the three mentioned in our extra resources section below. 

If you're unsure of your next steps or have questions about Google Analytics 4, get in touch with the team at hello@ignitioncollective.com or call us on 01295 768122, and we'll be happy to help.

Extra resources

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Follow Google Analytics on YouTube for some handy how-tos and to keep up with all the latest on Google Analytics 4.

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In this episode of Social Media Marketing with Michael Stelzner, Dana DiTomaso gives the lowdown on how to use Google Analytics 4 for marketing.

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To take your Google Analytics 4 knowledge to the next level, have a look at this training.

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About the author:

Guest author:


Combine Jacob's passion for motorsport and his degree in Marketing, Advertising and Branding and you're on for a winner! Jacob has an affinity for all things social media and digital communications, meaning he's right at home with us here at IC.


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