What is Google Analytics 4?

What is Google Analytics 4?

Many of you reading this are probably already aware that Google recently announced they are discontinuing Universal Analytics (UA) at the end of July 2023.  What this means is that all universal properties will no longer process any new data from that date onwards. So, if you are wanting to continue to track your website’s data through Google Analytics, you will need to have a new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) property set up before July 2023.

Although this may not seem like an extremely pressing issue right now, we wanted to take this opportunity to shed some light on what GA4 is, what this change means for you and why you should be thinking about making the shift sooner rather than later.

What’s different about GA4?

GA4 uses an event-based model which essentially allows you to have a much more detailed and accurate form of reporting. Event-based modelling in a nutshell means that each interaction a user has with your website or app is sent to Google Analytics as an “event”. This is different to the UA model which classifies interactions by sessions & page views. The UA model means that all interactions have to fall under one of the many “hit types” such as page hits, event hits, ecommerce hits and social interaction hits. Because of this, it can be harder to understand what your users are really doing on your website, as data can often be lost due to interactions needing to be classified into hit types. The event-based model gives you more control over how you understand your users and provides heightened flexibility to cater your property to your business.

To explain how GA4 events are tracked, we can break them down into four main categories: 

  1. Automatic events: These events come with your new property and are automatically tracked from day 1. Automatic events include page_view & session_start.

  2. Enhanced events: Similar to automatic events, these are collected from day 1, but you can enable or disable them depending on how relevant they are to your website or app. Enhanced events include page scrolls & video engagements, among others.

  3. Recommended events: Google recommends that you set these up - they are divided into industry-specific types.

  4. Custom events: You can create these events yourself for a variety of reasons which allow you to tailor them to meet your specific needs.

These backend changes are only the beginning of what’s new with GA4. Another major change that you will notice almost immediately is the user interface. What used to be the “Audience”, “Acquisition”, “Behaviour” and “Conversions” sections in UA, have now been replaced with “Reports”, “Events”, “Explore” and “Configure”. These changes mean it is essential that you spend time getting familiar with this new interface before UA stops processing data, as this will ensure a smooth transition to GA4 when the official changeover occurs.


You might also notice that the “Explore” section looks slightly different to anything we’ve seen previously, this is because it is your own personal report building tool. Explorations go beyond the standard forms of reporting that you are used to with UA, allowing you to dig deeper into your website or app data to gain a more in-depth understanding of your users.

When you open up the explorations tab you’ll see you are provided with a number of different exploration options such as blank, free-form, funnel exploration and path exploration. These offer you the ability to create reports based on certain questions you may have. Whether you want to use path exploration to understand the steps your users take to complete a conversion, or use cohort analysis to analyse user behaviour based on common attributes. The explorations hub provides endless possibilities to help you find deeper and more meaningful insights about your users.

Why change now?

Adding a GA4 property to your Google Analytics account now does not mean that you have to start using it immediately. Until July 2023, traditional UA will continue to be available, and both properties can work together simultaneously, which should enable you to continue your reporting with something familiar while also learning a new Interface that will inevitably be the only option.

by Frankly

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