Blog Post - James Dowsett, Nov 3 2020

5 reasons to get excited about Google Analytics 4

5 reasons to get excited about Google Analytics 4

On October 14th, Google officially launched their fourth version of Google Analytics, titled as “Google Analytics 4”, or “GA4”.

For those of you who had heard of or were familiar with Google Analytics’ App + Web property, GA4 is a rebranded and expanded version of App + Web, with some exciting new features such as expanded machine learning and cross-device measurement capabilities.

But what does this mean for us as a business, should we be excited by this announcement, and how will GA4 change the way we interact with ecommerce data?

1. New Insights and Predictions powered by AI

Whilst machine learning in GA has been around for a while, GA4 makes use of more advanced AI to alert users about important data trends via new insights and predictions. This new technology can also be used to predict outcomes such as churn rate and potential revenue from certain customer segments. This helps drive more proactive, and reactive, decision making about future customer behaviour.

As GA4 develops, new predictive metrics will be added, providing further insight on customer actions and behaviours in the short run, and future customer actions in the long run.

2. A Futureproof Google Analytics

One of the main worries about the future of data analytics seems to be impending shift towards the phasing out of cookies and customer identifiers. If businesses continue to use Universal GA, they will run into issues with missing or inaccurate data, caused by issues such as cookie consent rules. Thankfully, GA4 is ready to adapt to this.

Thanks to machine learning, GA4 will fill in many of the gaps that could appear in a mixed set of data. For example, there may be event data but not necessarily a user identifier associated with it. GA4 will use machine learning and AI to fill in such gaps. It will also help users gain understanding of both multi-device and offline conversions.

By using GA4 rather than Universal GA, as a business we can keep up with evolving data privacy regulations without being hobbled by increasing limited datasets.

3. A Better Insight into the Customer Lifecycle

One major change in GA4 is the shift from Sessions and Pageviews in Universal GA to an emphasis on Events (as in Firebase). Gone are the tabs for Audience, Behaviour, and Conversions, now you will find tabs for Engagement, Monetization, and Retention.

Due to this change in emphasis, GA4 has reorganised reports to be based around the Customer Lifecycle, which allows users to drill down into specific aspects of the customer journey and analyse how they engage with sites across both devices and channels. With the addition of metrics such as User ID (that tracks users across devices), users can see if a customer discovered a business from an ad on the web and later purchased on the business’ app, for example. In the long run, this means a better understanding of the entire customer lifecycle, from acquisition to conversion and retention.

This will probably be the most daunting change to handle for users of Universal GA, where analysis and insights were session-based. Events in GA4 are also different to Events in Universal GA, these have been replaced by Parameters. But don’t fret, you can set up a GA4 property alongside your Universal GA account to see how analysis differs.

4. Deeper Audience Integration with Google Ads

Now that Google Analytics can measure interactions across both web and app, you have a far more holistic view of user behaviour. GA4 allows you to create and maintain custom audiences, which can provide visitors with more targeted content, making use of the customer insights you’re receiving.

Measuring interactions across web and app also means that you now have the ability to see conversions from a range of sources, such as YouTube video views from both web and app, Google and non-Google paid channels, Google Search, social media, and email.

5. You can edit and track events without changing the Analytics code

As mentioned before, GA4 is an event-based model, and that includes the schema. This new model allows you to track everything as events, regardless of whether it is web or app; even pageviews are tracked as events.

For web especially, this makes tracking much easier. You no longer have to write custom code or implement specific Google Tag Manager tags, as these are now tracked through the Enhanced Measurement option, which appears when you set up the GA4 property. You can now easily toggle on or off the metrics you want to track, such as scrolls and site search.

Events in GA4 fall into 4 categories:

  • Automatically Collected Events – triggered by basic interactions with the site.
  • Enhanced Measurement – collected automatically when you have enabled enhanced measurement in the setup of your GA4 property.
  • Recommended Events – manually-implemented events that use Google’s predefined names and parameters.
  • Custom Events – events you can name and implement as you wish.

Being able to choose what events you track with a click of a toggle not only provides a more tailored analytics experience but helps save time writing code and creating tags.

Due to the scope and number of changes within GA4, this is arguably the biggest development to Google Analytics since its inception in 2005. Despite removing many of the familiarities of Universal GA, GA4 provides a greater cross-channel view of the customer lifecycle, smarter AI capabilities, better integration with Google Ads, and an analysis tool that works in the new world of data privacy changes.

Whilst it may take time to get used to, this is the future of Google Analytics, with updates and changes likely to be commonplace. Thankfully, GA4 will run alongside Universal GA in the short term, but to keep providing our clients the best quality analysis and service, as a business we need to move to this new way of reporting sooner rather than later.