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GA4 vs UA vs other analytics solutions
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If you’ve been wondering whether you should upgrade to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) ever since it’s launched, you’re not alone. 

Many webmasters, marketers, and SEOs are still confused if they should switch now or wait until Universal Analytics goes away. 

Additionally, the thought — “Can I still access the current analytics version if I switch to GA4?” — might also be troubling you. 

So let’s clear the air around all of the above confusions. 

In this guide, we’ll discuss whether it’s the right time to switch to Google Analytics 4 or take up a different analytics solution altogether. 

But before that, some basics. 

What is Google Analytics 4?

First, let’s start with Google Analytics. 

Google Analytics (GA) — also known as Universal Analytics (UA) — is an analytics tool that helps webmasters track traffic and user engagement across websites and applications. 

This is what the UA interface looks like:

Google Universal analytics dashboard

In October 2020, Google released Google Analytics 4 (GA4) which is an upgraded version of its flagship analytics platform GA. 

Here’s a quick run-through of GA4’s interface:

Source

All the new website properties being registered with GA after 14 October 2020, would have a default GA4 version.

However, you can still set up Universal Analytics on a new website. But it’s going to be obsolete and stop processing new hits starting from 1 July 2023. After that, the new and improved GA4 will continue as Google’s main analytics platform. 

Difference Between GA4 and Universal Analytics

Considering the evolution of the digital landscape, Google has built the GA4 around the following analytics needs of the future commerce:

  • Smarter insights to improve your marketing strategies and ROI
  • Comprehensive understanding of consumer interactions on your business platforms
  • Long-term analytics solution to adapt to digital evolution

That said, here are the key differences between UA and GA4

difference-between-UA-and-GA4

If you’re not sure how these differences can affect the data tracking for your website, consider consulting an SEO agency to get their expert guidance. 

Why Should You Upgrade to Google Analytics 4?

Since UA is going to be discontinued from July 2023, GA4 will be the only analytics platform offered by Google. So eventually you’ll definitely need to switch to GA4. However, it makes sense to adopt it early so that you can make a smooth transition from UA to GA4.

Besides, here are the benefits that make a case for an upgrade to GA4.  

Works With Universal Analytics

If you’re concerned that upgrading to GA4 means you can no longer use UA, don’t worry. That’s not the case. You can use GA4 without losing access to the benefits of UA. 

This way, you can leverage the best of both platforms. 

For example, UA doesn’t have the Event Batching feature. So if you add your property to GA4, you can start using this feature. 

At the same time, there are a number of features and reports that are yet to be added to GA4. Take the Detailed Google Ads report for instance. It’s available in UA but not in GA4 yet. This is where UA can help you get comprehensive insights into your Google Ads performance.

Access to Multi-channel Analytics

GA4 allows you to access the analytics data of websites and mobile applications on the same platforms. 

GA4-multi-channel-analytics

Whereas, earlier you’d access website data on UA and apps data on Firebase separately. 

Moreover, GA4 also lets you consolidate the website and app data for your property for better tracking and analysis. This gives you a comprehensive view of how consumers interact with your site and app.

Possibly, that’s the reason GA4 was formerly named App + Web. 

Predictive Analytics with ML

GA4 uses machine learning (ML) algorithms to provide you with predictive metrics. ML learns from the users’ activities on your property and provides predictions accordingly. 

GA4-predictive-analysis

For instance, ML algorithms measure the conversion progress by tracking the users’ interactions that lead to purchasing decisions and predict purchases.

The predictive metrics include:

  • Purchase probability: It shows the probability of a user who was active in the last 28 days logging a specific conversion event.
  • Churn probability: It shows the probability of a user who was active in the last 7 days being inactive in the next 7 days.
  • Revenue prediction: It shows the expected revenue in the next 28 days from the conversions of a user who was active in the last 28 days. 

Also, note that the predictive metrics feature works in conjunction with Google Ads. Moreover, these metrics are mainly applicable to eCommerce sites.

Easy to Use

GA4 user interface is more user-centric as compared to UA. 

For example, the side navigation bar includes options like Acquisition, Engagement, Monetisation, Retention, etc. — which are more aligned with the marketers’ goals. 

GA4-and-UA-side-navigation-bar

Moreover, it’s also easier for users to navigate through GA4.

So in the long run, as you scale your business, you can access multiple datasets and reports as needed with ease.

Advanced Analysis Reports

GA4 also includes the advanced analysis techniques that were previously accessible to GA 360 (paid version of UA) users only.

Here are some of them:

  • Cohort exploration report: It provides insights into the user behaviour of selected cohorts — groups of users with similar attributes. 
  • Path exploration report: It allows you to track the string of pages that your users visit and specific actions they take. 
  • User lifetime report: It helps you see how users behave on your site or app, from their first visit until recently.
  • Funnel exploration report: It helps you visualise the actual funnel navigation behaviour of your users. For example, the steps they’d take: product view > click > add to cart > check out, etc. 

With this report, you can analyse whether they get stuck at any specific stage in the buying process. If they do, then you can investigate further and optimise your sales funnel accordingly.

Limitations of Google Analytics 4

Since GA4 is still in its infancy, there are a few challenges to its implementation. 

