Google Analytics 4 (GA4): What It Is & Why You Need It, ASAP


by Stefan Janjic Lozo | Sep 28, 2022

Data and information are the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine. If you measure the wrong things, you set the wrong targets. And, if you aim at the wrong target, you’ll arrive at the wrong place. In the ever-changing digital landscape, one thing is for sure – Google Analytics is the best friend of all SEO specialists and digital marketers globally as it offers invaluable insights and, thus, dictates the decision-making and success of websites.

Fasten your seatbelts because Google Analytics is evolving, and the long-awaited GA4 is here to take the world by storm. To keep you in the loop, we’re introducing you to the future of tapping into priceless information – Google Analytics 4. Learn everything you need to know about the next generation of analytics to stay ahead of the curve, leverage all it has to offer, and use it to your advantage.

The digital world is one big data problem, and those who do not keep up with the times risk being left in the dust. So, better dive right in!

Meet the Next Generation Analytics: What Is Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?

Meet-the-Next-Generation-Analytics-What-Is-Google-Analytics-4-(GA4)

Google Analytics 4, or GA4 for short, is the latest, future-centric version of Google Analytics – a free web analytics service part of the Google Marketing Platform that provides statistics and analytical tools for search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing purposes. It enables tracking and monitoring a wide range of metrics and user behaviors on a website. Since this is the fourth version of this revolutionary data gold mine, it is called GA4.

Google Analytics will answer most questions related to a website’s performance, and any website owner or marketer can use GA to track their visitors’ journey as they navigate through their website. Providing valuable insights, GA allows you to build a holistic view of where they’re coming from (acquisition sources), their browsing patterns (what pages they’re visiting), and how they arrive at a specified goal (where they converted from).

Google Analytics 4 takes it a step further.

The Evolution of Google Analytics: A Crash Course

Before we dive deeper into the new fascinating features of GA4, the latest analytics property from Google, why don’t we shed some light on its predecessors:

1. The first version of Google Analytics (GA1) was “Classic Analytics,” which uses the ga.js JavaScript library.

2. The second version of Google Analytics (GA2) was “Universal Analytics,” which uses the analytics.js JavaScript library.

3. The third, current version of Google Analytics (GA3) is also “Universal Analytics,” but it uses the gtag.js JavaScript library instead.

What’s New? The Difference Between GA4 and Universal Analytics

In the past, there was no easy way to combine mobile app and website usage data for unified reporting and deeper analysis. To measure website usage data, you needed to use the GA property for tracking website data. To measure mobile app usage data, you needed Google Analytics for Firebase or Google Analytics APP view (created via separate GA property).

So, how is Google Analytics 4 different? How does it work? Unlike its ancestors, Google Analytics 4 collects event-based data from both websites and apps, hence its former “App+Web Property” name when it was first added in beta. GA4 also uses the gtag.js library, but there’s a key difference – it has a new measurement model in its arsenal, the “Event+Parameter” model.

Google Analytics has evolved greatly since it was first acquired by Google in 2005, and thanks to the birth of Google Analytics 4, you can now seamlessly integrate mobile app and website usage data into a single GA Property. Wow, right? And that’s not all. Keep reading to see what else GA4 has in store!

Why Is GA4 Better than GA? Key Benefits of Google Analytics 4

Why Is GA4 Better than GA Key Benefits of Google Analytics 4

Fusing the best of its forerunner, Universal Analytics, with brand new features intelligently crafted to leverage the opportunities big data and machine learning offer, Google Analytics 4 is no doubt the data panacea we’ve all been waiting for.

There are a number of cutting-edge features that are sure to put a smile on the faces of marketers and businesses around the globe. Let’s take a deep dive into the astonishing key features of GA4, in no particular order:

1. Robust Cross-Platform and Cross-Device Tracking

Thanks to “data streams” that don’t focus solely on views and segments like the Universal Analytics properties did, GA4 collects both website and app data to help marketers get the full picture of the customer journey across devices and platforms to develop their strategies.

2. Event-Based Data Measurement Model

Unlike the GA3 measurement model based on sessions and pageviews, GA4 is built on out-of-the-box tracking, and the emphasis is now on users and their interactions, captured as events. It uses an event-based data model, meaning that instead of relying on pageviews, it tracks active user interactions (events) as they happen, regardless of what page the user is on, providing a solid analytics experience designed for the future.

The event-based model offers an in-depth view of user actions, errors, and other metrics from your website and apps, allowing for intelligent aggregation, much more flexibility, and accuracy for tracking user behavior.

Four different types of Events are part of GA4:

· Automatically Collected events & Enhanced Measurement events – Automatically logged from the gtag or gtm configuration without additional coding.

