The next generation of Google Analytics is here.
If you’re one of those people who are turning a blind eye to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and keep flicking back to Universal Analytics (GA3) because you’re too busy to learn about the new version (and denying the inevitable), this article is for you.
GA4 is the most recent release of Google Analytics, or as Google describes it – “a new property designed for the future of measurement”. GA4 will soon become the default option for Analytics Tracking, replacing the former Universal Analytics.
GA4 is a free service that allows you to track traffic, engagement, and more across your website and apps. GA4 uses machine learning that automatically identifies insights across your website and app, helping to give a more complete picture of your customer’s user journey.
Unlike Universal Analytics, GA4 combines both website and app data, so you can understand the user journey more broadly. It gives you insights such as who’s visiting your website or app, how they’re searching it, and what they’re doing there.
Universal Analytics has been in the market since 2012, meaning it was simply not designed for the needs in 2023 and beyond. With the introduction of mobile apps, machine learning and changes in consumer behaviour, the need for analytics has expanded. GA4 has been designed to reflect these expectations.
Another reason GA4 was developed was to better focus on customer privacy. This follows the implementation of new privacy legislation and regulations around the world.
GA4 uses privacy-first tracking, which means users’ privacy is more protected. For example, GA4 does not store third-party cookies or log IP addresses so you can’t connect an IP address with a specific user. GA4 has also implemented shorter data retention periods with unaggregated data being automatically deleted after a certain period, making data more protected.
Since the introduction of mobile apps, the user journey has changed substantially and therefore so has the need to track users across both channels. GA4 allows you to track analytics across both websites and apps, whereas Universal Analytics only allowed you to track across your website.
GA4 uses a new model that is built around events and users, all with an array of new metrics. The new events-based model processes each user interaction as a standalone event, whereas GA was centred around user sessions in a given timeframe.
GA4 provides you with a suite of pre-made actions and events.
The new model allows GA4 to be more flexible and include new predictive metrics.
GA4 has simplified the reporting interface, feeding you an overview of reports in summary cards that are organised around customer lifecycle stages: Acquisition, Retention, Engagement, and Monetisation.
Instead of measuring Bounce Rate, GA4 measures Engaged Sessions. This looks at the active user interactions rather than the lack of them.
In GA4, you can create segments in Analytics based on users, events or sessions across your website and app. This is available on the new Explorations page.
Ideally, you’re already using it. If you haven’t made the change, you should get onto it pronto. On July 1, 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties will no longer process data. This means as of mid-next year, new data will stop flowing into the last version of GA. If you want to be able to compare Year On Year data from August 2023, you need to switch over to GA4 now for continuity in your reporting.
In a nutshell, all these changes mean that GA4 is simply providing a solution to help fill the missing data gaps that will arise as a result of the recent push for user privacy and the changes in the user-journey. As it’s becoming increasingly difficult to track users as they visit multiple platforms across multiple devices, GA4 uses machine learning and enhanced insights to predict your customers’ behaviours.
GA4 is a powerful tool for businesses, as the insights and predictions can help you make better business and marketing decisions.
Apart from switching over to GA4 now, you should also think about downloading your existing data history within Universal Analytics. After 6 months, you’ll lose access to your historical reports, so it’s a good idea to pop a calendar reminder in now so you don’t forget to download your existing data history in July 2023.
It’s also good to know that you can’t move your historical data to Google Analytics 4, so you have to start from scratch in terms of data collection.
While it might be overwhelming and time-consuming to learn the new GA4 interface, it is inevitable that you’ll need to in the near future. Putting it off is only going to set you back come July 2023. If you haven’t already, make the switch to GA4 now and start getting familiar with it. If you need help in doing so, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.