Each time Google brings a new update to its Analytics game, the market goes up in turmoil. The same happened in October 2020 with the announcement of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) – the latest generation of Google Analytics with a multitude of new features. Unfortunately, many businesses and marketers are still unaware that GA4 is going to completely replace older versions very soon.
Yes, you read that right. There is a lot of buzz these days that Google Analytics 3 or GA3 will stop working in 2023. This means businesses and marketers must adapt themselves to the all-new GA4 as soon as they can. We agree this is no easy task – learning about new parameters, changing our communication strategies, and putting in efforts to adapt to Google all over again are daunting.
This is why we have compiled the fundamentals every business must know about GA4 and how it is poised to impact your marketing strategies. Let’s dive straight in.
First Things First, What is Google Analytics 4?
Businesses today have grown highly dependent on metrics and performance indicators to understand the intricate, multi-platform journeys of their customers. These metrics are dynamic and multi-pronged, and businesses must be wary to always prioritize user privacy even while capturing or assessing this data.
This is where Google Analytics 4 comes into picture. With the ability to measure a wide range of data types, Google Analytics 4 was announced to offer a powerful analytics experience that is built for the future.
Businesses can leverage Google's machine learning technology to surface and predict new insights, observe unified user journeys across all of their websites and apps, and keep up with an evolving ecosystem.
Purpose of the Launch
New privacy protection regulations (like the GDPR and CCPA) and the declining stability of conventional analytics are the main drivers behind the need for something like Google Analytics 4. Due to the cookie consent alternatives mandated by these legislations, many firms still dependent on the former Universal Google Analytics (GA3) are prone to experiencing challenges as a result of incomplete or erroneous data.
Google advertises the new Google Analytics 4 as a “next-generation approach” to simultaneously enable "privacy-first" tracking, x-channel measurement, and AI-based predictive data. GA4 can fill out statistics for website traffic and user behavior automatically, deploying Google's cutting-edge machine learning models instead of just "hits" from every page.
The "App + Web" solution platform that was released in 2019 is the same platform that Google Analytics 4 is built on. While that version was focused on cross-channel data to track consumers across apps, software, and websites, GA4 shifts the priority to users. The core here is the user journey starting from their first visit and ending at the final conversion.
Leaving Universal Analytics Behind?
Universal Analytics refers to the previous generation of Google Analytics, and yes, GA4 plans on leaving it behind. Google will start retiring Universal Analytics next year. July 1 onwards all regular Universal Analytics sites will stop accepting new hits.
Universal Analytics 360 properties will receive an additional three months of new hit processing, which will terminate on October 1, 2023, due to the new Analytics 360 experience's recent introduction.
The creation and relevance of Universal Analytics dates back to the generation of online metrics that was rooted in the desktop web. Autonomous sessions and more readily observable cookie data was the norm then. Things are changing rapidly today with privacy-centric user demands and regulations around.
This is why GA4 moves towards user-centric monitoring. The shift from cookies to event-based data architecture means businesses can leverage powerful analytics across platforms, geographies, and regulations.
Salient Offerings of GA4
Google Analytics 4 is built with privacy at its core to give a better experience for both businesses and their customers, with more thorough controls for data gathering and usage in place. No matter how complicated the shift may seem, GA4 will allow businesses to meet and address the changing needs and expectations of their consumers today.
Here are some highlights of Google Analytics 4 you should know about:
More Advanced Technologies in the Frame
- Relies on Machine Learning as the primary data measurement mechanism.
- AI-powered ‘Insights’ feature automatically highlights helpful information for marketing purposes.
- Advanced ‘Modeling’ feature helps extrapolate from existing data to make predictions about site traffic/user behavior.
- ‘Data Streams’ instead of views and segments used by Universal Analytics properties.
- ‘Future Proof’ design for businesses to progress even without cookies or identifying data.
Privacy at the Core
- IP addresses will no longer be stored on GA4.
- More granular user controls help marketers comply with data regulations such as GDPR and CCPA.
- Consent mode designed for websites where end-user consent will be taken for any data collection.
- Improved data deletion capabilities to comply with any deletion requests from users, without compromising on their own database.
- Preview mode to allow businesses to verify which data they have collected and/or want to remove.
Benefits to Marketers
- Deeper audience integration using Google Ads enabled.
- Marketers can anticipate customers actions using predictive insights and focus on high-value audiences only.
- Reporting organized around the customer lifecycle to help marketers draw down to the specifics they want to understand in a customer journey.
- Expanded codeless features like event tracking allow focused, qualitative tracking and measurement on-site and in-app.
- Changes, corrections and fine-tuning for event tracking possible without changing on-site code.
- Data Import can now contain a variety of data from sources other than websites, such apps, all in one property.
- Cross-domain tracking is possible within the UI without changing code.
- Additionally, "templated reports for ecommerce funnels" offer marketers a way to show and visualize data; this functionality was previously exclusive to Analytics 360 accounts.
GA3 vs GA4: What’s Changed?
The primary difference between Google Analytics 4 and conventional Universal Analytics, barring the fundamental shift in view of user privacy, is the change in user-interface.
There used to be three levels of data organization in the previous Analytics (Account, Property, and View), but there are only two in the latest version, Account and Property.
Unlike before, several events are now measured by default and do not require the addition of customized code to the on-site Analytics monitoring code.
Most of the previously accessible "dimensions" can be compared to Parameters now. For instance, page URLs or URIs are not highlighted as ‘dimensions’ like they were in the previous version of Google Analytics. Currently, these are handled as Parameters, similar to "page location."
The Impact of Google Analytics 4 on Marketing Strategies
Business and marketing managers today need to justify and strategize their work based on absolute performance metrics that clearly portray if they are meeting their goals, whether in terms of lead generation, sales, or outreach.
In this light, the GA4 comes across as a tool that can notify us of significant movements in KPI patterns, positive or negative.
Tracking such detailed and specific KPIs produces much better outcomes than simply analyzing how many visits your website has seen over a period. Instead, marketers can identify targeted areas for improvement and strategy, understand what’s best and what’s not working – all this without compromising on privacy regulations.
Businesses dealing with international markets are in particular gain with the GA4 because of these benefits.
How to Set Up Google Analytics 4?
If you are an administrator or editor, there are three methods to get started:
Option 1: Initialize the collection of analytics data. If you are new to Analytics and prepared to gather data for your website or app, do this.
Option 2: Upgrade a website using Universal Analytics (Analytics "classic") to Google Analytics 4. Along with your current Universal Analytics property, the GA4 Setup Assistant will add a Google Analytics 4 property. Using the property selector in the admin section, you can access both.
Option 3: Include Google Analytics 4 in a platform or CMS for building websites (content management system). If your website is hosted by a CMS such as Wix, WordPress, Drupal, Squarespace, GoDaddy, WooCommerce, Shopify, Magento, Awesome Motive, HubSpot, etc., then you need to take this action.
Impactful analytics software is one of the most effective marketing tools to have up your sleeve. It aids in the comprehension of website traffic and visitor behavior to take data-driven actions for driving customer acquisitions. Put simply, the best marketing decisions result from powerful analytics insights.
In this light, the GA4 is the analytics upgrade we have all been waiting for. It gives marketers more freedom and a way to anticipate user behavior while maintaining user privacy at the same time.
It is now high time we begin our shift to GA4 and realize the promise of machine learning and artificial intelligence to obtain the insights we need about our target markets. We, at Signa Marketing, can help you make this shift seamlessly and leverage all the benefits GA4 has to offer.
If you need help with installing GA4 before Google deletes Universal Analytics (your current version) and you would like our team to complete this transition for you, contact us here.