What Is Google Analytics 4? (And When Should I Upgrade to GA4?)

Sarah is a Web Marketing Specialist at WebFX. Certified in Google Analytics and Google Ads, Sarah also specializes in content marketing, as well as marketing and advertising on ecommerce platforms like Amazon. In 2006, she was awarded Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” award. When she isn’t polishing her award, she’s spending time with her flock of ducks. Follow her on Twitter @the_berry_bot.

Smarter marketing is at your fingertips with the new Google Analytics, called Google Analytics 4 or GA4.

What is Google Analytics 4? GA4 is a Google Analytics property that allows your business to track website and app analytics together, as well as adapt to evolving standards for using cookies to track user activity so that you can create a smarter, data-driven marketing strategy.

That’s just the beginning, though, so keep reading to learn more and get answers to questions like:

P.S. Love analytics and want to power your marketing strategy with even more data? Then check out MarketingCloudFX, which provides real-time insight into your marketing performance alongside strategic recommendations from the artificial intelligence power of IBM Watson and Google AI.

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What is Google Analytics 4?

GA4 dashboard

Google Analytics 4, also called GA4 or App + Web, is a type of Google Analytics property. Besides allowing users to unify website and app analytics for increased insights into buyer journeys, GA4 also future-proofs itself by supporting cookie-free tracking and evolving privacy standards.

What is the difference between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics?

If you’re like most Google Analytics users, then you’re most familiar with Universal Analytics or UA. Universal Analytics, like GA4, is a type of Google Analytics property, and it’s the property type your business most likely uses to track its website analytics.

This introduces the question, what is the difference between GA4 and UA? Find out in this table:

Difference Universal Analytics Google Analytics 4
Hit types Tracks multiple hit types, like:
· Pageview
· Event
· Social
· Transaction
· User timing
All hit types, from pageviews to transactions, register as an event.
Events Organizes events by:
· Category
· Action
· Label
Eliminates Category, Action, and Label organization. Instead, GA4 uses the following model:
· Automatically collected
· Enhanced measurement
· Recommended events
· Custom events
Pageviews and screenviews Uses the following attributes:
· page_title
· page_location
· page_path
· None
Uses the following attributes:
· page_title
· page_location
· page_path
· page_referrer
Sessions Includes multiple pageviews, events, social interactions, and ecommerce transactions. Sessions end after 30 minutes of inactivity. Detects user activity automatically versus relying on a 30-minute inactivity timer.
Custom dimensions and metrics Uses the following scopes:
· Hit
· User
· Session
· Product
Uses the following equivalents for UA scopes:
· Hit scope becomes an event or event parameter
· A user scope becomes a user property
· A product scope becomes an ecommerce parameter
GA does not have an equivalent for session scopes.
Content grouping Groups content so you can see an overview of content performance and compare metrics between content within that group. Removes the content groupings feature. Instead, you can create event parameters for content groupings.
User ID Allow users to analyze their data. Allows you to see user activity across your app and website but requires you to generate unique and persistent IDs.
Client ID Stored as a cookie to identify a browser instance and associate activity with the same user. Remains the same in GA4
Parameters Unavailable in UA Get additional information on user actions. For example, a pageview could also include the article title or article_title.GA4 allows you to include up to 25 parameters per event.
User property Logs user properties like device. Remains the same
Historical data limit Unlimited 14 months

If you want to explore the differences between GA4 and UA more, try Google’s free demo account.

This account will provide you instant access to GA4 and UA for the Google Merchandise Store. Use that account to compare and experience the different features between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics.

3 of the best Google Analytics 4 benefits for businesses

The new Google Analytics is noticeably different from the old Google Analytics, which is why it’s helpful to understand the advantages that come with Google Analytics 4. That way, you can adopt and start benefiting from the new platform sooner.

Three of the best Google Analytics 4 benefits include:

1.      Improve your marketing ROI with automatic alerts from GA4

Thanks to advanced machine learning models from Google, your business can receive automatic alerts from G4 when trends start to appear in your data. For example, if your company starts selling more of Product A, then Google Analytics 4 will let you know before you start to see the sales increase.

You can then respond fast, like by notifying your suppliers so that you can keep that product in-stock.


GA4 ecommerce purchases


Google Analytics 4 can also help you predict behavior among customer groups. For example, GA4 could create models that calculate the potential revenue of a group of customers or the churn probability of different user segments.

2.      Make your marketing campaigns smarter with audience insights from GA4

Unifying your website and app data is another Google Analytics 4 benefit.

Even if you don’t have an app now, GA4 provides a future-proofed solution if you develop one later.

Besides syncing your website and app data (and how user journeys happen across the two), GA4 also makes it possible to analyze user behavior by their place in the buying funnel, like awareness versus conversion.


GA4 monetization overview


When you have a better understanding of how users behave at different stages, you have the power to create a better marketing strategy. For example, if you notice that most of your purchases include a coupon shared on social media, you may increase your social media investment.

With GA4, you have the power to create a relevant marketing experience that drives more revenue.

3.      Keep your marketing strategy ahead with a future-proof design from GA4

One of the biggest benefits of the new Google Analytics is its future-proof design.

With greater interest in user privacy and a move away from cookie-based tracking, it’s become critical for analytics platforms like Google Analytics to adapt. That’s why GA4 provides a solution that doesn’t depend on cookies to operate.

While Google acknowledges that some data gaps will happen with this approach, the company plans to use accurate modeling to fill those gaps. That way, you still have trusted data to reference and power your marketing approach and reports.

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When should I upgrade to Google Analytics 4?

When it comes to the question of “Should I upgrade to Google Analytics 4?” there is a great answer.


GA4 setup


Since Google allows your business to use GA4 and UA together, you can get started with Google Analytics 4 right away — without saying goodbye to Universal Analytics. With this option, you get the time to become familiar with GA4 without giving up UA.

So, go ahead and upgrade to Google Analytics 4 by adding it alongside your UA property!

How to get started with GA4

If you want to add a GA4 property to your website, follow these steps:

  1. Log into your Google Analytics account
  2. Click “Admin”
  3. Choose your account from the “Account” column
  4. Select your Universal Analytics property from the “Property” column
  5. Click “GA4 Setup Assistant” from the Property column
  6. Click “Get started”
  7. Select “Create Property”

Voila — you’re done!

As a side note, if your business uses any of the following, you will need to add your analytics tag for GA4:

Google Tag Manager will offer the fastest and easiest solution for this step because you avoid manually updating your website pages to add your Google Analytics 4 tag. Instead, you’ll update your Google Tag Manager container with a GA4 tag.

Check out Google’s walkthrough to learn more about adding your analytics tag for GA4.

Once you have your Google Analytics 4 property set up, you’ll start receiving data. Keep in mind that Google will not import past data from your Universal Analytics property, though you can migrate UA settings to GA4.

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Go beyond GA4 and get more data from your site with MarketingCloudFX

Google Analytics 4 is the next step towards smarter, more data-driven marketing for businesses worldwide. If you’re looking to take your small-to-midsized company’s marketing to the next level, though, consider MarketingCloudFX.

With MarketingCloudFX, you can:

  • Measure your return on investment (ROI) in real-time
  • Power your marketing decisions with billions of industry data points
  • Manage your lead generation and nurturing efforts
  • Sync your leads with your custom relationship management (CRM) software
  • Record your user website behavior
  • And more

Learn more about upping your ROI with MarketingCloudFX by contacting us online or calling us at 888-601-5359!

Bonus Reading: How to Check if Google Analytics Is Working in 5 Ways