We’re less than a year away from Google deprecating Universal Analytics in favor of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) - the next generation of the platform that tackles increased consumer privacy expectations and complex international privacy legislation and regulation.
Standard (i.e. free) Universal Analytics (UA) properties will deprecate on July 1, 2023, followed by Universal Analytics 360 properties on July 1, 2024. As the deprecation date draws nearer, we’re getting a clearer picture of what is changing with GA4 and what it means for those using the tool as a part of their measurement program.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the major changes in how metrics are defined and calculated in the new platform and why marketers should be mindful before diving in.
A few core metrics in Google Analytics (GA) are changing, meaning any analysis or measurement you are doing with these fields will be impacted. This includes:
GA4 is introducing “Active Users” which counts those that have an engaged session across mobile or desktop experiences. This will be the default User field in most standard reports. In the legacy Universal Analytics platform, User counted all sessions for all users — which can be drastically higher depending on how often users continue coming back to the website. Total Users will still be available in GA4, but noted as a separate field. This becomes important as you look to understand volume and engagement across your site.
GA4 focuses on a complete view of the customer experience. With this, Page Views now automatically include app engagement detail, which previously required mobile-specific setup to track in the legacy Universal Analytics platform. For those with large app usage, make sure you account for this change in any pre/post comparisons.
Purchases should match cleanly for the most part but anytime you are looking at data in two different systems, there tends to be slight deviations caused by back-end infrastructure and speed to firing tags. There is also more technical setup required to appropriately capture Purchases in GA4. Based on how Users and Sessions are now defined and tracked, if e-commerce tracking is not setup properly, GA4 Purchases could become misaligned to previous reporting. To avoid this, make sure to follow the documentation closely and ensure parameters are setup correctly.
Bounce rate in GA4 is now a better indicator of overall engagement rate than Bounce Rate in the legacy platform. With more and more websites and apps having singular application experiences, traditional bounce rates no longer were an effective way of measuring success or failure because they required needing to move to another page or a setup that would properly trigger a new event. This often resulted in pages that had embedded experiences showing exceedingly high bounce rates because the intent wasn’t to drive to another page or trigger a new event.
This list isn’t comprehensive of all the changes coming with GA4 but should be enough to get organizations moving to better understand what this will mean to their business. And it should give you a sense for why it’s critical to understand what’s changing sooner than later. Without appropriate benchmarks in place and accounting for the changes between the two platforms, you’ll lose an accurate read on your data which will impact the decisions you make.
Now is the time to get on top of the changes so you’re ready when Universal Analytics is deprecated next year. We’re here to help you navigate through it and will continue to provide updates on what to expect. Next up, we’ll dive into what’s changing with machine learning and pricing.
Want to talk more about how these changes impact your business?