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What you need to know about GA4 vs. Universal Analytics

Justin Dambach
Written by Justin Dambach  November 9, 2022

In the world of analytics, there continue to be a lot of shifts taking place in the market – especially with regard to tracking and privacy. In October of 2020, Google announced their latest product update – Google Analytics 4 (GA4),  which operates across websites and mobile apps, does not rely exclusively on cookies, and uses an event-based data model to deliver user-centric measurement. With this new analytics model firmly in the marketplace for a few years now, Google made the decision to officially replace Universal Analytics (AKA the current version of Google Analytics) with GA4. So you might be asking, GA4 vs. Universal Analytics, how will this affect my business?

Universal Analytics 
will stop processing new data
 July 1st, 2023

What does that mean for your business? Essentially, it is critical to implement GA4 on your web properties before July 1, 2023 the ability to track & report on your traffic will go away, as will the ability to reference historical data in GA4 to make strategic decisions.
Alas – do not fret! As a Certified Google Premier Agency Partner, Vert’s leadership has made it a critical priority to remain on the bleeding-edge on all matters related to this GA4 transition since it was announced. Justin & our ACRM team are ready to help guide your business throughout the transition process. Here are some of the top questions we’ve been tackling with our Clients:

How is GA4 different from Universal Analytics?

When your business makes the switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, there will be several improvements in store:

  • Cross-device measurement of the customer journey
  • Customer-lifecycle framed reporting
  • Basic event tracking for things like outbound clicks out-of-the-box.
  • Built-in machine learning, modeling, alerts, and insights
  • Streamlined configuration and better integration with Google tools
  • Improved measurement of time-based actions
  • Predictive audience modeling
  • And so much more…

That said, GA4 requires a lot more customization to see the types of charts and data you are used to from Universal Analytics (UA). While UA comes with all of the bells and whistles from the start, Google built GA4 to be super efficient and with that they left out many of the previous graphs that have become standard for Google Analytics users.

When do I really need to update to GA4?

We recommend setting up a Google Analytics 4 (GA4) profile ASAP. GA4 is a separate profile and will not be able to ingest historical Universal Analytics data. In order to explore month-over-month or year-over-year data after July 1, 2023, you will need to already have a GA4 account, events, and conversions setup.

Is there a paid version of GA4 or is there only the free option?

Google announced they will roll out a paid version of GA4 sometime in 2022, but for now there is only a free version. 

The paid version will offer service-level agreements (SLAs) for business critical items (like BQ Export & data collection and processing), and higher limits for Audiences, Conversions, Custom Dimensions and other metrics.

The biggest difference? The paid version will offer larger date ranges for data retention, which means you can identify returning users for longer and have a larger time frame to explore more detailed views of your data. 

What if I still have more questions on the transition to GA4?

That’s what we’re here for! Like we said, our Vertbags have kept fully up to date on all details and are prepared to support your business and answer questions every step of the way. If you’re curious about how Vert can help your business transition to Google Analytics 4 without missing a beat, please do not hesitate to reach out. 

Justin Dambach

Justin Dambach

Justin works to expose insights across campaigns and drive the strategy behind email marketing, automated workflows, and data visualization. He believes that figuring out the "why" behind our metrics is just as important as the "what".