You’ve upgraded to Google Analytics 4. Now what?

Behind the Scenes

The move from Google’s Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) can be slightly jarring. The new interface is different and might not feel as intuitive as Universal Analytics. While we all may need a moment to adjust to the change, ultimately it will be worth it—GA4 intends to give us more valuable data about how our websites are performing. 

As we explore below, Universal Analytics focused on counting how many people visited certain pages and for how long, and GA4 will extend beyond those metrics, so we can understand what they do when they get to that page. It’s more about engagement than just pageviews. 

Where is your stuff? 

One of the most common challenges in navigating the GA4 interface is finding the reports you expect from Universal Analytics. Currently, GA4 has fewer reports than Universal Analytics. Some may believe that more is better, but many of the reports Universal Analytics offered were not valuable for the majority of users beyond those with advanced needs. GA4 is prioritizing the most important reports so that admins can spend our time reviewing data that is relevant. 

Here is a comparison between reports in Universal Analytics and how to find that information in GA4. 

Universal AnalyticsGoogle Analytics 4
Audience Reports
There is now a “User” section on the “Reports” tab. Here, you’ll find all of the information about your audiences broken into two categories: attributes and tech. Attributes is where you’ll find demographic information and tech is where you will find information about platforms and devices your audiences are using. 
There's still an "Acquisition" section in GA4, however it is simplified and focuses on two reports: user acquisition and traffic acquisition. 

User acquisition will show you how new users and getting to your site. Traffic acquisition looks at how all users, new and returning, are getting to your site. 
Many of the reports you would have found in the “Behavior” section now live under “Engagement.” The reports are simplified and focus on important moments in the user journey: What pages did they view (Landing Pages; Pages and Screens)? What did they do on those pages (Events)? And did they do what you want them to do (Conversions)?
This information is now under “Engagement”. If you’re looking for E-Commerce information that lives under “Conversions” in Universal Analytics, go to GA4’s new section labeled “Monetization”. 

Why is your data (traffic, bounce rate, and conversions) from Universal Analytics and GA4 different? 

Because GA4 is shifting to have a heavier focus on engagement rather than pageviews, a different data model is being used in GA4. While Universal Analytics’ data model was driven by sessions and pageviews, GA4’s data model is driven by events and parameters (also known as engagement) that can account for users switching between devices, something that Universal Analytics couldn’t do. 

Don’t fret if your data looks different between the old and the new initially. The data is just being collected differently now and will be more accurate because the entire user journey is being factored in. 

If this is an events and parameters model, what do you need to know about them? 

Events are what a user does on your site, such as clicking a button or downloading something, that will lead them to a conversation (doing something that you want them to do in order to meet your organizational goals). For example, an event could be a click on a “Donate” button, and the conversion would be completing the transaction. 

Parameters allow you to get more specific. If there are several “Donate” buttons on your site, you can set parameters for different buttons that will allow you to differentiate buttons and report which button is getting the most interaction.

Some events are already set up for you in GA4, such as page scrolls that are triggered if a user reaches the bottom of a page. See a full list of all of the automatic events configured in GA4. This list provides descriptions of each event and what it will tell you. This data will enable you to offer more in-depth reports about how users are interacting with your website, which will make it easier to share what’s happening on your site with stakeholders and to spot opportunities for improvement. 

While the automatic events are useful, we recommend you configure custom events to make sure you’re getting the most valuable data possible that’s specific to your organization. An example is creating a custom event around your newsletter signups. You can find out where exactly on your site users are signing up for your newsletter so you can see what form is most effective. Analytics Help has a quick tutorial about how to set up custom events using this specific example of newsletter signups

What do you need to know about privacy? 

It’s exciting to know that we’ll be getting more accurate data from our users. Privacy, though, is critically important because we want our audiences’ identity to be protected. This new GA4 rollout prioritizes the latest GDPR and CCPA privacy laws. Instead of using first-party cookies, machine learning and AI-driven modeling can fill in data gaps while keeping users anonymous if they choose to not accept cookies. 

What if you’re not feeling confident navigating GA4? 

Google offers a series of short courses to introduce users to GA4 and how to get the most out of the new offerings. Our team at Message Agency, too, can work with you and your organization to create a measurement strategy (One of our favorite sayings at the agency is “What gets measured, gets managed!”). We can configure your GA4 to collect the data that will be most valuable, pull reports, analyze the findings and offer recommendations for optimization.