GA4 101: A Comprehensive Guide To The Future Of Analytics

Iulia Olteanu
April 25, 2023
Part 1 of 4: The biggest tracking changes coming with Google Analytics 4, and what you need to know about them!

On July 1st, 2023, Google Analytics 4 will officially become the go-to source for recording and analyzing your website’s performance. Below, our Marketing Operations Analyst lays out everything you’ll need to know when you start using your new GA4 property after Google makes the change.

The Biggest Difference: Events-Based Tracking

One of the biggest changes coming with GA4 is the move from UA’s session-based tracking to event-based tracking. If you said “HUH?!” after reading that sentence, you’re not the only one! Allow us to elaborate:

Universal Analytics uses a measurement model that focuses on sessions and pageviews, and other distinct “hit types”. In Google Analytics 4, every interaction with your website or app is categorizes as an “event”:

For this reason, it’s better to rethink your data collection approach as you migrate to GA4 (as opposed to porting your existing event structure straight from UA). We take a deeper dive into this in the “Events” section below, so keep reading for more! 

Website Traffic

You’re probably used to understanding your website traffic performance by navigating to “Channel Reports” in Universal Analytics: Acquisition >>> All Traffic >> Channel Reports. There, you’d dive into users, sessions, bounce rate, and overall channel performance. 

In GA4, with the new interface and terminology, you will now navigate to Life Cycle >>> Acquisition >>> Traffic Acquisition Report:

Unlike in UA, GA4 does not allow the creation of Custom Channel Groupings. *GASP!* This means you’ll need to change how you’re interpreting your data to use GA4’s Default Channel Grouping. If this one hurts a little, never fear: we expect that Google will make accelerated enhancements to their GA4 product to offer more of the custom UA features we all know and love. Custom Channel Grouping is one of the important features used to make sure unassigned or “Other” categories would not catch important sources of traffic that should have been assigned to a different channel.


When you look at “Users” in a GA4 property, you’ll notice that the number does not match the number of users you may be seeing in your UA property. Turn off the alarm bells folks—that difference is actually intentional. Here’s why: 

  • In most cases, UA properties have exclusion filters, which are most often used to exclude internal traffic and spam traffic. GA4, however, does not currently allow exclusion filters, which means the number of users displayed includes users that your UA environment is set to filter out. While this may sound like a major WTF moment, GA4’s machine learning is smart enough to catch and exclude spam traffic by default. 
  • The second reason why the user numbers don’t match is because of the differences in how data is tracked between the two properties. While both properties have the same nomenclature for visitors (Users), you’ll need to be aware that UA looks at total users, whereas GA4 looks at active users

Bounce Rate

GA4 has done away with the “Bounce Rate” metric, and has instead introduced a “User Engagement” metric that includes the number of engaged sessions along with average engagement time per session. GA4 defines an engaged session as one that “lasts 10 seconds or longer, has 1 or more conversion events, or has 2 or more page or screen views.” If a user doesn’t meet that criteria, the session is considered a bounce.

In order to get detailed reports about user engagement with your website and content in GA4, you will need to get used to the interface and use the editing functions to land a report that you want to see. For instance, if you want to see how engaged your organic visitors are, you could further edit and filter your traffic acquisition to look like the below report:


As we mentioned earlier, GA4 focuses on Events, which are actions that visitors take on your website. By default, GA4 tracks and records the following events: 

  • First_session
  • Sessions_start
  • user_engagement

In addition to these, GA4 also allows you to track “enhanced events”, which will need to be manually enabled within your GA4 environment: 

  • Page_views
  • scrolls (more than 90% of page height)
  • outbound clicks
  • site search
  • view engagement
  • file downloads

Once all events are set up and dialed in, you can dive into GA4’s reporting on those events by navigating to: Life Cycle >>> Engagement >>> Events to get a full picture of how users are interacting with your website:


Last, but CERTAINLY not least—in fact, it’s perhaps the most important change coming with GA4: The Conversions Report! 

“Conversions” in GA4 are essentially the equal of “Goals” in UA: they’re the actions taken by visitors on your website that align with your business goals and objectives. These metrics can provide insight into whether or not your marketing efforts have been successful. A user purchasing from your store is considered as valuable to your business as a user subscribing to your newsletter, so both are counted as “conversions” in Google’s new analytics approach. Conversions will have a dedicated report in GA4, which you can find under Life Cycle >>> Engagement >>> Conversions.

While GA4 will automatically track a couple of conversions, these are mostly specific to web apps, so lead gen and ecommerce sites still need to be sure conversion events are defined and tracked properly in the new property.

Remember, the sooner you migrate from UA to GA4, the better! Migrating before the deadline will give your new GA4 property enough time to gather data in parallel with your existing UA property. Plus, your team will have time to get used to all the brand new interface, reporting, and terminology that comes along with the upgrade. If you haven’t migrated your Universal Analytics property to GA4 yet, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered! Fill out our GA4 Migration Form today to get your inquiry started.  

Further Reading…

WOW, that’s a lot of information! Want more? Subscribe to our newsletter to hear updates about the GA4 migration and get digital marketing tips and more from the Good & Gold team.

More stuff you
might like
No items found.
Let's TALK
Ready to start digital marketing services for your business?