Google Analytics 4 is here
Google has started pushing Google Analytics 4 to new and existing users. So what does that mean for search marketers? Here’s everything you need to know about the next generation of Google Analytics.
What is Google Analytics 4 – AKA GA4?
The new Google Analytics 4 differs significantly from Universal Analytics (UA).
- doesn’t rely on cookies
- features cross-platform analysis capabilities
- uses an event-based data model for measurement
- addresses growing trends affecting all digital marketers, such as user privacy and the widespread use of mobile apps
When will Google Analytics 4 become the main GA platform?
Current Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits on July 1, 2023. And Universal Analytics 360 properties will receive a one-time extension until October 1, 2023. Any previously processed data in UA will be stored for at least six months after the above-listed dates. After that, you’ll no longer be able to access your Universal Analytics historical data via the API.
What are the benefits of Google Analytics 4?
Formerly known as ‘App + Web’, Google Analytics 4 is a new kind of property. GA4’s primary goal is to shift the focus from sessions to users and events.
The new Analytics also:
- Focuses on privacy and is ‘future proof’.
- Uses machine learning to uncover insights into user interactions with websites or mobile apps.
- Integrates seamlessly with Google Ads and Google Marketing platforms to optimise campaign performance and drive better ROI.
GA4 also addresses the issues businesses experience with inaccurate or missing data due to privacy protection laws. As users can opt out of cookie usage and data collection, many businesses have difficulty determining their actual customer base.
Through predictive technology, Google Analytics 4 ‘fills in the blanks’ of a customer journey and makes assumptions about website traffic and user behaviour. What’s more, GA4 doesn’t store IP addresses, which helps businesses adhere to privacy regulations.
How does Google Analytics 4 differ from Universal Analytics?
“Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions and more easily observable data from cookies,” announced Russell Ketchum, director of product management at Google.
However, it became clear that this measurement methodology had to adapt due to the change in how people search and interact with web pages. Often users will keep a browser open, perform a search query, land on a website, open new tabs to different pages and return to them later.
UA records such a session as one page view or ‘hit’. In contrast, the new Analytics events-based model processes each user interaction as a standalone event. These events are the primary way data is presented in the new Google Analytics.
In classic Analytics, ‘event tracking’ required a modified Analytics code or gtag.js script. However, the new capabilities mean search marketers can edit, track and fine-tune events within the UI to get a complete view of the customer lifecycle without needing to edit on-site code.
Additionally, in traditional Analytics, hits are processed if they arrive within 4 hours of the end of the day, but Google Analytics 4 continues processing events that come up to 72 hours later.
Do I need to shift to Google Analytics 4?
The short answer is yes. If you haven’t set up your GA4 properties yet, you need to prioritise this.
Configuring GA4 now will enable it to start tracking metrics relevant to your business. So, your data is captured in the new interface and there when you need to access it, making future analysis and insights more meaningful.
You need to create a new version of the Google Analytics 4 property using the App + Web property setup to allow data to begin populating. Doing so will help you adapt to the new user interface and see how data is now displayed.
How do I set up Google Analytics 4?
How to configure GA4:
- Sign into your Google Analytics Account from the home page.
- Navigate to ‘Admin’ (gear icon, bottom-left navigation).
- In the Account column, select the account in which to create the property.
- In the Property column, select the desired UA property.
- If you have the option, select ‘Upgrade to GA4’ and follow the prompts. In some cases, this button will not be available. If it’s not, select “create property” and follow the steps to create a new property for ‘Web + App,’ which will lead to a new Google Analytics 4 property by default.
- Click ‘GA4 Setup Assistant’ (the first option).
- Inside the ‘Setup Wizard’, click ‘Get Started’.
- Click the blue button to create the new property.
The GA4 setup assistant works automatically with gtag.js. However, if you use a website builder platform like WordPress or Wix, you must add the Analytics tag yourself.
When you log in, your home page will display a real-time report which will give you new insights into:
- Where new users come from
- Your top-performing campaigns
- Overall traffic, conversions, and revenue
- The metrics relevant to your business
Your Universal Analytics view will still be accessible via the admin screen. Discover more information about setting up and using the new home page here.