New Google Analytics 4, and now what?

As you may have heard from colleagues, even in a podcast, read in blog content, media articles or in countless newsletters, the Google Analytics Universal (UA) platform will stop collecting data from July 2023. Thereafter, the only alternative will be to switch to Google Analytics 4. But what now?

The move from Google Analytics Universal to Google Analytics 4 represents an evolution in the way user data is collected, processed and analyzed across the web and mobile apps. Google Analytics 4 uses event-driven data architecture and machine learning models to provide a more complete and accurate view of user behavior. In addition, Google Analytics 4 focuses on user privacy, providing options for data collection control and compliance with privacy regulations.

What has been the evolution of Google Analytics?

If you are new to the world of web analytics, it is very likely that you are unaware of the origins of this tool, one of the most widely used in the world since its appearance .

The history of Google Analytics dates back to 2005, when Google acquired the company Urchin Software Corp. Urchin had developed a web analytics tool that allowed website owners to measure traffic, performance and other important data. Google renamed this tool Google Analytics and launched it in November 2005 as a free tool.

Since then, Google Analytics has evolved significantly. In 2007, Google Analytics launched the conversion tracking feature, which allowed users to measure how many times website visitors performed a specific action, such as buying a product or submitting a form.

In 2012, Google launched Google Analytics Premium, a paid version that offered additional features and more advanced support. Google Analytics Premium was merged with Google Analytics 360 in 2016.

In October 2020, Google released a new version of Google Analytics called Google Analytics 4. This version has a new architecture and focuses on the analysis of users and their behavior across multiple devices and channels.

In summary, Google Analytics has evolved significantly since its launch in 2005, and its latest version, Google Analytics 4, represents a major change in the way web traffic and user behavior is analyzed and understood.

UA vs. AG4: data collection and privacy

Google Analytics Universal (UA) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) have significant differences in terms of data collection and privacy.

In GA4, Google has changed the way user data is collected. Instead of using third-party cookies to track users, GA4 uses Google’s anonymous identification technology (GAID) and IP address to identify users. This means that less data is collected from users in GA4 compared to UA.

In addition, GA4 has enhanced user privacy by implementing a default 14-month data retention policy, which means that data is automatically deleted after this period of time. This is a significant improvement over UA, which had no default data retention policy and required users to set it manually.

Another important difference between UA and GA4 is that GA4 offers greater privacy control for users, allowing them to opt out of GA4 tracking by setting an option in their browser.

Thus, GA4 is more respectful of user privacy than UA, as it collects less data and offers more privacy options for users.

What does the evolution to GA4 mean for the analytical paradigm?

The evolution to Google Analytics 4 represents a significant shift in the digital analytics paradigm, as it focuses on privacy and data personalization. Some of the most important changes are:

    1. Privacy: Google Analytics 4 uses an event-based model rather than a page-based model, allowing for more accurate data collection while protecting users’ privacy. It also offers enhanced data anonymization capabilities and the use of machine learning techniques to identify patterns without the need to identify individual users.
    2. Personalization: Google Analytics 4 focuses on personalization and audience segmentation rather than general audience reporting. This allows GA4 users to customize reports and views to gain a better understanding of their audience and therefore make more informed decisions.
    3. Integration: Google Analytics 4 also integrates better with other Google tools, such as Google Ads and Google Tag Manager, enabling better integration of digital marketing and analytics.

Thus, the introduction of Google Analytics 4 marks a shift towards more privacy-centric analytics and data personalization, which can help businesses better understand their users and make more informed decisions based on that data.

What are the main differences between UA and GA4?

There are several important differences between Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Universal Analytics (UA):

    1. Data models: GA4 uses an event-centric data model that allows for greater flexibility in data capture and analysis, while UA is based on a page-centric model.
    2. Event configuration and tracking: In GA4, event configuration and tracking is simpler and more flexible than in UA. GA4 also allows the measurement of events automatically, without the need for additional configurations.
    3. User information: In GA4, there is a higher priority on user privacy, so not as much personally identifiable data is collected as in UA. Instead, random identifiers are used.
    4. Compatibility with other Google platforms: GA4 integrates with other Google platforms, such as Google Ads and Firebase, allowing for better measurement and tracking of advertising campaigns.
    5. Reporting and data visualization: GA4 offers new reports and data visualizations that are more advanced than UA, such as cohort analysis and audience intelligence.
    6. Limitations of the free version: The free version of GA4 has certain limitations compared to UA, such as the lack of support for goals and conversion funnels.

Overall, GA4 offers greater flexibility and customization options in data collection and analysis, while UA is easier to use and offers more personally identifiable data. In addition, GA4 is designed to better adapt to the era of online privacy and user privacy concerns.

New omnichannel paradigm, new data flows with GA4

To adapt to the new omnichannel landscape, Google Analytics 4 uses data streams to collect and process data from multiple sources, including websites, mobile apps and connected devices.

