Google Analytics 4 (GA4): What You Need to Know

By Leah Hooks
August 25, 2022

In the ever-evolving digital atmosphere, Google Analytics has announced its biggest update since 2012: GA4.

Google Analytics is currently the most-used website analytics service. Earlier this year, Google announced that Universal Analytics (UA), its website analytics platform since 2012, is on the way out and will be replaced by Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Inspire is here to help you navigate this transition.

Here are four things you need to know.

1. What is GA4 and why do I need it?

GA4 is the future of Google Analytics. Although other website analytics platforms exist, Google Analytics is the most widely used analytics platform – and it’s free! Utilizing Google Analytics on a website is especially important if you are currently running Google Ads or are considering running them in the future, as it will impact ad optimization.

2. When do I need to make the switch?

We recommend that you begin making the transition to the GA4 property now rather than waiting. GA4 is fully operational today, but new features and innovations are still being added.

If you are currently using Google’s UA to track website statistics, you will need to switch to GA4. UA will stop collecting data in 2023. Installing GA4 now, before UA stops providing analytics, will allow you to begin collecting data in the new format. This will allow you to build historical data to compare your statistics to once this is the sole platform for Google Analytics, making your reporting more meaningful by capturing more trends and insights over a greater period of time. Migrating data from UA to GA4 is not possible as the data is collected using different parameters.

3. How is GA4 different from UA?

These are some key differences to note:

  • GA4 was made to combine analytics for websites and apps - if you have both, it can give insight into cross-platform journeys.
  • GA4 can measure a single user’s journey with your brand across devices based on the best available user identifiers. This will de-duplicate users and tell a more unified, holistic story about their relationships with your business.
    • Note: If you are reporting out on website Users, this number will look different in GA4 than in UA due to this de-duplication. This does not necessarily mean the number of users on your website has changed.
  • Rather than using a session-based model, which groups user interactions within a given time frame, GA4 uses an event-based model, which processes each user interaction as a standalone event.
  • Metrics will look different in GA4. If you are looking at year-over-year data, some statistics will look different in GA4 or may go away entirely due to how data is being collected. UA’s page views, events, social, transactions and app/screen views are all tracked as events in GA4. New statistics will also be available to report, such as scrolls, which show the first time a user reaches the bottom of each page.
  • GA4 utilizes machine learning to provide automated and custom insights.
  • With GA4 comes the introduction of Audiences. Audiences allow you to set parameters that will segment users into groups that are useful to your brand.

4. How do I install GA4?

Now that you know what GA4 is and how it will work, it’s time to make sure it is installed on your website!

  • Do you already have Google Analytics set up for an app through Google Analytics for Firebase? Good news! Google Analytics for Firebase automatically transitions to a GA4 property – no changes needed.
  • If UA is currently set up for your website analytics, we recommend utilizing Google Tag Manager (GTM) for installation of your GA4 Property to your website. If you don’t have GTM set up yet, now is the time to do so.
  • If your website does not have Google Analytics set up already, get a fresh start on the new platform! You may require help from the developers who work on your site to add new code that will allow GA4 to begin tracking data.

Ready to make the transition or want to know more? Reach out to your website team or to Inspire for assistance.