In October 2021, Google announced the most dramatic change to Google Analytics ever to be released: Google Analytics 4 (GA4). There is a lot of knowledge about the impact this has on website measurement and reporting. We break down what you need to know about GA4 here to keep you informed.
What is GA4 and Why Does it Matter?
GA4 is the new Google Analytics property and the new default for Analytics. GA4 Is used to monitor your marketing channels and Key Performance Indicators. Using GA4 means you will be able to spot trends and predict what is coming. As opposed to GA3 which was built on the existing code base, this version of predictive analytics was built from the ground up. Many of its key features differ from Universal Analytics (UA). It is vital to start transitioning to GA4 since Google will stop processing new data from UA on July 1, 2023. It is recommended to dual-tag your website with both GA4 and UA to create events and audiences before July 2022 so your historic data will be preserved by the time UA is deprecated the following year.
What Makes GA4 Different from UA?
GA4 was created to work in a cookie-less, multi-device world that brings together mobile, desktop, and apps together in a single place. It uses artificial intelligence to fill in the gaps left behind by UA. Its interface also varies, creating a learning curve for some businesses that must understand the differences between these two versions. The main objective of GA4 is to analyse the behaviour of users as they journey to become customers. Events are the key form of measurement as opposed to the session-based tracking seen in UA. This makes it more effective to measure each event made on the website as a standalone action to improve cross-platform analysis capabilities for optimising conversion rate. GA4 was designed with data privacy in mind anonymising IP addresses and adopting storage defaults of 2 or 14 months versus 14 months to no expiration with UA.
What to Expect with GA4
GA4 appears quite bland to that the previously expected options presented by UA. There are fewer reports and even those reports contain fewer tables. However, this does not overshadow the ability GA4 gives its user to build advanced reports in Explorations. You can still use Data Studio and gain additional new metrics with GA4. This ranges from engagement rates based on the interaction level of the users to screen views. Engagement rate act similar to bounce rate in UA, but can be broken down and calculated on apps. Certain metrics such as conversion rate can be a little trickier to access.
Adopting GA4 Standards
GA4 is particularly valuable in this changing era of website visitors opting out of cookie usage and other means of data collection. Browsers such as Mozilla Firefox can now block GA in addition to new privacy protection laws that reduce the usefulness of traditional analytics in UA. GA4 is built to adapt to a future with or without cookies to maintain its relevance to the business in providing useful metrics and valuable data to support business growth for years to come.