Generally speaking, data flows in Google Analytics 4 are divided into two categories: events and attributes. Events represent actions that users perform on your website or application, such as viewing a page or submitting a form. Attributes provide additional information about the context of events, such as the type of device being used or the origin of the traffic.

To capture and send events and attributes to Google Analytics 4, you need to implement tracking code on your website or application. This code collects data about user actions and sends it to Google Analytics 4 for processing and analysis.

It is important to note that, to ensure user privacy, Google Analytics 4 uses the “privacy by design” technique. This means that tracking of individual users is minimized and anonymized to protect their privacy. In addition, users have the option to opt out of monitoring at any time.

Therefore, the data flows in GA4 enable broader and more comprehensive data collection, adapting to today’s omnichannel landscape. In addition, privacy by design ensures that users are protected while data is collected for business decision making.

How to take advantage of GA4

To get the most out of Google Analytics 4, Pukkas recommends the following steps:

  1. Upgrade your website or mobile app to Google Analytics 4: Upgrading to GA4 will allow you to track events, conversions and user behavior in a more advanced and accurate way.
  2. Configure custom events and conversions: GA4’s new event structure allows users to define custom events to measure any user action on the site or mobile app. It is important to set custom goals and conversions to have a clear view of site performance.
  3. Set up Google Ads and Google Search Console integration: By integrating Google Ads and Search Console with GA4, you can get more detailed information about the effectiveness of your ad campaigns and site performance in search results.
  4. Use advanced analytics and audience segmentation: Audience segmentation in GA4 allows you to create groups of users with similar characteristics, which can be useful to identify behavioral patterns and optimize the user experience on the site.
  5. Leverage Machine Learning capabilities: GA4 uses Machine Learning technology to deliver valuable insights through its audience analytics feature. This feature provides information about users’ interests and behaviors, which can be useful for personalizing the user experience and optimizing the marketing strategy.

New tool, more complex configuration

Setting up GA4 from scratch may require extensive re-implementation compared to setting up Universal Analytics (UA). This is because GA4 is based on a new architecture and data model that differs significantly from UA.

In UA, tracking is based on the use of cookies and tracking tags, and data is organized into dimensions and metrics. In GA4, data collection is based on events and event parameters, and data is organized into events and properties.

To configure GA4, a Google Tag Manager data layer implementation or custom code on the website or mobile app is required. In addition, you need to define custom events and parameters to capture the specific data you want to track. It is also important to note that GA4 reports and custom views are different from UA, so some learning time may be required to get used to the new interface and reports.

While GA4 may require extensive re-implementation, it can provide greater flexibility and more detailed and accurate tracking of data in an omnichannel landscape.


Loss of data. Monetization of the GA4 environment

When switching from Google Analytics Universal to Google Analytics 4, historical account data is lost. This is because GA4 uses a completely new and different data model than Universal Analytics. In addition, the way data is collected and processed in GA4 is different, so it is not possible to directly transfer historical data from one account to another.

However, it is possible to keep historical tracking of the Google Analytics Universal account data by exporting the historical data and saving it in a separate file for further analysis. In addition, the Universal Analytics account can continue to be used in parallel with the GA4 account to ensure that no important data is lost.

It is important to consider that, although historical data are lost when switching to GA4, this version offers important improvements in terms of functionalities, integrations and data privacy. Therefore, it is a good opportunity to take full advantage of these new features and improve the quality of account analysis data.

Google Analytics 4 is a free tool, just like its predecessor Universal Analytics. However, with the introduction of GA4, Google has introduced new features that may have associated costs, such as integration with BigQuery, which requires a Google Cloud account. In addition, Google has been pushing its Google Ads advertising platform, and the integration of GA4 with this platform could lead to an increase in ad spend for advertisers using both tools.

Benefits of the new version of Google Analytics 4 for marketers

Changes always bring improvements and, in this case, with the evolution of GA4 there are some (not to say many) that have already been mentioned. But what are the benefits for a marketer?

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) offers several benefits for digital marketers, SEO and data analysts. The following are some of them:

    1. Improved data accuracy: GA4 uses an event-based measurement model instead of sessions, providing a more complete and accurate view of user behavior.
    2. Multi-device data analysis: GA4 enables tracking of users across multiple devices, which helps to better understand user behavior on different devices and channels.
    3. Integration with Google Ads: GA4 integrates directly with Google Ads, allowing for better measurement and analysis of advertising data.
    4. Advanced Audience Reporting: GA4 offers advanced audience reports that allow you to easily identify users who take certain actions on your website, such as abandoning a shopping cart or making a purchase.
    5. Funnel analysis reports: GA4 offers funnel analysis reports, allowing you to see how users move through the conversion funnel and where abandonment rates occur.
    6. Focus on privacy: GA4 has a focus on privacy by providing aggregated and anonymized data to track users, which helps comply with privacy regulations.

In short, GA4 provides a more accurate and complete view of user behavior, which helps improve digital marketing and SEO strategies by enabling better measurement and analysis of audience and advertising data. In addition, its focus on privacy helps comply with privacy regulations.

February 2023
Jordi Gangolells / Digital Marketing Manager