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Everything You Need To Know About Google Analytics 4

pwd staff OLIVER WOOD
Oliver Wood

|25th June 2021

Google Analytics 4, or GA4, is the latest update to Google’s web analytics platform. This new version of Google Analytics was officially launched in October 2020, and it’s brought with it new ways of measuring and tracking website traffic. As of July 2023, Google Universal Analytics stopped processing new and historical data, making GA4 the new default for all Google Analytics properties.

Everything You Need To Know About Google Analytics 4

What Is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 is a web analytics platform that provides detailed and real-time data about website traffic. It’s the successor to Google Universal Analytics, which businesses have used for over a decade. GA4 comes equipped with new features and capabilities that aim to provide marketers with a more complete view of their customers’ journeys across multiple devices and platforms.

Why Was Google Analytics 4 Created?

GA4 was created to address changes to the way people interact with websites and digital content. With the rise of mobile devices and other digital platforms, traditional web analytics tools were struggling to keep up with the complex customer journey that now exists. GA4 was designed to bridge this gap and provide a more comprehensive understanding of how users engage with different touch points throughout their online experience.

It also addresses privacy concerns and the increasing need for data protection. With GA4, businesses can better protect their customers’ data while gaining valuable insights into user behaviour. This also helps companies to comply with the latest privacy regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA.

What Are the Key Differences Between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4?

The main differences between Google Universal Analytics and GA4 relates to how data is collected, processed, and reported. Google Analytics is a brand-new product, built from the ground up, with a different approach to data processing. Here are some of the key differences between the two:

Integration and Reporting Across Platforms

GA4’s analytics takes a more holistic approach to reporting, integrating data across websites, apps, and even YouTube ads. This allows for a unified view of a customer’s journey, and it helps marketers to track conversions from various channels like YouTube, Google, and organic searches all at once.

Universal Analytics, on the other hand, has limited capacity for cross-platform integration, and it primarily focused on website analytics. It couldn’t natively process app data or interactions on external platforms like YouTube within the reporting. This means that GA4 is set up for businesses that operate on multiple platforms and want a comprehensive overview of their user journey.

Audience Management and Google Ads Integration

GA4 has improved the relationship between Google Ads and analytics by automatically removing users who have completed a purchase from the corresponding ad campaigns. This helps prevent redundant marketing, and it’s a more innovative approach to audience management.

Google Universal Analytics could track conversions and help manage audiences, but it didn’t automatically adjust Google Ads campaigns based on user purchases or behaviour across different platforms.

Customer Lifecycle Reporting

Google Analytics 4 looks at the entire customer journey, organising data around this concept rather than isolated sessions. This is a helpful change in perspective as it allows businesses to see how the different platforms they use work together to create an overall user experience and keep customers engaged. There’s less guesswork when understanding how a user moves from one platform to another, as Google GA4 provides a centralised view of this process.

In contrast, UA was focused on traditional metrics and sessions without taking into account the entire customer lifecycle. The data points were there, but they weren’t inherently structured around the user’s journey.

Event Tracking

GA4 simplifies event tracking by removing the need for custom code to track specific interactions like page views, scrolls, or video views. This codeless setup makes it easier to capture and analyse user behaviour in real-time.

Unlike GA4, UA required manual coding (often through Google Tag Manager) for detailed event tracking. This was often time-consuming and not particularly flexible for marketers.

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Data Controls and User Privacy

GA4 has a stronger emphasis on data controls and user privacy, as it is designed to comply with stricter privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA. Features like consent mode ensure that data is only captured when users give explicit permission, with separate opt-ins for analytics and ads.

UA was less flexible when controlling data privacy, and it didn’t natively support features like consent mode. This meant that more users ended up opting out of data collection entirely.

AI-Powered Insights and Reporting

GA4 utilises artificial intelligence/machine learning to compensate for data gaps when users opt out of cookies. It generates insights and helps identify trends or anomalies through summary cards, making it easier for marketers to digest information.

UA heavily relied on data gathered via cookies, and it didn’t have the same level of AI integration to supplement missing information. Its reports were traditionally more extensive and were more challenging to navigate for trends or significant insights.

Google Analytics 4 is a significant departure from Universal Analytics, designed for a more privacy-centric web, with a stronger focus on cross-platform behaviour.

How to Switch to Google Analytics 4

Now that Universal Analytics is being phased out entirely, users must switch to GA4. All users will lose access to Universal Analytics on 1 July 2024, so it’s essential to make the switch before then. Google has made it easier for existing UA users to transition by offering a simple way to set up GA4 analytics properties within the same account.

To switch, create a new GA4 property and link it with your existing standard Universal Analytics properties. This will allow you to continue tracking data on both platforms while gradually transitioning to GA4. Google offers a more detailed step-by-step guide to making the switch on their support page.

If you’re starting a brand new Google Analytics account, all you need to do is follow these simple steps:

  1. Create a Google Analytics account.
  2. Create a new property within that account.
  3. Set up the data stream for that property.

This will allow you to install the Google GA4 tracking code on your website or app.

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Make the Switch to GA4 Today

Don’t wait until it’s too late – start setting up your GA4 property today so you don’t miss out on valuable data for your business. If you need any additional help making the switch to GA4, our Perth-based SEO agency is here to assist you with any questions or concerns. Contact us today at PWD to learn more about our comprehensive range of services.