· Recommended events – Events with predefined names and parameters that are recommended for different business types and useful for common scenarios such as user actions, system events, or errors.

· Custom events – Like recommended events, custom events require custom code changes and can be implemented with Google Tag Manager.

3. Unparalleled Insights Thanks to Machine Learning Models: Advanced Analysis, Metrics, and Reporting

With GA4 came a new Google reporting section with a new toolset for running more advanced analysis and access to complete user journeys. The new analytics tool’s game-changing integration with BigQuery (a cloud data warehouse) allows for free and nearly unlimited data storage, no limits to the volume of data you can send, unsampled data, and even more thorough customer journey analysis.

Another big part of the GA4 (r)evolution is its use of machine learning algorithms to provide smarter insights with user-centric reporting. A new set of engagement metrics replaced some UA ones, such as bounce rate, with “engaged sessions.” The new engagement rate-focused metrics provide more helpful information, while the new “probabilistic matching” feature of GA4 gives you a complete picture of your users through predicting purchase probability, churn probability, and revenue prediction for each individual user.

The new metrics and AI-powered predictive capabilities of GA4 offer unmatched guidance. With extended reporting, you can use the highly accurate revenue predictions, conversion probabilities, and engagement metrics in a powerful tandem to zero in on customer behavior, understand where you should direct your attention, and target your marketing efforts down to a T.

4. Adapted to the Privacy Landscape of the Future

Another advantage of GA4 is that it offers more intelligent privacy and security features designed for a (not too distant) future with stricter privacy standards that may or may not have cookies or identifiers. Built for the long haul, GA4 has more flexible and granular privacy controls like cookieless web traffic, analytics measurement, and behavioral and conversion modeling to fill in the gaps where data may be incomplete. It also won’t store IP addresses.

Thanks to this upgrade, the likely stricter user privacy and first-party data-oriented future with third-party cookies gone will be easier to navigate with new GA4 features that ensure easier compliance with stricter data privacy laws and regulations while preserving key measurement functionality.

5. Extended Segmentation Capabilities & Direct Integration

GA4 allows for more targeted, user-defined audience segments based on events, so you will be able to focus your attention on users and user interactions and even analyze things like the time users spend between stages in their sales cycle, thanks to the added option of embedding “time” into segments.

And finally, GA4 will provide direct integrations to various media platforms and other Google products, like Google Ads, Google Analytics 360, and Display & Video 360, which will help drive actions on your website or app with combined data, making it easy to use Analytics insights to optimize your marketing campaigns and have the audience you want to reach waiting for you when launching them.

Why You Should Switch to GA4, Now

Why-You-Should-Switch-to-GA4,-Now

With its multi-platform functionality and user-centric measurement properties, GA4 is here to stay, slay and save the day, sending GA3 Universal Analytics to rest. If you’re still wondering: “Do I need GA4?” the answer is a resounding yes, as the clock is ticking towards an end date.

As of July 1st, 2023, GA4 will be the default and only option, as standard Universal Analytics properties, the previous version of GA, will no longer process data or be supported. You’ll be able to see your Universal Analytics reports for at least six months after July 1, 2023; however, new data will only flow into Google Analytics 4 properties.

So, if you want to be able to use any of the new GA4 features, whether you like it or not, you’ll need to migrate sooner rather than later.

Moving on from Universal Analytics: Prepare for the Future with Google Analytics 4

The “bad” news you’ve been dreading to hear? Yes, you’ll have to set up new properties in GA4. However, don’t get ahead of yourself – before you cut all ties with Universal Analytics, don’t forget to export all the historical data you have first. You won’t be able to import your UA data due to different structures, metrics, and methods of collecting data in GA4. The good news? There’s still some time to prepare.

We advise you to start the move sooner rather than later, so you can build the necessary historical data and get familiar with the new GA4 experience before Universal Analytics stops processing new hits. Also, update any third-party tools before you take the grand leap since, besides losing your data, integrated tools will also break if you make a hard switch.

Wrapping It Up

 

 

 

Without big data analytics, digital marketers and companies are blind and deaf, wandering out onto the web like deer on a freeway. Data is the new science, and consumer data will be the biggest differentiator in the future. Whoever unlocks the reams of data and uses it strategically will win the digital race. Google Analytics 4 is a monster tool that will become your ally in the battle for digital success in a growingly user-centric world.

A cutting-edge re-architecture of the platform we all know and love, GA4 is designed for the future of measurement and comes with more powerful analyst tools and integrations, allowing us to navigate new challenges and stitch the multi-platform customer journeys together in great detail, all while prioritizing user privacy.

Start learning how to use GA4 and migrate as soon as possible to cut the learning curve ahead and use it to climb to the digital top in the future.

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