Probably every one of our readers knows what Universal Analytics is and uses this service. So you have all seen the message of the service that by July 2023 all projects should be transferred to Google Analytics 4, because the usual version will become obsolete and unavailable. But in truth, you should not wait a year until circumstances force you to switch to the new version. GA4 is a cool tool with its advantages, and Traffic Manager newage. Vlad Bilousov will prove it in the following article. We will not touch on the deep nuances of tracking, but we will talk about the specific differences that the user will see (site owner, content manager, seo-specialist, etc.).
You can upgrade from the old to the new version by simply clicking the button in the popup you see when you run Universal Analytics, or from this help article. However, you can always go back to the old version to compare some graphs and data by simply switching the properties.
The main feature of Google Analytics 4, with which the service entered the market and which was its “killer feature” from the beginning – is the combination in one window of data about the site and applications. This positioning further influenced the logic of data presentation, setting a certain section under which we examine the data. So, even if you only have a website without apps, GA4 will be useful because it can open new insights that were not available to you in the old interface with the old data view. Further, we will analyze which ones.
User Engagement Instead of Bounce Rate
In Google Analytics 4, there is no bounce rate. It will be recalled that “bounce” in Universal Analytics was considered a one-page session during which the user did not move from the login page to another, or did not achieve any of the goals. That is, if the user went on a long landing and read it to the end, it was considered a “refusal” because then the user left the site from the login page (if there was no conversion by the percentage of scroll or time on the site).
Currently, even one-page behavior is evaluated in terms of engagement. Long activity on the site, page scrolling, and completed form are considered events, so the page instead of the label “bounce” will receive, on the contrary, a high engagement rate.
If you want to estimate the bounce rate, subtract the existing engagement rate from 100%. The number obtained will be the percentage of users who left the site without any active action on it. However, the result of such a calculation will not be equal to the percentage of failures shown by Universal Analytics.
Engagement Time Instead of Session Duration
Another interesting indicator is the average engagement time, which differs slightly from the closest analog in Universal Analytics. The old version counted the time difference between the last conversion or conversion and the time the user came to the site. GA4 defines the duration of the involved session as the sum of the periods when the user was actively doing something.
Let’s simulate a situation: a person opens your site and suddenly hears that a kettle is boiling in the kitchen. She goes to drink tea, and in 10 minutes she returns, goes to another page of your site, and closes the tab. Universal Analytics will show more than 10 minutes of activity here, and GA4 – a few seconds. Of course, the real difference in data is smaller, but it is.
Easy Data Segmentation
The information in the reports can be investigated both for all traffic and for individual segments. By default, the reports are “All Users”. You can create your audience or select one of the ready-made segments. You can create up to four custom segments and compare them with each other.
Segments are not saved, if you need to save frequently used segments, you need to configure them in the Configure section.
Improved Insights Section
The Insights section is also in Universal Analytics, but there it consists of separate cards on the main page with random facts about your traffic.
In Google Analytics 4, on the other hand, insights are available from anywhere – they are opened by a button in the upper right corner of the screen. The section offers to choose one of the prepared questions, such as: “What language do my users speak?” or “How many users came from organic in the last month?”
In this sidebar, you can choose only from the listed questions, but it also offers to enter your questions in the search for the service. And this search really works, even if the question is not in English. At the same time, Universal Analytics is less aware of what a non-English user wants from it.
Nuance: Aggregate or Full Data
However, there is a downside that can not be ignored. Some GA4 reports are not based on complete site data, but on aggregate ones. The service offers to believe that he did not miss anything important.
Next to the name of each report in GA4 there is a mark in the form of a green tick or an orange triangle.
Accordingly, they indicate which data the report consists of: complete or sampled. If you upload a report based on sampled data, the uploaded data will be incomplete. It is currently impossible to switch sources, so all that remains is to keep this in mind.
However, if you have customized integration and Google Analytics passes on your data, it is completely transferred. In cases where detail is extremely important to you, you should set up uploading information, such as Google BigQuery for visualization in Google Data Studio and already build your own reports in it.
- Update Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, at least out of curiosity. You have a year to get acquainted with the new interface without losing access to the old one.
- Google Analytics 4 combines analytics of sites and mobile applications, which influenced the general philosophy of the service, and its approach to user behavior. In particular, GA4 does not consider a one-page session “bounce”, but the service monitors the actions of the user. even if he did not go to other pages. In addition, Google Analytics 4 separately counts the time spent by the user on the site, as opposed to the simple “time on the site” available in Universal Analytics reports.
- The Insights section in Google Analytics 4 is more informative than its Universal Analytics counterpart. Also, now not only English-speaking users can ask questions about the service in the search bar – in particular, Google Analytics 4 understands queries, for example, in Ukrainian, in contrast to Universal Analytics.
- One of the downsides to Google Analytics 4 is that some reports aren’t based on all of the site’s data but aggregate data. In addition, it should be noted that the service is still under active development, so some features may not be available.
- You should still switch to Google Analytics 4, because the interface of the new service is different from the old one, and the sooner you get used to it, the better. Now you have the opportunity to gradually, without stress, deal with standard reports and customize custom reports. And if you need help, consultation, or a personal “tour” of the service – write “Need help with GA4” to firstname.lastname@example.org.