Google analytics has long been the go-to tool to investigate website preformance, how users interact with your site . From simply adding the analytics script to the top of the page, to using tag manager to measure unique, key metrics, Google analytics has consilidated its position as an incredibly useful tool for developers, designers and marketeers. In July 2023, it’s all changing…

That’s not to say that Google Analtics is the best or only tool for the job. There’s plenty out there, from HotJar or Smartlook, albeit at a price.

Universal Analytics to GA4 (Google Analytics 4)

Universal Analytics is the version of Google Analytics we have all become familiar with over the past several years. However, Google has announced that on the 1st July 2023, Universal Analytics will no longer be supported. Afte this, no more data will be logged on these Universal Analytics properties. The reason for this is to replace UA with Google’s new version, Google Analytics 4.

If you use Universal Analytics, and have vast amounts of data stored, it’s not all bad news. According to Google’s support page, for at least six months after July 2023, UA data will be stored. We highly recommended that you export your data. You never know if it may be useful in the future. Google has provided a guide on how to export your data here.

With such a big change coming, it’s a good idea to make the change far in advance of July 2023. Google Analytics 4 is just as simple to implement as Universal Analytics, and can run simultaneously, on your website with Universal Analytics. Unfortunately, it is not possible ‘migrate’ or ‘convert’ your old data to the new platform. Failure to make the change before this data will result in a gap or loss of valuable marketing data.

Google Analytics Dashboard

Image: Universal Analytics Dashboard – It does look a bit dated, doesn’t it?

What’s new in GA4?

The way Google Analytics 4 works is quite different. It presents a huge shift towards monitoring user behaviour. Universal analytics measures metrics based on sessions and page views. GA4  bases metrics on parameters and events sucvh as scrolling, session starts, page views and first visits. Metrics such as bounce rate are gone and replaced with engaged sessions – sessions on your website that last longer than ten seconds.

The reports presented to the user via the sidebar are different: realtime, audience, acquisition and behaviour are replaced with acquisition, engagement, monetisation and retention. Familar aspects such as user and traffic acquisition still exist.

A large difference in how UA and GA4 work is Universal analytics uses cookies, with Google Analytics opting for sessions to measure user behavious. Cookies, temporary files that are stored in a user’s browser differ from sessions in several ways. Sessions work by storing a single cookie on the client device with a special key. Rather than storing these temporary files on the client’s PC, they are stored on a server, and make use of this unique key to identify each user. With privacy and cookie usage in the spotlight in recent years, it makes sense to make this change.

Perhaps the biggest difference in how GA4 and UA works is that in UA, hits were measured in several categories: pageview, event, social, user timing, screen view etc., whereas in GA4, everything is classed as an event, just with different parameters. Google Analytics 4 allows for further cusomisation, similar to UA. It provides the opportunity to add in custom events to measure, such as specific button clicks etc.

Google Analytics Chart


Making the change

While at first the new interface may seem confusing and foreign from the one you are used to, Google Analytics 4 presents an entirely different way of investigating how your users interact with your website. Whether you like it or not, GA4 is coming and it’s here to stay (until the next version of analytics), so it’s best to make the change as soon as possible, to start gathering useful data and provide yourself with the change to get used to the new platform.

To read more about the changes, visit Google’s own guide on the change from UA to GA4. Alternnately, feel free to get in touch with us for free, friendly advice.