Why now is the best time to move from Universal Analytics to GA4

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While Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has been around since October 2020, until this year switching to Google’s newest analytics tool was a matter of personal preference. If you were happy to stay with Universal Analytics, you didn’t need to make the switch. This year, however, is different - and the final changeover is happening.

Read on to find out how to make the transition from Universal Analytics to GA4 as smooth as possible.
Chapter 1

What is GA4?

GA4 is Google’s newest tracking tool. According to Google, GA4 represents the next generation of Analytics.

This tracking tool is designed to gather data from both your website and your app - and the way the data is collected is very different from how Universal Analytics does it.

Below we list the main differences between Universal Analytics and GA4.
People looking at data

GA4 combines website and app data

Google developed GA4 to address the issue of customer journeys becoming more complex and often involving multiple platforms. With the number of custom apps exploding a few years ago, often a customer would start their journey on a company’s website and then make a purchase through the app, with multiple user sessions happening in between.

This is why it is so important to combine and analyse the data collected from the web and the app – and GA4 does just that.

GA4 is event-based – not session-based

Rather than collecting data on specific user sessions as Universal Analytics does, GA4 relies on AI-based insights to detect trends in the data collected, predict customer actions, and estimate revenue.

One important difference is that GA4 heavily focuses on the data collected after a customer has been acquired, such as their engagement, total monetisation, and retention.

GA4 uses AI to provide reliable predictive capability

GA4 continues to build on the power of AI to expand its predictive power.

While Google has been offering some AI-based insights with its Google Now since 2016, GA4 is more specific in predicting important trends in customer behaviour.

For example, GA4 can anticipate increases or decreases in demand for specific products and estimate revenue from certain audience segments. It can also predict the probability of important customer actions that are otherwise quite difficult to estimate – such as rates of customer attrition (or churn), i.e. the percentage of your existing customers that are unlikely to make another purchase from your business.

GA4 uses cookieless management to comply with current online privacy regulations

The new Google Analytics is specifically designed to address the new, stricter online privacy regulations that specify how user data can be collected, stored, and analysed.

GA4 represents another move towards cookieless data management where gaps in customer data created by missing or incomplete information are filled in by data modelling.

Chapter 2

What are the main benefits of GA4?

So you're making the change to Google Analytics 4? Find out the main benefits of moving to Google Analytics 4 for your business
Data showcased in multiple forms

GA4 is more customer-centric

The ability to track the customer journey as a whole – rather than relying on fragmented data collected from multiple devices and platforms – is one of the key benefits of the new Google Analytics.

Reporting in GA4 also reflects its increased customer-centricity. To make tracking a customer through all stages of a marketing funnel as simple as possible, GA4 features Life Cycle – a dedicated new section that combines reports on Acquisition, Engagement, Monetisation, and Retention. Previously, only the Acquisition report was available – so it is a significant improvement that provides further insights into the customer lifecycle.


AI-based predictions are more detailed and actionable

You receive automatic alerts of AI-based predictions based on trends in the data that you could have otherwise missed. This eliminates the need for you to conduct your own analysis that would often involve complex modelling and require significant investments of time and human resources. 

These alerts make you aware of emerging trends early, allowing you to adjust your actions in real time to capitalise on growth opportunities – and detect and minimise any emerging risks. 

Google Ads – and other paid and organic channels – are better integrated and tracked across multiple platforms

In response to multiple advertiser requests, GA4 now measures the overall performance of your ads, combining the app and web integration data. 

In addition to your Google Ads and YouTube Ads conversions, the performance tracking of other paid channels such as Facebook and organic channels (search, social media, email campaigns) also combines the web and app data.

This represents a significant move towards tracking a total return on your online marketing investment, helping you to see the bigger picture and improve your online strategy.

Chapter 3

What is the deadline for making the switch to GA4?

July 1, 2023, is the date after which Universal Analytics will no longer process new data. If you have the paid version, Universal Analytics 360, you can access the product for another three months, until October 1, 2023. After this date, the only Google tracking tool you can use is GA4.
People looking at more data

To start the transition, you’ll need to set up your GA4 and run it simultaneously with Universal Analytics. Since GA4 does not support importing data from Universal Analytics, it is in your best interests to start running GA4 as soon as possible to collect data and familiarise yourself with the tool while still having access to the legacy version.

So, even if you prefer Universal Analytics – or just are very used to it by now – in 2023, the switch to GA4 is no longer optional. Switching now, however, allows you plenty of time for a smooth transition before Universal Analytics is phased out completely.

So, go ahead and move from Universal Analytics to GA4 now. If you would like some guidance in making the transition – or have any other SEO-related questions – we at Digital Marketing Tribe are always happy to help!

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