Moving from UA to GA4 for SaaS & B2B Businesses

Countless marketers and agencies have woven Universal Analytics (UA) into the fabric of their reporting, analysis, and decision-making processes. Google Analytics for SaaS and B2B companies are especially reliant on UA and have been for years.

So, when Google announced GA4 in October 2020 — a brand new version of Google Analytics — marketers were (understandably) concerned about what would happen to all their existing UA data and whether GA4 could really provide the same level of insights they were used to.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at GA4 in detail and see how it compares to UA. We’ll also break down the benefits it offers to B2B SaaS organizations, as well as what to expect from the new GA4 interface.

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 is the latest evolution of Google’s market-leading web analytics platform.

GA4 uses next-generation technology like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced data modeling to provide insights that were simply not possible with earlier versions of the software.

Let’s take a quick look at previous GA versions before GA4:

  • Classic Google Analytics: This is the first version of GA. It used the ga.js JavaScript library, which is now legacy code.
  • Universal Analytics (UA): The second version of GA switched over to the analytics.js JavaScript library.
  • Universal Analytics (also called UA): For the third version of GA, Google switched to the gtag.js JavaScript library. This is the version of GA that most marketers are using today.

GA4, the newest version, continues to use the gtag.js library. However, it’s now founded on a new measurement model that Google calls the “Event+Parameter” model.

We’ll discuss that new model later on, but right now, we want to emphasize that GA4 will soon be the ONLY Google Analytics option for SaaS & B2B organizations and marketers.

The entire UA platform will be sunsetted on July 1, 2023.

Here’s what will happen:

  • Your current UA properties will stop collecting new hits, aka analytics data, after July 1, 2023.
  • In other words, if you don’t upgrade to GA4 by then, you won’t get any UA data after that date.
  • About 6 months after that, all UA properties will be permanently deleted.
  • All of your existing UA properties, data, and reports will be gone forever.

GA360 UA owners get a little more leeway – they’ll have until October 1, 2023, to migrate to GA4. But even GA360 properties will eventually be deleted if they haven’t been migrated over by the deadline.

What’s the difference between UA and GA4?

GA4 is more agile, flexible, and accurate than UA. It also focuses more heavily on user behavior and journey analysis than UA ever did and utilizes a completely different data collection logic and data structure.

Below are some of the biggest differences you’ll encounter between GA4 and UA:

No more sessions – GA4 now follows an event-based model

In UA, everything was built around sessions. A session is a period of time during which a user interacts with your website or app.

For example, a user might land on your site, browse around for a while, add something to their cart, and then leave. That will count as one session, even if the user comes back later and completes their purchase. The problem here is that the data lacks nuance – you can’t tell what happened in between the first session and the purchase.

GA4 changes that by tracking and recording every single interaction as an individual event. The result is an exceptionally detailed look at user behavior, right down to the smallest interactions.
This event-based model is a radical departure from UA’s session-based model, and it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for data analysis.

GA4 uses machine-learning technology

Google has always been at the forefront of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technology, and GA4 is the latest example of that.

Unlike UA, GA4 doesn’t just track and report data – machine learning technology allows it to “understand” massive volumes of analytics data, isolate patterns, predict user behavior, and deliver insights that human analysts might miss.

For example, GA4 can automatically surface opportunities for website optimization, identify which marketing channels are most effective, and predict when a user is likely to convert.

This is a game-changing development for data analysis, and it’s one of the main reasons why GA4 is such a powerful tool.

GA4 offers stronger privacy protection

UA relies heavily on cookies to track user behavior. Cookies are small text files that are stored on users’ devices, and they can be used to track online activity. However, while it does the job, it also raises some serious privacy concerns.

For example, cookies can be used to track a user’s browsing habits across different websites, even if they’re not logged in. This information can then be sold to third-party advertisers.

To raise the bar on privacy protection, GA4 uses a technique called “client-side data collection.” This means that data is collected directly from the user’s device without relying on cookies. The result is a more privacy-friendly solution that gives users more control over their data without compromising analytics.

Business benefits of GA4

All of GA4’s powerful, new capabilities spell real-world benefits for SaaS and B2B businesses like yours. Here are some of them:

1. Understand the customer journey like never before

Unlike B2C, SaaS and B2B companies are all about nurturing long-term relationships versus selling a product. To succeed, you need an intimate understanding of your target audience’s behavior, pain points, and needs.

GA4’s event-based model offers a more holistic look at the customer journey, right down to the smallest interactions. This allows you to identify issues and optimize the user experience accordingly. Pair that with GA4’s machine learning capabilities, and you have a tool that evolves along with your business and users to deliver ever-more accurate insights.

