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UA to GA4 Migration: What’s Changing?

We’ve all heard the buzz surrounding the impending migration of data collection from Universal Analytics to Google’s newest product, Google Analytics 4, or GA4. Universal Analytics properties will stop pulling data in July of 2023. So if you’ve been procrastinating the switch, it’s time to get serious about GA4 implementation. If you’ve never understood the value of GA or been using another data tool, the fourth generation might convince you that it’s time to make the change

Companies should consider creating their GA4 properties as soon as possible to avoid data discrepancies and faulty tracking. UA and GA4 have some key differences so this migration may not be as easy as previous updates, but with proper guidance and preparation, you can expect to reap serious benefits from this new technology. Read on to learn more about how to prepare for the migration from UA to GA4.

History of Google Analytics

To fully understand this migration, its nuances, benefits, and applications, it’s important to understand the history of the powerhouse that is Google Analytics. As the worldwide web became increasingly popular in the 90s, a hosting and development company called Quantified Systems developed Urchin. Urchin was the first web statistics and analytics program of its kind, which was procured by Google in 2005. 

Google rebranded and revolutionized Urchin to become Google Analytics Classic in 2007. Google’s mission was to provide free analytics services to businesses to create a better web experience for online browsers. They sought to make accessible tools that would allow analysts everywhere to better understand web behaviors. Not just for marketers looking to maximize the efficacy of their ads, GA4 can help business owners understand the reading behavior of their viewers and which elements of a page are most attractive. They can learn which other sites value their content the most and where in the wide world their viewers are coming from. These insights help your sites be of the greatest value to your audience.

In 2012 Google launched the program we all know and love (?), Universal Analytics. UA included innovative features with improvements in mobile tracking, customer journey mapping, data visualization, and user interface. In October 2020 Google announced GA4, which aims to unify reporting between app and web data collection. GA4 is the future of data tracking, with an increased focus on automation and machine learning, user behavior discernment, and privacy-first tracking.

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New features of ga4

If you are an avid Universal Analytics user, you may be dreading this migration and the perceived headaches that come with it. Once you get over the initial growing pains, GA4 has some seriously innovative features that are sure to improve your overall tracking processes. GA4 is one of the best tools for optimizing your analytics processes for PPC management. GA4 doesn’t invade privacy, instead, it allows for attribution by following a user’s journey from first ad exposure to conversion.

Mobile App Activity Tracking

While previous iterations of Google Analytics have been built around web-based tracking, GA4 is designed at its core to be able to track both app and web visitors’ behavior. GA4 eliminates the need for disparate tracking through UA and Firebase. It de-duplicates users and recognizes them as one, whether visiting through a mobile app or webpage or from multiple devices. 

Advanced Reporting

While Universal Analytics had plenty of pre-defined reports to choose from, GA4 puts reporting in its users’ hands. Users can build custom reports based on metrics that matter most to their particular brand or campaign. With drag-and-drop functionalities, you can visualize whatever data you value, in a way that makes sense for you.

Increased Automation 

GA4 uses machine learning to better understand consumer behavior. With growing privacy policies, marketers are having to fill gaps in consumer profiles. Machine learning uses artificial intelligence in tandem with computer science to help fill these gaps and create a vivid image of the consumer for marketers and analysts alike. GA4’s advanced algorithms also help users to better predict future behavior, identify anomalies, and uncover trends.


Remember, these are just a few examples of the advancements GA4 has in store for your data analytics. 

GA4 is the future of data tracking, with an increased focus on automation and machine learning, user behavior discernment, and privacy-first tracking.

Main Differences

There are a few, fundamental differences between UA and GA4. Business users need to understand the distinctions between them in order to effectively leverage GA4. These include:

Events– GA4 uses an event-based tracking model. This means hit types, previously reported disparately as page views, form submissions, transactions, etc. are now all reported as events. This event-based reporting model is designed to enable unified tracking through both web and app visits.

Sessions– in UA, a session is defined as “a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame.” For example, a single session can contain multiple page views, events, social interactions, and eCommerce transactions.

In GA4, sessions are only initiated through one user action: when a user opens your app or web page. Sessions are ended only after 30 mins of user inactivity. While this may seem like a minor change, it can have a significant impact on the way we analyze and interact with our data.

Privacy Consent Mode– GA4 was built to complement cookieless browsing and growing privacy concerns. Privacy Consent Mode is designed to help manage tracking based on collected consent levels. It works with your consent management platform to identify cookie and app-identifier consent levels and communicate with tracking tags. Tags then automatically adjust to respect the user’s choices. This ensures your business remains compliant with current and future privacy policies.

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Need help making the most of your data?

The switch from UA to GA4 is upon us, whether we like it or not. If you haven’t introduced GA4 into your analytics processes yet, consider partnering with a digital agency with proven experience.

Fahrenheit Marketing has the analytics expertise to make this transition a seamless one. We can give you knowledge on how to properly pull data from relevant sources, report on it, and decipher what it actually means for your business goals. Reach out today to schedule a consultation and let us help you grow your business.

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