By Allison Gibson

Google launched the next generation of Google Analytics late 2020, called Google Analytics 4 or GA4.


So, what does all this mean and how it is different?

Google’s “Universal Analytics” is the current version of the platform most companies use. Google Analytics has gone through various names and versions since 2012. It has been a viable tool for many businesses and they have learned to love the data it can provide. Google Universal Analytics is a website visitor tracking tool to measure visitor metrics like page views, traffic sources, e-commerce tracking and more. When Universal launched it was geared for desktop. As time moved on and mobile devices took over a large percentage of online usage, Google modified this platform as best it could to meet all needs. Despite their best efforts and the ever-evolving mobile app and digital world, Google Universal Analytics never was truly mobile-focused. Until now with GA4.

Google states, GA4 is a new kind of property, with different reports than what you’re used to seeing in Universal Analytics properties. One advantage of a Google Analytics 4 property is that you can use it for a website, and it the business has an app it will track that data, or both a website and app together. Universal Analytics properties only support websites.

Sounds great! Should I make the switch?

Yes and No. Unlike most software or upgrades, GA4 is a whole new platform. You cannot simply mash a button and voila, you are upgraded. Because it is collecting and analyzing data in a whole new way, you need to add the new GA4 code to a website. For now, Google recommends for websites that have Google’s Universal Analytics installed, that you also add GA4. For brand new sites, you will simply start with GA4. When Google’s Universal Analytics will be phased out is unknown, but it is certain that it will become less prevalent in 2022 and beyond. GA4 is also still making updates on data collection and reporting, so it is important to use both for now and let the GA4 tracking start collecting data on your website so that you will have historical data to look out for when you make the final switch.

Other than supporting a business’ mobile app what makes GA4 different?

One of the major differences is the new data modeling feature that uses AI to fill in the gaps in data collection with the current Google Analytics. This has become an issue as more browsers block cookies which is the main way that the current Google Analytics collects data. Cookie-consent rules, blocked JavaScript and a stronger focus on privacy, are making data tracking for analytics harder to gather information.

The new data modeling feature also has a new way of gathering more information about each web visits. Before web traffic and user behavior relied heavily on “Hits” and but in GA 4 focuses on the user’s journey from the first visit to potentially final conversions. Some of the terminology is as follows:

Events: these are user interactions with a website or app – like page views, button clicks, user actions, etc. Unlike before, events do not require adding customized code into the on-site Analytics tracking code, some events are measured by default.
Parameters: additional bits of information that give context to each event. For example, parameters can be used to describe the value of a purchase, or to provide context into where, how, and why the event was logged. These can include page titles, article IDs, etc. – these are most analogous to many of the “dimensions” that were available before.
User property: attributes or demographic information about the user.
User ID: which is used for cross-platform user tracking.

So you will see that GA4 is all about “events.” These events are the main way that data is presented in the new Google Analytics and includes enhanced measurement.

Enhanced Measurement lets you automatically track one or more of the following events:

Scrolls for people scrolling at least 90% of a page.
Outbound clicks from your website to other websites.
Keywords entered into your website’s search function.
Engagement of people watching embedded YouTube videos.
Files downloads for people downloading files from your website.

 

These are out-of-the-box events that are enabled on a data stream and track automatically without setting up additional tags.

It is important to start the process of getting GA4 on your client’s website asap especially with the shift of cookie-less activity and to start tracking event-based analytics. With increased touchpoints online combined with cross-device activity, the addition of analytics to match this will be a great marketing resource to come.

For more information on GA4 visit:
https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/9964640?hl=en