The New Analytics: GA4

By: The Xcite Group

Google Analytics is an essential tool for outfitter businesses to understand the behavior of their website visitors.  Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google's web analytics tool and will be totally replacing Universal Analytics (UA) as of July 2023 and will no longer collect data. On top of that, by January 2024, your Universal Analytics data will be deleted and inaccessible.

This article will guide you through the four steps of transitioning from UA to GA4, including archiving your UA data, understanding the difference in event tracking, learning about conversions in GA4, and exploring the advanced reporting features of GA4.

Photo shows group celebrating on a river raft. Text reads "Navigate the switch to Google Analytics 4"

Step 1: Make a Plan to Archive Your UA data

This step will be imperative in documenting the data you have collected over the years, so you can compare it to your new data in GA4.

  • Make a list of the specific reports you refer to often

  • Download the data in the intervals you typically use (MoM, YoY, QoQ, etc.)

  • Choose from multiple ways to download or export the data

Step #2 Learn the Difference in Event Tracking

Universal Analytics has always been based on sessions and pageviews (browser cookies). In contrast, the G4 data model is based on events and parameters (1st party data and “Google signals”). Meaning, the way you learned how to track events in UA is very different from what is being collected, processed, and reported in GA4.

UA: Session-Based Model

In UA properties, Analytics groups data into sessions, and these sessions are the foundation of all reporting. A session is a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame.

During a session, Analytics collects and stores user interactions, such as pageviews, events, and eCommerce transactions, as hits. A single session can contain multiple hits, depending on how a user interacts with your website.

GA4: Event-Based Model

In GA4 properties, you can still see session data, but Analytics collects and stores user interactions with your website or app as events. Events provide insight into what’s happening in your website or app, such as page views, button clicks, user actions, or system events.

Events can collect and send pieces of information that more fully specify the action the user took or add further context to the event or user. This information could include things like the value of purchase, the title of the page a user visited, or the geographic location of the user.

GA4 also offers improved cross-device tracking compared to UA. GA4 uses machine learning algorithms to link user activities across multiple devices, providing a more comprehensive view of a user's journey. This allows you to see how your users interact with your website on different devices, providing valuable insights into their behavior and user journey.

Step 3: Understanding Conversions in GA4

Those who have worked with the previous versions of Google Analytics are familiar with the term "Google Analytics Goal". Well, with the rise of GA4, the concept of Google Analytics goals is gone. Now, the most important interactions are called conversions.

Goals in Universal Analytics

In UA, goals are used to track specific actions that you consider important for your business, such as form submissions or product purchases. Goals are set up in UA by defining specific conditions that need to be met for a goal to be counted as "completed". UA also allows you to assign a value to each goal, so you can see the monetary impact of each completed goal.

Conversions in Google Analytics 4

GA4 has a more comprehensive approach to tracking conversions compared to UA. GA4's conversion tracking is based on events, which are actions that happen on your website, such as button clicks or page views. Events can be customized and categorized based on their importance to your business. GA4 also allows you to see the journey that leads to a conversion, giving you valuable insights into how users interact with your website.

A conversion is an important interaction that you want your visitors/users to complete. Conversions can be split into micro- and macro-conversions.

  • Micro-conversions are usually described as conversions that put your visitors/users one step closer to the main (macro) conversion.

  • Macro-conversions are the most important interactions, like form submissions, bookings, or purchases.

Step 4: Reporting in GA4

GA4 offers more advanced and comprehensive reporting compared to UA. GA4's reporting is event-based, allowing you to see the impact of each event on conversions. GA4 also provides detailed reports on user journeys and conversion funnels, allowing you to see how users interact with your website.

GA4’s improved data visualization provides a more user-friendly interface, with interactive charts and graphs. GA4's data visualization allows you to quickly identify trends and patterns in your data, making it easier to understand the impact of your website changes.

The transition from UA to GA4 can seem daunting, but with the right guidance and understanding, you can make the switch smoothly. GA4 offers a more comprehensive and advanced approach to data collection, event tracking, conversion tracking, and reporting, allowing businesses to gain valuable insights into their website visitors' behavior. By following these four steps, you can ensure that your data is accurately collected, tracked, and reported, allowing you to make informed decisions about your website after the UA sunset.

About the Xcite Group:

As a full-service digital marketing agency, The Xcite Group helps our clients generate leads online through multi-channel attribution. Whether your focus is B2B or B2C, we work with small businesses in the same way that we work with Fortune 500 companies, we deep dive into your business to get to know you, your services, your audience, and your business goals. We offer fully customized digital management solutions that focus on your success. Learn more.

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