Google Analytics is one of the leading tools for analyzing the traffic to a website and the behavior of its visitors. Launched back in 2005, the tool has undergone lots of changes through the years to become probably the most comprehensive analytics instrument for website owners. In 2020, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) was introduced as a new property to replace the current Universal Analytics (UA) property.
GA4 (Google Analytics 4) is the newest version of Google Analytics, and it uses machine learning to automatically identify and track user interactions on a website. It also includes new features such as enhanced measurement and cross-device tracking, and it focuses on providing a more holistic view of customer behavior across all touchpoints. It is different from Universal Analytics, which is the previous version of Google Analytics, focused on website traffic and user behavior and used tracking code placed on a website.
In July 2023, GA4 will become the only available property you can use. Let’s have a look at the changes that GA4 includes, how you can migrate from UA to GA4 and how you can add GA4 to your website, even if you haven't used such tools yet. In simple terms, a property is “a set of Google Analytics reports and data associated with one or more websites and/or apps” (source).
- What is new in GA4?
- Why should you switch to Google Analytics 4?
- How to switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4?
- How to add GA4 to your website?
- Using Google Analytics 4 with ICDSoft
What is new in GA4?
Google Analytics 4 brings some important changes, so website owners who want to use the tool should be familiar with them. For a start, GA4 uses a different data measurement model. It will collect and report data differently from the old Google Analytics Engine - Universal Analytics.
Unlike Universal Analytics that looks at sessions and page views, GA4 tracks data using an event-based model. In other words, UA looks at a single individual, while GA4 looks at specific actions that users take. The change makes it very easy to keep track of events such as scrolls and outbound link clicks.
Some metrics that you may be using in UA will change significantly in GA4. Bounce rate, for example, will not appear in your reports anymore. Instead, you will see “Engaged sessions per user”, or how many people have interacted with the content on your website. Form conversion has been removed in GA4 as well.
Goals are replaced with events. If you have an online store, for example, you can monitor how many times people have entered their information on a specific page instead of tracking only how many people have reached that page.
Google Analytics 4 uses machine learning to provide predictive reporting about conversions and potential revenue. It also predicts customer trends and behavior. In addition, GA4 also offers deeper integration with Google Ads, so you can easily see how your campaigns are doing.
One big difference is that GA4 allows you to export all the analytics data to BigQuery - Google’s data warehouse. From there, you can export it to your own data management platform, where you can combine it with data from other sources. This option is available even if you are a free user, and before GA4, it was available only to enterprise customers.
Google Analytics 4 is a huge upgrade when you compare it to Universal Analytics, so the best way to discover it is to create a new property and explore all the options it offers.
Why should you switch to Google Analytics 4?
For a couple of years, users could use both Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4. From July 1, 2023, only GA4 will be available, while UA will be discontinued. In this light, you don’t really have a choice which property to use after July 1. Google Analytics 4 has a number of advantages over Universal Analytics, though. We will mention a few of them that will convince you that you should switch to GA4 before the UA sunset date.
- Collect more information. GA4 allows you to collect far more data compared to UA. You will be able to see a complete customer lifecycle – from the moment a visitor lands on your website, until the moment they leave. You can get a better insight into what people do on your website compared to Universal Analytics.
- Rich real-time data. Get a better idea of what happens on your website. You can see even granular data for each individual visitor in real time – scrolls, events, etc. GA4 is much better in real-time reporting compared to UA.
- Automatic tracking. Google Analytics 4 will track certain actions automatically, so you won’t have to configure them manually as you would have to do in Universal Analytics.
- More customizable interface. You can fully customize your reports, which is something that UA lacks. Choose the metrics and the dimensions of the data, add filters and charts, create summary cards or link to other reports. Once you are familiar with the GA4 options, you can create reports that will display only the data you really want to see.
How to switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4?
Unfortunately, there is no direct switch/upgrade method. You would need to migrate from the old system to the new one.
To start, log in to your Analytics account and go to the Admin section. Click on the GA4 Setup Assistant link, and then create a new GA4 property. Your basic settings will be copied automatically from your Universal Analytics property. The Setup Assistant will show you if there is anything you have to complete manually after that.
If you have any audiences or users, you will have to migrate them manually. You can follow the official Google guides for that.
