What You Need to Know About Universal Analytics and GA4

Abby Browning

Google has announced that Google Analytics is getting its most significant update ever with the release of Google Analytics 4 (GA4). On July 1, 2023, GA4 will officially replace Universal Analytics (UA). Each day after this date, your UA will stop processing new hits. To make sure that your real estate marketing isn’t disrupted, we’ve put together a list of some key differences in the new instance and what you need to do to prepare.

What are some of the key differences between UA and GA4?

1. New & Improved Data Model

Universal Analytics relied on a hit-based data model tracking items like pageviews, events, and more. While UA has worked for simple site tracking, there was a need to keep up with the ever-changing and increasingly complex web and in-app environments to gain valuable insights and collect quality data. So, GA4 was built on an event-driven data model. This means that everything is an event from a pageview to a click to a file download. 

2. Events

Because GA4 is built on an event-driven data model, events in GA4 have gotten an update. You may be used to seeing Events in UA structured with a Category, Action, and Label. GA4 has simplified events by requiring only Event Name and Event Parameters and automatically collects certain events on your website. 

  • Automatically Collected Events are collected by default and measure basic interactions with your website. These events include first visit, page views, session start, and user engagement. A comprehensive list can be found here.
  • Enhanced Measurement captures optional events automatically that can be enabled/disabled at any time and measures additional engagement opportunities on your website, like scrolls, outbound clicks, file downloads, site search, and video engagement. More information about Enhanced Measurement can be found here.  

Plus you can modify events, create custom events, and if you’re using GTM, you can easily push events into GA4.

3. Goals vs. Conversions

Because the events in GA4 have been improved, conversion tracking has been simplified to understand conversions based on specific events. Instead of creating goals, we can now use events in GA4 and mark them as conversions. Instead of setting permanent goals, GA4 gives us 30 conversion slots that can be turned on and off in order to keep the data we’ve collected while freeing up slots for the future. You won’t want to mark every event as a conversion but take advantage of modifying or creating custom events to drill down on the conversions you want when someone takes a specific action on your website (ex: view a “thank you” page view after a form completion).

4. Front-End Redesign and Navigation

The entire front-end and back-end was redesigned to offer more flexibility and insights across all of your digital properties. Because the front-end has been redesigned, when you log-in for the first time, your left hand navigation will look slightly different. You’ll be used to seeing your ABC’s in UA – Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions. GA4 has restructured the nav to Reports, Explore, and Advertising. Don’t worry, everything you need will still be there (and eventually more), but it’s a little easier to navigate and understand. You’ll find a bulk of what you are looking for by using the Reports section to view acquisition and engagement.  

5. Behavior Flow Vs. Exploration Templates

If you’re like us, you may use Behavior Flow in UA to understand the user journey on your website. Behavior Flow will be replaced by two new Exploration Templates in GA4. 

  • Funnel Exploration Report – a funnel is a specific, pre-designed path you want your user to take while visiting your website. For example, if you want to track users who look at a specific floor plan and make a purchase, you could set up a funnel to track a series of events like “floor plans” > “check availability” > “select unit” > “start application.” The funnel exploration report will give you insights into where users are falling off in your desired funnel. 
  • Path Exploration Report – a free-flow user journey report that is not predetermined like the Funnel Exploration Report. The Path Exploration report lets you follow your user’s journey to see where they go and how they interact with your site. This is a great way to measure organic behavior and gain valuable insights.

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Within Explore, there are several other Exploration Templates that you can take advantage of now, like Segment Overlap, User Explorer, Cohort Exploration, and User Lifetime. 

6. Terminology

GA4 has adopted some new terminology that better fits with the event-driven data model it has adopted. By measuring events, we’re able to measure and track engagement on the site, so you might see terms like “bounce rate” going away. 

The first term to keep an eye out for is “Engaged Sessions” meaning a session must last longer than 10 seconds, include at least one conversion, or includes 2 or more pages views. 

Engagement Rate” will replace “Bounce Rate” currently found in UA and will measure the percentage of engaged sessions on your website. For example, if you had 100 sessions and 70 of them were engaged (Engaged Sessions above), your engagement rate would be 70%.

What do I need to do to prepare for the switch to GA4?

1. Create a GA4 Property

As soon as possible, the first step you need to take is to create a new GA4 property and implement GA4 alongside your existing UA to begin data collection. This will allow you to gather the historical insights you need to measure your results over time when UA stops processing hits on July 1, 2023. 

Most likely, you are already using Universal Analytics. The easiest way to create a GA4 property is to log in to your UA, navigate to Admin, and select “GA4 Setup Assistant” in the middle column labeled Property. This will prompt you to create a new Google Analytics 4 Property. 

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After your GA4 property has been created, the screen will prompt you to go to your new GA4 property, so let’s do it! 

2. Implement GA4 

The next step you’ll want to complete is implementation. You can implement GA4 one of two ways. You can add code directly to your website or you can implement GA4 using Google Tag Manager. Adding via GTM is very easy, so let’s explore that option together. 

First, you’ll want to grab your Measurement ID from GA4 by navigating to Admin > Data Streams > Web. Copy your Measurement ID. 

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Open up your Google Tag Manager account and navigate to the correct container. Go to Tags > New Tag > Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration. Copy and paste the Measurement ID and set a trigger to fire on All Pages. Save your tag and publish. 

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Congrats! You have successfully completed the implementation of GA4. 

3. Set Up Conversions

If you are currently not tracking any goals in Universal Analytics, you don’t need to worry about this step right now. If you are tracking goals, now would be the perfect time to convert those to conversions in GA4. This is also very simple and can be done from the Setup Assistant in your Admin view in GA4. Under Setup Assistant, look for the section labeled Property Settings and select “Set Up Conversions.” You will see a prompt that says “Import From Universal Analytics”ga4 real estate marketing
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You will see the available goals to import. Click “Import selected conversions.” It may take up to 24 hours for data to start populating, but to view these new conversions in GA4, navigate to Configure > Conversions > Conversion Events.

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Amazing work, you’ve successfully created, implemented, and imported goals into your new GA4 property. What’s next? Start getting familiar with the new instance and keep an eye out for more features and capabilities in GA4 overtime. Don’t worry, we’ll keep you posted. 

In Conclusion

In summary, we’ve covered some of the key differences between UA and GA4 and the creation and implementation of GA4. We hope this gives you a better understanding of how to prepare and what to expect for GA4 in the upcoming year. As new features are released, we’ll be sure to keep you updated. If you have any questions about how GA4 will affect your real estate marketing efforts, we’d love to connect with you. 

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