Getting to Know the Next Generation of Google Analytics

Google Analytics 4 

A new era of Google Analytics is fast approaching, with Google Analytics 4 nearing its first birthday in October and seeing more and more use every day. Many people still haven’t made the switch from the old Google Universal Analytics, but there are plenty of reasons why you should make the change, which will be discussed in this article. We’re going to look at what Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is, why you need it, and how it will help your business.  

What is Google Analytics 4 

GA4 is the next version of Google’s analytics properties, being designed with the future in mind. With changes to the way we collect user data and the phaseout of cookies, plus the introduction of some really smart machine learning, the new GA4 system is built for tomorrow. The new GA4 (which used to be called App + Web) features several new tools and interfaces to help you do more with your data. Whilst most of the system will be familiar to users of the older Universal Analytics, there are some main differences: 

Instead of the old hit types (page view, event, transaction, etc.), everything is now considered an event in GA4. This offers much more flexibility as an event can be set up with your own parameters. 

You now track users as opposed to sessions. This means data is user focused, and also means it transfers across devices. If a single user accesses your site on desktop and mobile, their data stays together and isn’t separated by sessions. 

Use of machine learning means that GA4 is a lot smarter. With the phaseout of cookies, there will be some gaps in your data. GA4 uses machine learning to intelligently fill those gaps. It also makes predictions on trends you’re likely to see and suggests reports to you that it thinks you’ll find useful.  

Tracking now happens in real time, so you can see the exact actions happening on your page the instant they happen. There’s no longer a delay on the data coming in, it’s all live and it’s all happening right now.  

Customer life cycle reporting is now easier to visualise with GA4. With user tracking and the machine learning capabilities of the new system, following a user from awareness all the way through their journey to retention is now easier than ever before. It’s worth noting though that as this is a longitudinal process it will take a while to set up before you can start seeing life cycle reports. 

Why do marketing professionals need GA4?

First, it’s still free and easy to set up properties on GA4. You can also do this alongside your current properties in Universal Analytics, so you don’t lose anything you’ve already got set up in the old system. In fact, it’s actually beneficial right now to have both systems running side by side. Whilst you get to learn the new user interface on your new GA4 setup, you can keep your old system running to stick with what’s familiar. The sooner you start GA4, the sooner it starts collecting data for you. The more data it has over a longer period of time means that the machine learning capabilities will be better when it comes round to making the final switch. More data now means more in the future.  

Second, despite the fact that Universal Analytics will probably stay active whilst there are properties set up on it, it will all become unusable when cookies are phased out at the end of 2021. Because GA4 doesn’t use cookies, it collects data based on users, it will continue to work into the future. As we discussed earlier, it’s been designed for tomorrow. Universal Analytics will continue to run on cookies, which will no longer be possible after the end of this year. The change to GA4 is inevitable, so making the switch sooner rather than later really is advised. 

Finally, once your GA4 setup is ready, it’s a much more responsive and useful tool for you and your business. It can be a bit of a hassle setting up your new events to generate the reports you want to see if you’re not that familiar with the system, but once you do everything will be tailored to you. Google will show you what you want to see and will help you in any way it can as soon as it knows what you’re trying to do. Think of it like a kit car: yes, it’s going to take much longer to build than going out and just buying a car. It’s probably going to be fiddly at points and a little bit frustrating. But, when it’s finished, it’s going to be so much better than anything you can buy in a showroom. You’ll know how everything has been setup, and it will be fine-tuned to what you want to do specifically.  

Why does your business need GA4? 

As discussed, GA4 brings a lot of new tools to help your business. By setting up your own events, it becomes a lot easier to track what matters to your company specifically. If you’re measuring your success based on sales, GA4 can help you track all your customers and the demographics they’re from. If you’re looking to get more contacts via your website, Google can help you stay on top of this as well, showing you what’s driving your leads. GA4 anticipates what’s coming as well, helping you to plan for the future and be ready for any challenges you may face, or prepared to capitalise on a surge of activity. 

Summary

In conclusion then, setting up GA4 should really be starting to make its way to the top of your priority list. The sooner you set it up, the more useful it will be in the future. With the approaching deadline of the end of the year, there’s no time to lose. GA4 will help you and your business prepare for a cookie-less world and make the transition as smoothly as possible, bringing you smarter insights and helping you understand your target audience in a much more in-depth way.  

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