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From Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4: What to Expect from the New King of Analytics

Google’s Universal Analytics is being replaced by Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and will stop processing data on July 1, 2023. GA4 will have some dramatic changes from previous versions of their analytics platform, with a focus on structured event data over individual, cookie-based sessions and on leveraging machine learning to provide better prediction and fill in the gaps.

What are the biggest differences?

Machine Learning

GA4 leans heavily on machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide guidance and insights, to help you fill in the gaps on a user’s journey, and to predict a user’s behavior. Though gaps will likely exist in data due to privacy features, GA4’s machine learning helps fill in those gaps by drawing conclusions.

  • Predictive Modeling: Using data that Google has collected about its users, GA4 will be able to create models about how users are likely to behave in the future—whether they’ll churn or purchase and even predict revenue.
  • Insights: With the information gleaned from their algorithm, Google will be able to up its Insights game. Right now in Universal Analytics, Google has some insights available. Under GA4, they’ll be a core piece of the program, and as such, Google is putting some weight behind making them better than before.
  • Data-Driven Attribution Marketers have struggled with attribution for a long time. Without surveying each individual user, it’s impossible to know whether the first, second, twentieth, or last ad they saw was the driving force behind a click. Google won’t make its attribution formula public, but they’re using a blended method to determine which channels are contributing the most to conversions.

User-focused, not session-focused.

Google’s machine learning also allows GA4 to focus on a user’s journey instead of a single session. Universal Analytics and other previous iterations of the platform focused on each session on your app or website as a separate and distinct event. GA4 is able to follow users between devices and sessions, meaning you can truly understand the buyer’s journey. Focusing on a single user as they switch between platforms and methods of accessing your information also has the additional benefit of de-duplicating users, making your data easier to understand and leverage.