Released back in 2005, Google Analytics (GA1) changed how we tracked users and gleaned data.
Tracking an average customer journey was now a possibility. This new feature allowed companies to understand how effective their campaigns were.
They could also discover the impact of user sessions. For example, did a user buy a product or service? Or did they leave the page without doing anything?
Since 2005, Google has released newer and newer versions of analytics.
The most recent version – Google Analytics 4 (GA4) – came out in October 2020, with further updates added in 2021.
GA4 is significant, promising huge improvements to analytics, as well as new features.
We’ll explain in more detail later, but the headlines are:
- Users can now glean insights from machine learning.
- Track customers across devices.
- Leverage more granular custom metrics.
For digital marketing strategies, Google Analytics 4 is a big deal.
So, what are the things you need to know about, and what features of this analytics tool can you put to one side?
Charlie Meyler, Content & Marketing Executive at SEO Agency Embryo, is going to explain all here.
What Is GA4?
GA4 is the latest version of analytics and is, partly, a reaction to the introduction of GDPR. Before having the name ‘Google Analytics’, it used to be ‘App & Web’.
Google Analytics 4 can now collect data and insights from apps and websites. If a user switches from a business’s website to their app, GA4 can track their actions and behaviour.
For those that currently have older analytics set up, nothing will change unless you want it to.
Yet, new analytics users won’t have a choice, and GA4 will become the default choice. You won’t be able to select which Google Analytics version to use, unlike existing users.
It’s recommended that you start using GA4, and its new interface, now.
While UA will work, using GA4 now allows you to collect data without losing insights from your current GA.
You may be wondering why this new default version of Google Analytics has come about?
Google created GA4 as a reaction to GDPR and the fact that users had to consent to cookies tracking their data.
With many users choosing not to allow cookies to track their web behaviour, insights were poor.
Google hopes that, with the introduction of GA4, this reliance will decrease. In broad terms, it will use advanced machine learning models as part of its activity tracking.
Machine learning will fill the gaps where users don’t consent. It can predict where customers go based on previous sessions by millions of other users.
GA4 bypasses the GDPR issue and makes reporting more advanced. It bases customer activity on years of data and gives businesses a complete picture.
GA4 users can look at life cycles and behaviour in incredible detail.
The bottom line: GA4 will allow you to track users across devices and platforms
- GA4 exists to deal with a future without cookies and other old data identifiers.
- It centres around more holistic data streams. This is opposite to the old-fashioned views and segments prevalent in current UAs.
- Google claims that GA4 will enable you to edit, track, and fine-tune events.
- Its AI will make data-driven assumptions on actual search traffic and user behaviour.
- There is no longer a ‘View’ level section; instead, GA4 has only Account and Property levels.
Benefits and Capabilities of GA4
There is a wide range of benefits and capabilities that come with GA4. They are all designed to make marketers’ lives easier.
GA4 users can carry out ‘cross-domain tracking’. It means they can track users across several different websites.
This feature doesn’t need any complicated code adjustments and is right there in the UI.
Once installed, Google Analytics 4 will let you make adjustments to event tracking.
You can do so without needing to edit the back-end code of your site, saving you time and money.
You’re able to optimize the insights you get from your data in a few clicks.
Life Cycle Reporting
The Life Cycle report is one of the biggest changes to Google Analytics. This feature will track customer lifecycles/interactions across all devices.
This new view allows them to further understand what customers are doing on their site.
That said, marketers can now enjoy a far more holistic view of their target audience’s behaviour.
These insights are very helpful, new, and something marketers should leverage.
Connecting To Big Query
Big Query’s raw data is now available on GA4, running sales-qualified leads alongside it.
Even better, there are no limits on the amount of data that you can send. In a world where data is king, this lack of limitation is priceless.
Google Analytics 4 also allows you to track nuanced customer behaviour. These nuances include scroll, video, and site search tracking.
You can create tracking for certain events thanks to enhanced measurements properties, too.
There is also a brand-new set of engagement metrics in this version of GA. They allow you to track user engagements online and in apps.
These metrics include:
- Engaged sessions.
- Engagement rate.
- Engaged sessions per user.
These new metrics replace the Bounce Rate, which was a metric that failed to measure mobile app engagement.
A Step-By-Step Guide: How to Switch to Google Analytics 4?
You may well be keen to start enjoying the benefits of Google Analytics 4. So, here’s a quick 5-step guide about how to set up a GA4 property.
- Head to your existing website’s property and sign in to your Google Analytics account.
- Go to the admin section.
- Go to the account column and select the account that you want to create the property in.
- Select the desired property for your site in the property column.
- At this stage, there’ll be an option to upgrade to GA4.
Expert’s Thoughts On GA4
For this post, we spoke to Sam Thomas, Head of Organic Strategy at Embryo, who had this to say about the latest iteration of Analytics:
“The current version of Google Analytics launched in the same year as the iPhone 5. The way we use devices has changed since then.”
He adds: “Consumers are using more devices, and their journeys can span those devices.
“GA4 begins tracking into the modern age and will allow marketers to track new data sets.
“The data we’ll be able to analyse means we can make better decisions on future campaigns. This will lead to a far greater ROI in the short and long term.”
Should I Switch To GA4?
GA4 is the clearest signal yet that Google plans to make the standard version of analytics.
But, don’t worry, there is no rush to change everything all at once. Google’s yet to say when Universal Analytics will end.
UA and GA4 will most likely co-exist for quite a while, so there’s no need to panic! For now, introduce elements of GA4 into your account, so you get used to it.
It will mean you can enjoy the best of both worlds. Your current data won’t change, and you’ll still be able to enjoy this new, more nuanced analytics tool.