POV

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28.03.22

Universal Analytics vs GA4 - Your questions answered

Richard Robertson

Data & Analytics Consultant

It has been just over a week since Google announced that starting from July 1st, 2023, all Universal Analytics (UA) properties will no longer process any new hits. If you are a 360 customer, you’ll have an additional three months with an extended deadline of 1st October 2023. You can read about this more in our last POV.

Our recommendation if you have not set-up a Google Analytics 4 (GA4) property to run alongside your Universal Analytics one, is to start planning to do so now. To maintain the ability to compare performance year-on-year (when UA is deprecated), you will need to ensure your new GA4 property is up and running before July 1st, 2022 (or October 2022 for 360 customers).

However, to help you get a better understanding of Google’s latest game-changing development and what we know so far, we have compiled some of the key questions clients have been asking us about.

Data Collection

1. How is data collected differently?

Google Analytics 4 has changed how data is collected with a new event-based data model. This model focuses on collecting all hits as events compared to Universal Analytics which had different hit types for different data points (pages, events, transactions, scroll and more).

2. What is enhanced measurement in GA4?

Google Analytics 4 can track enhanced measurement out of the box which previously was not available within Universal Analytics without a customised implementation. The new enhanced measurements currently available are:

  • Scroll Tracking

  • Video Engagement

  • Outbound Clicks

  • File Downloads

These are vital metrics to track for most organisations and the out of the box capabilities will provide greater insights than previously available.

3. Is the Client ID the same if visiting a site with both Universal Analytics (UA) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) as a new user?

The GA4 cookie still creates a Client ID (called App Instance ID) but doesn’t match up with a Universal Analytics Client ID. There is not an out of the box method for matching up users between UA and GA4 without setting up / collecting a custom dimensions / event parameter for GA4 App Instance ID and UA Client ID.

4. Is the CustomTask function still available in Google Analytics 4?

‘gtag.js’ doesn’t support the use of CustomTask. This will impact any migration from Universal Analytics in which the implementation relies on using this feature.

5. Is Cross-Domain Tracking still available in Google Analytics 4?

Cross-Domain Tracking remains unchanged between versions and is still available within Google Analytics 4.

Data Processing

1. How is data processed differently?

Google Analytics 4 has also changed the way data is processed; these aren’t huge changes but will make cause metrics such as Sessions and Users to be off when compared to Universal Analytics.

2. Are there hit limitations in Google Analytics 4?

Hit Limitations in GA4 are a thing of the past. You can collect as many hits as you like with the limitation now on the number of events you can collect.

In Google Analytics 4, another main vocal point has been to reduce sampling in the UI. This ensures data is available quicker for marketers to be able to act sooner and be more proactive.

Google Analytics 4

Universal Analytics

Data Configuration

1. Are views still available in GA4?

For now, it appears Google Analytics 4 has said goodbye to reporting views. This is a huge change from Universal Analytics, which provided the ability to create views from a single property (single collection of data) and filter them to provide different views on the dataset.

2. Are filters available in GA4?

Filters are still available within GA4 but are limited in comparison to Universal Analytics, only providing the option to filter out internal and developer data from your property.

3. How are configuration options different in GA4?

In Google Analytics 4, a new Configure section has been introduced, this is the hub for customising the data collected with options including Creating, Modifying Events, setting up Conversions, creating and managing audiences and a new DebugView.

4. How do I modify data in GA4?

Universal Analytics provided the ability to modify data using search-and-replace filters, this has been replaced in GA4 with its own feature in the Configure section, “Modify event”.

It is worth noting as with Universal Analytics, changes aren’t applied to historical data. Just like filters in Universal Analytics, events are processed in the order they appear in Event modifications list.

5. Are Custom Dimensions available in GA4?

One of the options available in the Configure section is Custom definitions, the new home for creating Custom Dimensions and Custom metrics, previously available within the Property admin section in Universal Analytics.

In Universal Analytics, Custom Dimensions were created within the “Admin” section however the data had to be collected into the Custom Dimension slot created in the interface.

In Google Analytics 4, that is no longer the case. If the data has been collected into an event, you’ll now have the option to create a Custom Dimension to use in your reporting without having to implement any new tracking.

For the time being, only User and Event scoped Custom Dimensions are available within Google Analytics 4, so you won’t be able to migrate your session and product scoped dimensions for the time being.

6. How do I create Goals in GA4?

Another one of the options available in Configure section is “Conversions”. In Google Analytics 4, “Conversions” are the replacement for Goals but unlike Universal Analytics, they can only be set-up for events.

7. Can I replicate Destination Goals in GA4?

To replicate destination goals from Universal Analytics, you will first need to create a new event using the “Create Event” feature in the “Configure” section, setting the parameter for ‘page_location’ to match the page you want to set-up as a “Conversion”

8. Are Custom Channel Groupings available in GA4?

Google Analytics 4 no longer provides an option to define Custom Channel Groupings.

9. Can I edit Default Channel Groupings in GA4?

The only way to update the Default Channel Groupings for Google Analytics is to email googleanalytics-channelgrouprequests@google.com. Google have stated they will review these requests at least once per year.

Reporting

1. What attribution model is used in GA4?

In Google Analytics 4, one of the biggest differences when it comes to reporting is the new default attribution models. In Universal Analytics, the default across the board was Last Non-Direct Click (If a user came to the website directly, Google would use the last known channel.

In Google Analytics 4, depending on the scope, the attribution model changes.

2. Does GA4 have ecommerce reporting?

Ecommerce reporting is still available in Google Analytics 4, the standard reports available are limited in comparison to Universal Analytics with Shopping / Checkout Behaviour currently unavailable as well as many other reports.

3. Are custom reports available in GA4?

Custom Reports are still available in Google Analytics 4, with additional features available with “Explore”. Previously not available in Universal Analytics unless you were a 360 user.

In Universal Analytics, Custom Funnels were only available for 360 customers, so we are excited this report type is now open to all users with “Funnel exploration”

4. Is data sampled in GA4 reports?

A benefit of the new Google Analytics 4 properties is the focus on unsampled data, unlike in Universal Analytics, all standard reports will be unsampled even if you apply comparisons, secondary dimensions, and filters.

Does Google Analytics 4 have a 360 version?

Google Analytics 4 does have a 360 version, providing additional event parameter to collect data, additional configurations (Conversions, Audiences and User Scoped custom dimension, additional API quotas, and longer data retention options).

This table from Google breaks down the exact differences between GA4 properties and 360 properties.

There are so many changes with Google Analytics 4, with some great additions and features we hope will return shortly. This list doesn’t go through every change but hopefully gives you enough information to understand what is feasible in the new world of Google Analytics 4.

If you need support with your migration to GA4, contact our team of experts today.

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