To migrate users, for example, you will have to install the GA4 Migrator for Google Analytics™ extension to Google Sheets, and then use it to migrate all users from one property to another. Other options such as migrating goals into events are easier and do not require the installation of any extensions or the usage of other tools. You can use the Setup Assistant for them.
If you use Google Ads links, you can take advantage of the deeper integration with GA4. You can follow the steps provided by Google to migrate all your Google Ads links to your new GA4 property.
Of course, you should not forget to edit the Google code on your website. Replace the Universal Analytics ID with your new Google tag if your site software supports easy integration, or make sure that you use the new Google tag snippet if there isn’t an integration option, and you have to add the entire HTML code manually.
How to add GA4 to your website?
Adding GA4 to a new site is simpler. Let's see how to do this.
First, log in with your Google account at https://analytics.google.com and click on Start Measuring.
Then, choose a name for the account and the property you will create. You will notice that there is an option to create a UA property as well, but since only GA4 will be available after July 2023, you shouldn’t use this option. You will be directed to the property home page, where you can find various measurements.
You should add your domain name and GA4 will start measuring things like Page views, Scrolls, File downloads, etc. once you add the GA4 code to your website (more about that below).
Once you are done adding the domain, you will see a note to set up your Google tag. This is the code that includes your unique ID. You should add your Google tag to your website so that GA4 can start tracking events and visitor activity.
Once you click on the View tag instructions button, you will see several installation options, including a few popular content management systems.
We will start with the “Install manually” option. Selecting it will lead you to a page where you can see a small code snippet, which includes your GA4 tag, or your unique ID. You should add that code after the tag of any page on your site that you want to be monitored. This option is unique, and you can use it for any type of website, regardless of the software you have used to build it.
If you use WordPress, Google suggest using the plugins Site Kit by Google and MonsterInsights. You can use any other plugin as well, such as GA Google Analytics or a plugin that allows you to add custom HTML code. Site Kit is maintained by Google and allows you to log in with your Google account for better integration. Other similar plugins will allow you to add your GA4 tag and track the behavior of the site visitors as well.
For Drupal, you can install a Google Analytics module, and after you enable it, you can add your tag. For Wix or Squarespace, look for the Google Analytics option in your account settings.
If you use Cloudflare for your domain name, you can use a tool called Zaraz in your Cloudflare dashboard. There, you can add your Google tag and then create various triggers and events. Zaraz loads third-party code in the cloud, so this is a way to use Google Analytics 4 without loading the Google script on your website. As Cloudflare mention though, some GA4 features may not be available if you use the platform this way.
After integrating GA4 into your website, you can keep modifying anything you need in your Google Analytics account – create events, add audiences and monitor their conversions, create data filters, customize reports, etc. You will not have to modify the code on your website to reflect these changes, so the only thing left will be to explore the GA4 options and to get familiar with them.
Using Google Analytics 4 with ICDSoft
All software that we offer supports Google Analytics 4 integration either by default, or with a plugin/module, so you can simply add your Google tag ID. If you use our Website Builder, for example, you can do that in the site settings, and the application will do the rest. For WordPress, we already mentioned Site Kit by Google and MonsterInsights, but you can use any other similar plugin.
Google Analytics 4 can also be used with our hosting reseller program. If you want to resell our services, and you use our hosted storefront, you can simply add your Google tag ID as our platform is GA4-ready.
If you use Universal Analytics and you have not migrated to the new Google Analytics 4 properly, you have about six months to do so. We recommend that you do that well ahead of July 1, 2023 – the sunset date for all standard properties. This way, you will have enough time to become familiar with the new property and to make sure that all your data has been migrated properly. This is an entirely new analytics tool, so you should not leave this migration for the last possible moment.
If you have not used Google Analytics so far, this is your chance to start using probably the most comprehensive analytics tool out there. You will be able to track specific events of your choice, outbound clicks that can help you to understand when or why people leave your site, scrolls that can help you to manage your content, etc.
Installing Google Analytics 4 is easy and takes a few steps, no matter if you use a self-hosted platform like WordPress or Drupal, a cloud site builder such as Wix or Squarespace, or you have a custom-made website. A few clicks will allow you to set up your Google tag and add it to your site. You can then see comprehensive reports and get an insight into the behavior of your website visitors.