All You Need to Know About Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
With its latest fourth edition, Google Analytics has had quite a journey. Back in 2005, Google had bought a web statistics analysis program. It was then renamed Google Analytics. The primary function of Analytics was to measure the number of users.
Next up, in 2012 came Universal Analytics, the version with which most of the marketers are familiar. In this version, there is more focus on the measurement of the session or visits instead of the users.
Over time, ID Measurement, automatic subdomain tracking, and simplified traffic attribution were added to Universal Analytics, and this made it easier to use. Therefore, in almost two decades, the platform has seen a lot of improvements which have brought us to its latest version – Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
What is Google Analytics 4?
Universal Analytics focuses on the data that is visible to and the decisions are made based on a segment of site visitors and their activity. Now Google Analytics 4 has been developed using artificial intelligence (machine learning). It will take all that can be measured and this data will then be fed to its algorithms.
Following this, reports will be built that will be based on the actual users to gauge what the data might look like had all the user data been collected. This will help marketers accurately evaluate their audience as well as their journey.
It will help them in making active decisions when taking the help of platforms such as Facebook Ads and Google Ads. The more one uses it, the better it gets.
5 Primary Features of GA4
The top five features of Google Analytics 4 are:
Revamped Data Model
Up till now, Analytics has focused on a hit-based data model. It means that whenever a user performed any specific action on the website (clicking on some link, call-to-action cues, etc.), it was recorded.
Google Analytics 4 is transitioning from this action to treating every activity done by the user as an event. Therefore, every movement of the user will be tracked and treated as an event, for instance, every page view is an event, an event is also naturally an event, and so on.
Only available on Firebase till now, DebugView will now be used by Analytics as well. With its help, the chronological order of every event can be monitored and this can be very helpful in tracking whether everything is going as planned. If it’s not, you’ll easily be able to locate the origin of the problem.
DebugView can be easily accessed using Google Analytics Debugger (a Chrome extension) or by simply opening the preview mode of Google Tag Manager.
The new User Interface (UI) has been developed keeping in mind a user’s life-cycle:
Acquisition > Engagement > Monetization > Retention
It has upgraded from the traditional graph-and-table-view to presenting information using reporting cards. Every card consists of a detailed view of the data and you can dig further by clicking on the link available on each card at the bottom-right corner.
The earlier system of tracking user identity was pretty cumbersome as you had to keep looking at two different places to procure audience insights. This is why the new user identity system of Google Analytics 4 is probably one of its most significant improvements over the previous version.
Google Analytics 4 will use Client IDs as well as User IDs to track the user’s identity. It will first rely on User ID but if that isn’t present, it will go back to the Client ID. Further, it will also enable Google Signals to widen Data Collection.
This will come in handy when a user visits a site, GA4 will recognize them using the User ID, then search with Google Signals, and if either of these works, it will help in getting the Client ID.
5 Significant Uses of Google Analytics 4
Five useful benefits of Google Analytics 4 have been given below:
Better Customer Journey & Engagement Tracking
Right from acquisition to retention, marketers will now be able to follow the complete journey of their users. The advanced setup will make tracking a much more streamlined process which will result in easily attainable goals, more conversions, and event tracking.
Simplified Goals and Events Setup
A much more complex process earlier, it has been simplified a lot and now requires little to no code editing, editing, or optimization of goal setup. Many previously manual setups have been turned into default options such as clicks, transactions, etc.
AI & Analytics in a Cookie-less World
One of the primary motivating factors for the development of a new version was to transition to a cookie-less world. Since Google Analytics 4 uses AI, it is using ‘modeling’ by extracting data from existing reports and user behavior information. Many are calling this process of obtaining information the advent of the ‘predictive analytics’ era.
Upgraded Visualisations and Reporting
Existing features such as ‘Real Time’ have been improved upon and made to look more engaging. But it is the new features that have been added to Google Analytics 4 that separate it from Universal Analytics that make it much more appealing.
Titled ‘Analysis Hub’, this new feature will show you a template gallery that resembles Data Studio, as it includes charts you can create, such as funnel analysis and segment overlaps and you can see a major improvement.
Even though they still might seem a bit dull and take some time to improve, cross-dimensional metric reporting has been simplified a lot in this version as compared to the previous one.
An Endless Array of Parameters
When analyzing any data, it is the parameters that ultimately help you in making a sense of it, and the more the parameters, the better context you can provide to each event.
In Google Analytics 4, if we consider the needs of an ecommerce website, you can attach value to each purchase, location of purchase, and the most recent addition, provide cross-device journey as well using parameters.
While most of the previous dimensions are still there, they’ve just been made more usable and accessible by Google Analytics 4.
However, the most important thing to remember here is that in order to make the most of Google Analytics 4, you need to ensure that you have an excellent knowledge of Universal Analytics. Only then will you be able to make the optimal use of GA4.
Google Analytics 4 will help you in achieving a lot with a little, and this is what makes this technology so remarkable. Therefore, make the best use of it while also making sure that you have your basics clear.