2. No more limit on analytics data collection

With UA, you’re limited to 10 million hits per month. This isn’t an issue with GA4, which removes the limit on data collection. You can now collect as much data as you need to gain a comprehensive understanding of your target audience.

3. Enjoy more targeted segments for your marketing campaigns

GA4’s events-based model naturally allows SaaS and B2B companies to execute hyper-targeted campaigns. Instead of relying on broad, catch-all segments, you can now target specific interactions and user behavior.

For example, if you know that users who visit your pricing page are more likely to convert, you can target them with a specific campaign that’s designed to move them further down the funnel.

4. Harness data from enhanced measurement events

No more guessing how users are interacting with your content and site – GA4 will tell exactly you what’s going on. With enhanced measurement events, you can see a user’s scrolling behavior, whether they finished a video or not, what they searched for on your site, the files they downloaded, and so many more.

This unprecedented level of data lets you fine-tune your content and site design to give users the best possible experience.

5. Access cross-platform tracking

Another huge departure from UA is GA4’s cross-platform tracking capability. Before, UA could only track website data. If you wanted to see app engagement, you had to set up a separate property.

Now, you can see everything in one place on the GA4 platform. This gives you a complete picture of your target audience’s behavior, whether they’re interacting with your website, app, or both.

6. See the entire user journey

The most successful SaaS and B2B businesses keep a close eye on the user life cycle, and it’s easier than ever with GA4. The platform has a new “Life Cycle” section that shows you data for different stages of the SaaS B2B lifecycle, from acquisition to engagement, monetization, and retention.

This data is essential for understanding whether your users are moving through the stages as you intended. If not, you can make changes to your product or marketing strategy accordingly.

Setting up a new GA4 property

The GA4 platform is outstanding, but we have to be honest here – migrating from UA to GA4 can be complicated.
There are a lot of new terminologies to learn, and the platform itself is very different. Here’s a look at some key GA4 concepts and features that you should be aware of before starting the migration process:

1. You need to structure your GA4 property and accounts to meet your business needs

For instance, SaaS & B2B businesses need to track data at the account level to understand customer churn. On the other hand,eCommerce businesses need to track data at the product level to see which items are selling well and which ones need to be improved.

Therefore, you need to plan out your GA4 property structure before you start setting anything up.

2. The GA4 setup assistant can help – but only to an extent

To help with the migration process, Google has created a GA4 setup assistant. This tool guides you through the initial steps of setting up your GA4 property, including connecting your Universal Analytics account and importing Google Ads links.

However, the setup assistant doesn’t cover everything. For instance, there are tons of customizations that B2B and SaaS companies need to do to get GA4 working properly for them, such as mapping UA events to GA4. These require manual work and can’t be done with the setup assistant.

3. You need to add the Google tag to your websites to start collecting data

Your new GA4 properties won’t start processing hits until you add the Google tag to your websites.

First, you need to create a new global site tag (gtag.js) and add it to every page of your website. Then, you need to update your existing UA tracking code to point to the GA4 property ID. This takes some coding skills, so we don’t recommend DIY-ing this part. Any mistake could break your website’s tracking.

4. You need to import your Google ad links from UA to GA4

If you’re running Google Ads campaigns, you must transfer your links from UA to GA4. This is a crucial step, as it allows GA4 to collect data on your ad campaigns and attribute conversions accordingly.

And that’s just the start! Trust us – the Common Ground team has been busy helping our SaaS and B2B clients migrate from UA to GA4. We know the platform inside and out by now, and we can help you make the transition with minimal disruption to your business.

Let’s get your GA4 properties up and running ASAP – send us a message here so we can talk about it in detail.

Meanwhile, let’s take a quick tour of the new GA4 interface.

The new GA4 user interface

Expect to be confused the first time you log in to your GA4 account – the old UA layout is no more. Also, you won’t find many of the standard reports or metrics where they used to be, but in its place is a more intuitive interface that is better organized and easier to use.

To get started, click on the “Reports” tab from the left menu. This is the new GA4 reports snapshot dashboard, and it includes most of what was available from the left menu in UA. In addition, the dashboard is card-based, which makes it visually easier to navigate.

Note that this ‘Reports Snapshot’ screen is divided into rows of cards. Each card contains data on a specific aspect of your website’s traffic, such as real-time users, conversion insights, user acquisition, or traffic acquisition.

We encourage you to click around to familiarize yourself with the new GA4 layout and features. For instance, click on “Exploration Reports” to access advanced data analysis like segment overlap, funnel exploration, cohort exploration, and more – these used to be paid features exclusively available to GA360 customers but are now free on GA4!

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