Google Analytics 4: everything you need to know

Since its launch back in 2005, Google Analytics has cemented itself as the gold standard for tracking website and marketing performance.

Tweaks, improvements and iterations to the service have been the proverbial hoops for marketers to jump through over the years – but in April, Google announced that it would be making a removal.

As of 1st July 2023 Universal Analytics will be replaced by Google Analytics 4, which is built differently to meet current and future needs for reporting and privacy.

But what does this mean? What will you have to do? And isn’t it so far away that it’s not worth fussing over just yet?

Allow us to explain…

GA4 versus Universal Analytics

Google Analytics 4 doesn’t simply offer more than Universal Analytics; it’s built specifically to cover needs for privacy and reporting more effectively.

Here are some of the main differences and benefits (although GA4 will be updated so some of these may change over time):

  • Google Analytics is event-based, whereas Universal Analytics is session-based. Simply put, the ability to track events like button clicks and video plays is built in with GA4, while this requires advanced setups in UA. Page views are no longer the sole important metric, so you’ll benefit from a more detailed breakdown of exactly how users are interacting with your content.
  • GA4 gives businesses visibility into the customer journeys across all devices, where UA only took into account web browser traffic, which means you can tailor future campaigns and content to be device specific to boost engagement.
  • In UA, you could set your data to never expire. In Google Analytics 4, the data expires after 14 months (although this can be set to 2, 14, 26, 38 or 50 month increments at your discretion), meaning you’ll only keep the data that you actually want and the rest will be disposed of.
  • GA4 utilises machine learning technology to share insights and make predictions, helping your business capitalise on shifts and trends in the market before they’ve even happened.
  • UA data is heavily reliant on cookies, GA 4 isn’t, which leaves your business less susceptible to cyberattacks trying to access your users’ browsing history.

Frontend Developer at 6B, Dominic Walker, had this to say about the changes: “Moving to Google Analytics 4 will not only simplify the the configuration and implementation of Goals and Events within Analytics, but it also allows for more intelligent tracking practices; giving us more visibility of the user journey and how you can improve your applications overall ROI, based on the advanced data measurements.”

Best to act sooner rather than later

Now, it’s true that this change won’t come into effect for over another year, but there’s no use dragging your feet when it comes to making the switch.

Google Analytics 4 includes a number of out-of-the-box features, like customer lifecycle and churn probability, so there really is no reason to delay the transition over from Universal Analytics.

But there’s a more urgent reason to make the switch, as our Head of Client Services, Kate Brown, explains.

“The sooner you make the switch over, the less historical data you’ll have to export over come next July. Google Analytics 4 doesn’t currently migrate your data over when you switch, which means you’ll have no historical data available. By switching now, you can run the new and old account concurrently, so you’ll have a full year’s worth of data to compare against the old platform.”

It hasn’t yet been announced what will happen with the data on GA3, so this is a sensible precaution to take. Plus, like any change in business, the sooner you switch, the sooner you’ll become accustomed to this new way of working.

What do I need to do?

If your business is currently using Universal Analytics, there are three actions to prioritise:

  • Make the switch as soon as possible. Yes, you’ve got more than a year before these changes come into effect, but the sooner you make the switch, the sooner you can benefit from the automated insights.
  • Adjust your Google Ads conversion tracking. Once your account is set up, you’ll be able to view Analytics data in your Google Ads account. If you have conversion tracking set up, you should import conversions into your Ads account. Simply go to Tools & Settings > Conversions > Add new conversion action, and select Import.
  • Export historical reports. After the 1st July 2023 deadline, Google will allow you to access UA for at least six months, in which time you should export the data that you need through individual reports, the Google Analytics Reporting API, or by exporting to BigQuery.

Are you currently using Universal Analytics?


Our client services team will help guide you through the entire transition so you can capture a full year’s worth of data, protect your historical data and make the most of Google Analytics 4’s new powerful features before next year’s deadline.

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