The Specialist View – GA4

Specialist advice on how to make the most of your channel in today’s media market.

3rd May 2023 Read time: 4 minutes
What's happening?

From 1st July, Universal Analytics (UA) will no longer take in any more data as the platform is replaced by Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

While this represents a significant change, GA4 will be hugely beneficial to marketers: fewer reporting limitations, improved metric definitions and exciting new features like predictive modelling and visualisation tools.

Here are top tips and FAQs for those of you who already know your way around UA.

1. Where have my reports gone?

Rather than creating a standard set of reports automatically, GA4 provides you with all the tools to make the ones that are most useful to your business – it’s just a case of understanding where these tools sit.

Reports can be generated from any of the following three workspaces:

Reports: Here you’ll find a view very similar to Universal Analytics. By navigating within these headings, you’ll see familiar tables which are easily customisable using the pen icon in the top right corner. UA’s “Segments” can be mimicked by adding “Comparisons” at the top of the page. All of these reports can be added to your navigation table so that you can have easy access to the ones you use most.

Advertising: This is a new section which focuses on conversions and is set to a Data-Driven Attribution model by default. Here you will find “Model Comparison” and “Conversion Path” reports.

Explore: This workspace has amazing opportunities for more in-depth reporting and data visualisation.

2. Do sessions still exist?

Firstly, yes – sessions absolutely still exist within GA4! This common misconception stems from the fact that within GA4 they exist in a slightly different way to UA in order to improve reporting capabilities.

Remember compiling a report in UA and finding the metrics or dimensions you wanted to combine were incompatible with each other? This is because in UA, sessions were used as a way of structuring and grouping the data.

However, in GA4, starting a session is classed as a type of event like any other (e.g. page view, scroll, click), which means we can monitor sessions in a way that they no longer cause unnecessary blockers to our reporting capabilities.

3. Can I still measure bounce rate?

Once again, yes! Bounce rate is still a metric within GA4, but, as with sessions, it exists in a slightly different form.

Within UA, a bounced user was any user that only viewed one page. This meant that even if a user spent an hour on your page, or signed up to a newsletter on that page, they would be counted as a bounce.

In GA4, a user is only considered a bounce if they view only one page, make no valuable interaction, and leave within 10 seconds. GA4 tends to focus more on engagement rate, which is the inverse of bounce rate – a glass-half-full way of reporting!

Generally, you’ll find that there are several metrics in GA4 that have slightly different names or definitions compared to UA, but this has been done in order to improve and simplify reporting.

4. Where is the ecommerce section? 

There is a new section in GA4’s reports workspace called “Monetization” where you’ll find your ecommerce data. However, this is not a simple case of rebranding, as the Monetization section is not limited to the performance of your webstore. Within this, you can explore data from other monetized elements of your business – such as in-app purchases and revenue procured through publisher ads.

5. My numbers don’t match in GA4 and UA – is the set-up wrong? 

Not necessarily! Because UA and GA4 use different data structures (schemas) and different metric definitions, you can expect some slight variances between the two. However, it’s very important when building out your GA4 set-up to sense check against your existing UA data and ensure that they’re close.

It’s also worth checking a couple of key admin settings that can add to the variances in these numbers:

Firstly, ensure your time zones match, as these may have been set differently by default, particularly when it comes to GMT versus BST.

Secondly, where UA defined users as entirely equal to cookies, GA4 has a couple of options for defining users. These can be found and adjusted under “Reporting Identity” in the admin workspace. We recommend using the blended model, which has improved user identification capabilities.

6. What will happen to my UA data? 

The most recent communication from Google confirms that UA will still be available to view historic data for “at least” six months after July. This only guarantees a storage solution until the end of 2023, and so we encourage everyone to export and store this data for future analysis.

What's in store?

The next two months should be heavily focused on completing your set-up and getting under the skin of the interface itself. We have the following recommendations and resources available to support you through this process.

Google Ads actions

For those of you who run PPC marketing and import your conversions from UA, we recommend importing your new Google Analytics conversion points into Google Ads as soon as possible. These should be added as secondary conversions in order to prevent double counting, while allowing Google to accrue data on what your new conversion points will be. This means that when you are ready to switch over to the GA4 conversion points, your bidding strategies should experience a lessened learning period.

GA4 key reports set-up

As mentioned above, GA4 has all the reporting capabilities of UA (and more). However, without any shortcuts to key reports, initially, it can be more time-consuming to access them. Take this time to customise your GA4 view so that you can hit the ground running when you switch platforms.

UA data storage

Since UA data storage is only guaranteed until the end of 2023, it’s vital to start the process of looking for a longer-term solution.

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