Here they are:

  • Initial setup: If you’ve been using UA for a long time, you would’ve set up automated reports for your property. So when you log in to your UA account, it’ll extract the reports instantly. For GA4, you’d need to set up your reporting requirements and customise them to your needs.
  • May need third-party solutions: For enterprise-level marketing and SEO, you may need more comprehensive analytics tools until GA4 gets as equally extensive. Till then, you may need to integrate third-party analytics solutions into your site and app. 
  • Time to learn GA4: Although GA4 is easier to navigate, you’d still need to learn how to use it. This is because it’s not just an upgrade to the existing UA, there are major changes in the platform and interface. 

How to Upgrade to Google Analytics 4

If you’ve never registered your site with Google Analytics, just perform a regular setup for Analytics. And by default, your GA4 property will be created. 

On the other hand, if you’ve been using UA, here’s how you can set up your GA4 property along with your existing UA property:

First, you need to log into your Google Analytics account. And then follow the below steps: 

  1. Click Admin (Gear icon) at the bottom left of the navigation bar.
  2. From the “Account” column Select the account for which you want to create GA4 property. 
  3. Select the UA property from the “Property” column. 
  4. Then click GA4 Setup Assistant (1st option in the “Property” column)
how-to-upgrade-to-GA4
  1. Click Get Started (Under “I want to create a new Google Analytics 4 property”)
how-to-upgrade-to-GA4-1
  1. Click Create Property
how-to-upgrade-to-GA4-2

And there you are. Your GA4 property is now all set.

Also note that, if you’re using a website builder/CMS like WordPress, Shopify, Wix, etc. you’d need to add global site tag (gtag.js) to your site. This enables data collection with your existing tags.

If you’re new to web analytics, you can hire digital marketing or SEO services to guide you through it. Besides, they can also help you optimise your site on the basis of the insights retrieved from GA4.

Wait for a Complete Switch to GA4

If your question is whether you should upgrade to GA4 property or not, the short answer is: Yes, you definitely should. 

Since you can use GA4 together with UA, it’s best to get started with it right away. This way, you’ll get time to familiarise yourself with GA4 and the transition will be easier when UA gets obsolete. 

But if you’re thinking about a complete switch — relying only on GA4, then wait. There’s still a long way to go before it can totally replace UA with all the required features. 

Alternatives to Google Analytics

Now that we’ve discussed the ins and outs of switching to GA4, let’s also touch base on some of the GA alternatives available out there.

Woopra

Woopra’s analytics platform lets you track and understand every single touchpoint on your site that can impact growth, retention, and customer experience. 

Besides, they also allow you to integrate your analytics tool to other systems like Salesforce, Google Ads, etc. so that you can access all your data in one place. 

GA-alternative-woopra

Key features:

  • Journey reports: Helps you identify the obstacles and opportunities at various stages in the customer journey. 
  • Trends reports: Helps you discover the changing trends in your key performance metrics and attributes over time.
  • Cohorts reports: Helps you customise user cohorts and track their behaviour patterns through the customer lifecycle. 
  • Retention reports: Helps you gain insights into how long your customers keep using specific features or take certain actions. 

Pricing:

  • Core: Free plan to learn and experiment with the platform. 
  • Startup: $349 per month. Suitable for startups. 
  • Pro: $999 per month. Suitable for growing companies. 
  • Enterprise: Price on request. Suitable for enterprises. 

Mixpanel

Mixpanel is an analytics solutions package for your marketing, sales, and service teams. It allows you to measure user behaviour and how it can affect your business goals.

GA-alternative-mixpanel

Key features:

  • Data segmentation: Helps you segment and visualise data based on time, device, browser, metric, etc. so that you can easily compare it with historical data. 
  • Cohort analysis: Helps you analyse how the groups of people with similar demographics interact with your platforms. 
  • Complete data for every single user: Helps you optimise your site for every single visitor. 

Pricing: 

  • Free: Suitable for beginners
  • Growth: $25 per month. Suitable for SMEs. 
  • Enterprise: Custom pricing. Suitable for enterprises.

Heap

Heap automatically collects comprehensive data of all user interactions on your site and app. Moreover, it also reveals the hidden frictions and opportunities on your platforms to improve your users’ digital experiences. 

GA-alternative-heap

Key features:  

  • Set of behavioural data: Captures every user action — where they go, what they click, what they do, and more — and provides data-driven insights. 
  • Product analytics: Helps you understand how your users interact with your product so that you can enhance your product accordingly. 
  • Form conversion overview: Helps you identify the channels that generate the highest or lowest ROI through form submission and conversion data. 

Pricing:

  • Free plan: Suitable for young businesses, side projects, freelancers, etc. 
  • Startup plan: $499 per month. For startups with less than 20 employees. 
  • Enterprise: Custom pricing. For medium-scale businesses and enterprises. 

Final Verdict

As far as upgrading to Google Analytics 4 is concerned, you should start using it right away with Universal Analytics without a second thought. But it’s still too early to make a complete switch to GA4. 

At the same time, you can use the alternate solutions as a supplement to GA. They can be a companion to GA, not the absolute replacement. 

And considering the fact that the highest amount of traffic comes from Google search, it makes perfect sense to use the same ecosystem to get accurate analytics. 

Meanwhile, if you need an expert consultation for the right SEO and web analytics solutions, with us. We’ll be happy to help 🙂

 

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