The Pros and Cons of Google Analytics Version 4 (GA4)

As the Internet has become more and more important for any kind of business, association, group… and even individual, Google Analytics’ importance and deployment has also come wider and wider. In October 2020, the number one analytics tool in the world launched an upgrade to its application: Google Analytics Version 4. Here, we’re about to dig deep into it: what it is, its pros and cons, and a comparison with Universal Analytics.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is an important tool, completely free, that allows website owners or managers to track data related to their web pages activity and traffic. Google Analytics collects and provides data such as which pages users visit on your websites, how long they stay on each page or content, are they accessing your website from their computer or smartphone, how did they land on your website (from a Google search? A link on a Facebook post? …), how many users arrive on your websites each month, week, day, and so on…

All these data are extremely important: they are the basis on which a website owner or manager starts to understand how to develop web pages, content, platforms, digital marketing strategies, and more…

Data provided by Google Analytics are important to every internet user: bloggers, e-commerce owners, digital marketing consultants, web, application developers.

In 2020, Google has upgraded its Analytics service by providing the so-called Google Analytics Version 4: it has some differences from Google Universal and one of them, in particular, can make a huge difference.

Key Benefits of Using Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

One of the biggest novelty about the Google Analytics Version is the fact that it can not only be used for a website, but also for an application (app), and even for a website and app together.

This is a major change when compared to Universal Analytics whose properties only support websites.

However, this isn’t the only change between the two versions. In this section, we’ll try to understand more about Google Analytics Version 4 by analyzing its Pros and Cons. After that, we’ll offer a comparison with Universal Analytics to understand which of the two is better.

Google Analytics 4 Pros & Cons

Google Analytics Version 4 Pros:

  • Data prediction with AI Learning

One of the biggest and most advanced novelties of Google Analytics Version 4 is the use of AI Learning. With AI learning Systems, Google Analytics is no more only collecting, analyzing, and providing data, but it is also able — based on the collected data — to predict future trends.

This is made by using complex machine learning processes: the peculiarity of AI machine learning models is also that they become better at what they do with time and use. With Google Analytics prediction features businesses can now anticipate trends and be immediately reactive to changes in the market demand.

  • Event Tracking

Compared with Universal Analytics, Google Analytics Version 4 is capable of better and more flexible event tracking. In particular, it’s extremely easy with Version 4 to find data about a specific moment of the user journey interacting with your platform. This can give you a better understanding of your customers and their behaviour on your web pages and translate it into conversions.

  • Long-term use

Google Analytics Versions 4 has been created with long-term use in mind. What does it mean? According to its promises, this tool should help all online entrepreneurs remain competitive over time. This is a reaction to the change we are experiencing in the world (a change that has been accelerated by the COVID pandemic): a lot of aspects of our lives have been migrated online (communication, work, shopping…). The number of online businesses and the number of companies using the web to reach their clients have hugely increased: remaining competitive in such a wild market is getting more and more complicated. However, Google Analytics Version 4 has been created with the current competition in mind and promises to be able to provide data to allow companies to stay competitive.

Furthermore, long-term use also means being able to adapt to potential future changes in rules and regulations (for example, about privacy on the Internet); AI learning systems also ensure that, regardless of the changes, the system will still be able to provide data, fill data holes, and provide companies with the tools they need to understand customers and market.

  • Cross-platform Analytics

When a user transitions from one platform to another, for example from your website to your app, it can be difficult to track the transition. Google Analytics Version 4 uses an event based-approach that collects standardized data across multiple platforms. This way, not only the quality of the data about the user’s behaviour improves, but you can also have a single report about a user’s path across multiple platforms.

Google Analytics Version 4 Cons:

  • Changes in the menu structure

Version 4’s menu structure has changed since Google Universal. While this isn’t a problem for new users, this simple fact could discourage some Google Universal users to migrate to Version 4.

  • Complicated migration

Because of the many changes between the versions, the migration from Analytics Universal to Google Analytics Version 4 may require some time.

  • Historical data

When you set up Google Analytics Version 4 on a website, it’ll start collecting data from that moment. Historical data won’t be available nor will the possibility of comparing older data with the recent ones.

Google Analytics Version 4 VS Universal Analytics: which one is better?

Despite being an upgrade of Universal Analytics, Google Analytics Version 4 is being considered a different platform by web developers and professionals. Some are even avoiding the migration from Universal Analytics for the reasons we’ve mentioned above; so, if we compare the two platforms, which one is better?

Let’s consider different aspects.

  • Interface

The Google Analytics Version 4 interface is what has made developers discuss the most. The thing is that it has changed, the menus re-arranged, and it looks a bit intimidating. Users that are used to the older Analytics Universal interface may take some time to get used to the new structure.

On the contrary, those who utilized Google Analytics for Firebase will be advantaged because the Version 4 interface is similar to that (it’s because Google Analytics is built on Firebase Analytics)

  • Web + App

This is the first and major upgrade we’ve discussed in this article because it is the most important: while Universal ANalytics only works with websites, Google Analytics Version 4 also works with applications. If you have both a website and an application, you can use Google Analytics Version 4 on both and merge the related data. For example, if a user uses both the web and app platforms, you are provided with a single data report. This is a huge benefit that Version 4 has when compared to Analytics Universal.

  • Measurement models

While Universal Analytics uses measurement models based on sessions and pageviews, Google Analytics Version 4 uses one based on events and parameters. Activities recorded with Version 4 are considered events and these events have more detailed information.

  • Ecommerce tracking

When it comes to eCommerce tracking, Google Analytics Version 4’s features are nowhere as powerful as Analytics Universal.

  • Multi-platform tracking

When it comes to tracking users’ data across different platforms, Universal Analytics has many limitations while Version 4 is on another level.

  • Debugging

The provided by Google Analytics Version 4 provides the “Debug View” report through which you can validate your analytics configuration without leaving the reporting interface. This isn’t possible with Universal Analytics.

Final Thoughts

Even though you’ll need to get used to a new interface and menu structure, passing from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics Version 4 is worth it. The only ones who should wait for further upgrades are eCommerce managers: for them, Universal Analytics is still the best choice. For all the others, Google Analytics Version 4 is recommended.

The quality and amount of data collected have improved since the previous version, the AI Learning System ensures competitiveness in the longer term, and the fact that you can use it on both websites and applications make Google Analytics Version 4 the best option when it comes to data tracking.

Google Analytics Version 4 is a product made for the present day and designed for the future.

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Back-end Developer at Vedrai Spa | Founder at qubitdata.it and cherrysocial.it | 25y — Milan, Italy | Passions: 👨🏻‍🍳 ✈️ 🎭 👨🏻‍💻 🕺🔭 🏔

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Francesco Sessa

Back-end Developer at Vedrai Spa | Founder at qubitdata.it and cherrysocial.it | 25y — Milan, Italy | Passions: 👨🏻‍🍳 ✈️ 🎭 👨🏻‍💻 🕺🔭 🏔