If you work in marketing, you are probably tired of hearing about Google Analytics 4 (GA4) or you’re still not 100% sure what it means for your website, so we are here to break it down for you…

Let’s start from the beginning!

For years we have been using Universal Analytics (the previous generation of Google Analytics). This offered new tracking codes for websites and features that could more accurately measure user behaviour and could be used to inform strategies and track the success of campaigns.

Then GA4 was developed to focus on customer privacy due to the implementation of privacy laws such as GDPR. The new analytics includes privacy controls such as cookieless measurement, behavioural and conversion modelling.

What is GA4?

Simply put, GA4 is the new reporting system from Google that has now replaced Universal Analytics (UA). From 1st July 2023, UA properties will have stopped processing data, although you can still see these reports for the time being. However, new data will now only flow into GA4 properties.

Direct integrations to media platforms help to drive actions on your website or app, GA4 then collects this data from both websites and apps to understand the customer journey in a better way and uses event-based data as a predominant measuring metric.

The predictive capabilities offer guidance without complex models meaning you can predict the future behaviour of users moving forward. This is useful for a lot of businesses who can then tailor their site and user journeys based on this data.

The key differences between Universal Analytics and GA4

App tracking and hit types 📊

One of the most anticipated functions of GA4 is the ability to track website and app data in the same property which means that combining data will be much easier moving forward.

Another key difference between UA and GA4 is how interactions are captured. Previously, interactions were captured in a number of different hit types including page views, transactions, and social interactions. Whereas in GA4, every interaction is measured as an event.

Session calculations 👩‍💻

During the days of Universal Analytics, a session represented the time that a user was actively engaged on your website.

In GA4, this is now tracked as an event labelled ‘session_start’, a session ID will be generated which all events during that session are associated with. A session will still end after 30 minutes of inactivity but can carry over across midnight and is not affected by encounters with new campaign parameters such as UTM internal links.

Bounce Rate and Engagement Rate 📊

In UA, the bounce rate was presented as the percentage of website users that did not view more than one page on your site. Now Google has decided to take a more positive route when it comes to measuring engagement rate, in GA4 this is now shown as a percentage which divides engaged sessions (which last at least 10 seconds, had 1 conversion event, or at least 2 page views) by sessions.  This can help shift out thinking and focus on what’s working instead of what is not working on the website.

The bounce rate does still exist in GA4 it is just shown now as the percentage of sessions that were not engaged sessions.

Google Tag Manager 👍

Using the basic functions of UA meant that you didn’t need to use Google Tag Manager, However, with all goals now event-based, marketers need to know their way around Google Tag Manager, and understanding this aspect will help with advanced data collection, where you can create custom events and dimensions.

Account Structure 📁

We’ve gone from 3 elements in UA to 2 in GA4 – account and property, which means this property no longer contains any views. However, a new concept has been introduced in data streams, which represents the flow from your website/app to Analytics. Each GA4 property can have up to 50 data streams and a limit of 30 app data streams.

This intelligence tool provides many benefits to businesses including extracting information from the customer journey on different devices and platforms. This data is now easier to read and you will be able to quickly identify exactly what you are looking for. Measurement will be more accurate without imposing on the user’s privacy and GA4’s integrations with Google ads can help to optimise campaigns and increase return on investment.

Need help understanding more about GA4?

We can show our clients how to use GA4 and get the most out of it alongside monitoring web traffic and behaviours, analysing campaign performance, continuing improvements within SEO and finally, breaking down audiences and demographics further to provide data-led insights. Talk to our digital team today to find out more!


Becky Cleary is Social Media Account Director at Whistle PR which offers a range of integrated communications services including strategic consultancy, PR, digital and internal communications. For further information, email info@whistlepr.co.uk or contact us here