One of the biggest news I’ve heard recently is that Google is sunsetting Universal Analytics (UA) and encouraging users to move to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). On 1 July 2023, Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits. Thus, it’s strongly recommended to start using Google Analytics 4 to prepare for the future.
Also, note that after 1 July 2023, you’ll be able to access your previously processed data in your Universal Analytics property for at least 6 months. Again, it’s recommended to export your historical reports during this time.
Google hasn’t set a date but after this future date, Universal Analytics will no longer be available. You’ll no longer be able to see your Universal Analytics reports in the Analytics interface or access your Universal Analytics data via the API.
If you created your property before 14 October 2020, you’re likely using Universal Analytics. If you created your property after 14 October 2020, you’re likely using Google Analytics 4 already and no action is required.
Today, I’ll share the differences between Universal Analytics (UA) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4), how to switch from UA to GA4 and my personal experience.
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Universal Analytics (UA) vs Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
Here are some key differences that you need to take note of when moving from UA to GA4:
UA Hit Types Translate To GA4 Events
I think this is the biggest difference between them.
In Universal Analytics, there are hit types such as page views, event hits and social interaction hits. However, these hit types are translated to events in Google Analytics 4. GA4 data is event-based where any interaction can be captured as an event.
Session Differences Lead to Session Count Disparity
A session is a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame.
In Universal Analytics, a session can comprise multiple page views, events, social interactions and ecommerce transactions. Sessions end once there has been 30 minute period of inactivity or another qualifying reset event has occurred.
On the other hand, Google Analytics 4 session metrics are derived from the session_start event, an automatically collected event. The duration of a session is based on the time span between the first and last event in the session.
Due to this and other nuances, the session count between UA and GA4 is likely to be different.
UA Goals Become GA4 Conversion Events
Universal Analytics supports 5 goal types: destination, duration, pages/session, smart goals and event goals. Google Analytics 4, in contrast, only supports conversion events. You might not be able to precisely duplicate some UA goal types, such as smart or duration goals using GA4 conversion events.
In addition, UA counts only 1 conversion per session, for the same goal. GA4 counts multiple conversions per session, for the same conversion event.
Switching From Universal Analytics (UA) To Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
Before making the switch, I strongly recommend that you spend some time thinking about account structure. As a digital marketing specialist, I’ve seen the account structure of many clients’ Google Analytics. Some of them created different GA properties for various countries, subdomains or products/services (that actually sit under the same domain). When switching to GA4, this is your chance to restructure your account. For example, you can choose to merge the various properties so it’s easier to see all data.
Google has a very in-depth guide on making this switch from UA to GA4
- Consider account structure
- Create a Google Analytics 4 property
- Create data stream(s)
- Enable data collection
- Activate Google Signals
- Link to Google Ads
- Map Universal Analytics custom events to Google Analytics 4
- Migrate Universal Analytics goals and conversions to Google Analytics 4
- Validate and bid to conversions in Google Ads
- Migrate audiences
- Migrate ecommerce measurement
- Add users
The most difficult part for me was replicating UA goals as GA4 conversion events. But no worries, you can always search for articles on how other people did this (I did too!).
After you’re done setting up, I strongly recommend that you examine data from both UA and GA4. There will definitely be differences but at least, you’ll familiarize yourself with how GA4 is.
My Personal Experience Of Moving From Universal Analytics (UA) To Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
As mentioned earlier, I only had difficulties when reproducing UA goals in GA4. But this was easily solved by researching how other people did it.
Right now, I’m logging down the number of sessions monthly for UA and GA4. There is a difference in session count due to the session differences and also because I’ve removed segments. Previously, I always excluded sessions from my country in UA. But now, I’ve decided to just include everything in GA4. GA4 has Demographics Overview and Demographic Details reports so you can see the country breakdown. And this is sufficient for me~
When I recreated my UA goals as GA4 conversion events, I decided to combine all my affiliate clicks together. This way, I’ll only have 1 tag in my Google Tag Manager, rather than numerous ones. This also means that my affiliate conversion events appear as the click URL and page URL which are super long and difficult to see in the GA4 report interface. Therefore, I created a Google Data Studio report that I can easily customize according to the dimensions and metrics I need. Plus, I can adjust the column width and rename the long URL using CASE formula.
Now It’s Your Turn
Have you transitioned from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)? How was your experience?