Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a newer and better version of Google Analytics. It will replace your existing version, Universal Analytics (GA3), on the 1st of July 2023 if you are using the Free version, and on the 1st of July 2024 if you are using the Premium/360 version.
If you are looking into Google Analytics 4 Setup & Configuration then at Martech Ninjas we know all the ins and outs of the process.
Let’s take a closer look at all the main differences between GA4 and GA3:
- New Architecture
In GA4, you will no longer find the concept of ‘View’ as you had in GA3. Note: the closest thing to a ‘View’ now in GA4 is the ‘Sub-property’ feature, which is only available on Premium/360 accounts, and does not cover all use-cases.
In GA3, a ‘View’ is where data can be accessed, and this can be a subset of data collected with the aid of filters (e.g., only data from the US). Now, in GA4, the ‘Property’ is the level in your account in which data can be accessed, and different filters can be applied to narrow down the data that is collected in that Property (e.g., exclude employee traffic).
- Organization: Allows a user to access the company’s different Google products (e.g., Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, etc.) and manage users, permissions, and cross-product integrations.
- Account: The account level allows you to access Google Analytics.
- Property: Simply put, a property is an app or website and where the data can be accessed.
- Sub-property: closest thing to the concept of ‘View’ in GA3. Only available on the paid Premium/360 version.
- Data Stream: Source of data gathered from app or website by the analytics tool.
- Updated Data Structure
In GA4, events are at the heart of everything, as opposed to ‘Sessions’ in GA3. This is shown via the diagram below.
A good example of what the move to an event-based model means is that page views in GA4 are now an event – ‘page_view’, which was not the case in GA3.
- New Data Model
The new data model in GA4 that measures actions (events) on your app/website is more flexible. It no longer follows a limited, hierarchical system as in GA3: Event Category > Event Action > Event Label, and there is no limitation to use only those 3 built in descriptors.
In GA4, there is now a mandatory ‘Event name’ and optional ‘Event parameters’ that can be sent along with the event to provide additional context about the event itself.
- GA4 Event Types
GA4 introduces 4 types of events:
- Automatically Collected Events: These events are automatically collected by default when GA4 is set up.
- Enhanced Measurement Events: For the most part, these events are collected automatically when the Enhanced Measurement feature is enabled in the GA4 user interface. Note: some of these events will not automatically start collecting data once this feature is activated; some manual implementation may be required.
- Recommended Events: These events require custom implementation. They also have predefined names and parameters provided by Google to unlock both existing and future reporting capabilities.
- Custom Events: Just like recommended events, these also require custom implementation, but they can follow any naming convention. Creating these events should only be done when none of the above types cover the use case.
In GA3, you could use custom events with a different data model as seen in the previous section, but in GA4 you can leverage the other types, allowing data to either be collected automatically or with the aid of manual, custom implementation.
- Platform Integrations
Previously, in GA3, only Premium/360 users were able to link Google Analytics to other platforms in the Google Marketing Platform (GMP) suite, like Google Ads or Campaign Manager 360.
Now, in GA4, the Free/Standard version of Google Analytics can also be linked to other Google platforms without the need to pay for the Premium/360 version to benefit from this feature.
Below, we’ll take a look at the benefits of linking GA4 to other platforms.
- Benefits of linking GA4 to other platforms
The main benefits of linking GA4 to other platforms are:
- Full customer journey: By analysing how prospects/customers interact with marketing campaigns (acquisition) and behave on your website/app, you can better understand whether they are converting or not (engagement/monetization).
- Retargeting: Users who visited your website/app but did not convert can be targeted through Google advertising platforms (activation), redirected to your website, and converted into customers.
- Look-a-like audiences: To grow your business, you can create look-a-like audiences from existing customers that visited your website/app and converted.
- A/B Testing: You can A/B test and analyse the results of your experiments to increase your conversion rate.
- Raw data: GA4 offers the ability to query all your event-based raw data with no sampling or extrapolation. You will be able to perform advanced analysis on large data sets to uncover insights that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
As previously mentioned, you could only link your Google Analytics account to other platforms if you were a paying customer with a Premium/360 account, but in GA4, even Free and Standard users can link.
- Cross-Platform Analytics
Previously, Google Analytics 3 reporting was fragmented and incoherent, because the data collected from websites was separate from the app. In GA4, web user data and app user data are collected on the same platform to provide you with a holistic view of your customers.
There are clearly some big differences between GA3 and GA4. While GA3 was heavily focused on gathering data related to website performance, the new system has been updated and upgraded in some key areas to provide much more customer-oriented insights and information, which should help businesses boost conversions and strengthen their funnel models.
However, the changes may present certain challenges for business users who had gotten used to the way in which GA3 functioned. With GA3 soon to be replaced entirely, users will have to overcome those challenges and adapt to the new way of working with GA4. If you need support on overcoming the challenges of migrating to GA4, then at Martech Ninjas we can help you.