What is GA4? Should You Use It?

What is Google Analytics 4? Should You Use It?

What is Google Analytics 4?

Should I use it?

These are the two most popular questions right now about GA4 (Google Analytics 4). Google has really been pushing GA4 to both new and existing users. If you’re setting up a new property, they’ve made the Universal Analytics (Google Analytics 3) option hard to find. If you’re a Universal Analytics user, you’ve probably gotten multiple emails from Google about setting up a GA4 property.

So, should you use Google Analytics 4? What is GA4?

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We’ll answer both of those questions in this article.

Table of Contents

What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?

GA4 is Google’s newest version of their wildly popular analytics platform. It can track a website and an app in the same account. It also comes with several new reporting features and gives you more detailed insights into how people interact with your website.

Behind the scenes, the way data is stored and processed (data architecture) is completely different from past versions of Analytics, which will provide all of us completely new ways to measure and analyze traffic usage for years to come.

Google Analytics 4 looks different from Universal Analytics, and the navigation changed, too. If you’re a Universal Analytics user who created a new GA4 property, you might have a hard time finding some of the reports you’ve enjoyed looking at in the past.

Google Analytics 4 Dashboard

It’s Google’s goal to get everyone using the new platform as soon as possible, because it’s the future of Analytics. Any new features they create will only be released there, not in Universal Analytics.

Differences Between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics

While Google Analytics 4 is similar to Universal Analytics (Google Analytics 3), it does have some pretty big differences. If you’ve used Universal Analytics, you’ll notice a lot of changes right away in how it looks and how the navigation works.

Besides the look and navigation, there are some other key differences. Google is constantly working on adding more reports and functionality to GA4, but as of right now, here are some of the major differences:

  1. GA4 is missing bounce rate. The team at Google replaced the concept of bounce rate with “engaged sessions.” So, instead of seeing the percentage of people who leave without interacting further on your site, you’ll see data on the people who did. The new metric Google wants you to focus on is Engagement Rate.
  2. GA4 is missing Search Console integration. As of now, the Search Queries report isn’t available in GA4. To access the report, you have to open a separate tab and navigate to Search Console. That’s not ideal, since that keyword report is a vital SEO report!
  3. GA4 uses events instead of Goals. Instead of goals, Google Analytics now only tracks events and conversions. You can choose which events count as a conversion by toggling a switch. It’ll also track some events for you, without having to modify the code of your website:
    Enhanced Measurement in GA4
    While that seems awesome, turning these events on will leave you with information like this:
    GA4 Event Reporting
    As you can see from the event report example, the reporting part of GA4 has a pretty big learning curve and is not beginner-friendly.
  4. GA4 is missing your historical data. If you’ve been a Universal Analytics user and you create a GA4 property, all of your historical data does NOT move over to that property. You start with a clean slate. Your data stays safe in your Universal Analytics property, but you have to switch between the two to see it.

Thankfully, there’s a way to work around these major differences that we’ll talk about in a minute.

Should You Use Google Analytics 4?

In short, yes, you should set up a Google Analytics 4 property. Do you actually have to use it? No, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. As long as you have it set up and gathering data, you’re prepared for any updates or new features Google releases.

While it might be intimidating and hard to use, it’s clear that GA4 is the future of Analytics, and you should be prepared for that.

That said, there’s no reason you can’t run a Universal Analytics property at the same time to get all the benefits of both. In fact, we recommend running both!

Google Analytics 4 Missing Reports Workaround

Like we said earlier, Google Analytics 4 is missing Search Console reporting, bounce rate, goals, and historical data. If you’re using these aspects of Universal Analytics, you might not be too excited about switching to GA4.

Luckily, for WordPress users, there’s a way to get the best of both Universal Analytics AND GA4: MonsterInsights Dual Tracking.

MonsterInsights is the best Google Analytics plugin for WordPress. It allows you to easily connect your WordPress site with Google Analytics (both Universal Analytics and GA4), so you can view all the data that matters most right in your WordPress dashboard.

MonsterInsights Home Dashboard

With our new Dual Tracking feature, you can connect BOTH your Universal Analytics and GA4 properties to your WordPress site:

GA4 Dual Tracking Setup

If you use both Google Analytics properties at the same time, you get to keep all of your historical data, the bounce rate metric, and the Search Console report, but also have GA4 running on your site. Then, you’ll have all your same reports, but you’ll also be ready for new features or reports that Google releases in GA4.

Plus, with MonsterInsights, you can set up sophisticated tracking features such as event tracking, eCommerce tracking, form tracking, custom dimension tracking, outbound link tracking, and more with a few clicks.

How to Keep Bounce Rate and Search Console in GA4

Not ready to give up your bounce rate metric and Search Console report? Neither are we! That’s why we made sure WordPress users can keep seeing their bounce rate and top search terms report, while also using GA4.

Just follow these quick steps to keep bounce rate and use Google Analytics 4:

  1. Make sure you have both a Universal Analytics property and a GA4 property set up in Google Analytics
  2. Download and install the MonsterInsights plugin
  3. When you get to the Connect Google Analytics to Your Website screen in the MonsterInsights setup wizard, choose your UA property
  4. After completing the setup wizard, add your GA4 property as your Dual Tracking Profile:
    Dual tracking profile settings

That’s it! You now have Google Analytics 4 connected to WordPress, but you’re also still able to see bounce rate:

overview report monsterinsights

And you get to keep your Search Console report of your top search terms:

Search Terms Report

For a full, step-by-step tutorial on connecting Google Analytics 4 and WordPress, read How to Add Google Analytics 4 to WordPress.

Looking for recommendations about what metrics to track in Google Analytics? Check out What Can You Measure with Google Analytics? Top 11 Metrics.

And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for more helpful Google Analytics tips.

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