By: Le Dan Pham
Google has recently announced their newest update to Google Analytics, and it is one of the biggest updates that they have done since the program was first launched in 2005. For the past 15 years, Google has continued to advance its machine learning models to make sure that its analytics capabilities were able to keep pace “with the exponential growth and sophistication of digital marketing and e-commerce”. Also, due to privacy concerns, Apple and Google have both announced that third-party cookies will no longer be supported. This will have a direct impact on the effectiveness of the traditional Universal Analytics model. We’ve posted earlier on the ethical issues related to data collection in another blog post.
Therefore, the important question now being: is the new update worth switching to or can you live with the potential decreased functionality of the existing platform over time? In this article, we will be discussing how GA4 works and the changes that you will notice. We will also outline the advantages of the new update to help you achieve long-term benefits for short-term costs.
How to Set-Up the New Google Analytics
The first thing to mention, and one of the main benefits of GA4, is that you can use it for both your website and mobile app versus Universal Analytics, which only worked with websites. Using a single property, called ‘app + web’, you will be able to have multiple data streams like Android, iOS, and web that have website tracking capabilities.
With this in mind, you can implement the new Google Analytics 4 update to your website in three different ways:
Add Google Analytics 4 to your site
Add Google Analytics 4 to a site that already has Universal Analytics
Add Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics to your site simultaneously
Google highly recommends that you have both Universal Analytics and GA4 running on your site. If you choose to transition entirely from Universal to GA4, this can disturb your data collection since both systems have different structures. Furthermore, since this is a recent change, there will be continual updates for at least a couple of years.
How Does Google Analytics 4 Work?
Google Analytics 4 measures its data in terms of events, rather than the Universal Analytics interaction measurements such as page views, transactions, and so forth. In this case, as stated by Google, “events provide insight on what is happening with your website or app, such as user actions, system events, or errors.” In other words, events allow you to track any action or piece of information that you like. Such as, the pages people view on your website, button clicks, or information that you’ve collected from another platform (e.g. email marketing, CRM). This means that Google Analytics 4 allows for more flexibility in recording your data and gives you more freedom on the analysis that you want to perform.
There are four categories of events:
Automatically collected events
Enhanced measurement events (these are automatically logged)
Recommended events with predefined names and parameters
Custom events that you must define yourself and add into the code of the web page and/or app.
Google Analytics 4 automatically tracks several events when a visitor views a page. These events include first visit, page view, session start, user engagement, and more. These events are permanent components and can’t be switched off. The second category of enhanced measurement events can also be collected automatically, but it is optional. Some of these events include scrolls (viewer scrolling at least 90% of the page), outbound clicks, site search, video engagement, files downloaded, and more. You can learn more about enhanced measurement features here.
Recommended events are starting points, and gives you suggestions to start any custom events you want to track. However, you should only pick events that are relevant to you. For instance, if you run an online store, you can choose to track what particular products customers are viewing, using the recommended “view_item” event, a pre-existing event created by Google Analytics. Furthermore, custom events allow you to define your events, whatever makes the most sense in your reports. For example, if you want to track how customers are rating your products, you can create a custom event called “rate_item” to follow Google’s naming conventions. This article explains how to create custom dimensions for them. The benefit of having custom events available is that it allows you to invent metrics that Google has not already created in “recommended events” or “automatic/enhanced measurements events”. There are tons of events that are already created, that you can check here, before deciding if a custom event is necessary.
In the event-based model, sessions are measured differently compared to Universal Analytics. In GA4, “the duration of a session is based on the time span between the first and last event in the session.” Compared to UA, where a user’s visit counts from the minute they enter your website and ends when they leave it, or after 30 minutes of activity. For example, if a user arrives on your website and spends 5 minutes browsing 3 pages, then goes idle for 30 minutes. UA would record this as 35 minutes, whilst in GA4, the session duration would only be for 5 minutes.
There are several limitations to using GA4 events, for instance, you can only track up to 500 unique events per website and the name of each event can be a maximum of 40 characters. To learn more about how to use these tools and start tracking events on your page using Google Analytics 4, click here.
Compared to Universal Analytics (UA), GA4 allows you to analyze how your customer is interacting with your site rather than just how the customer got onto your site. Overall, In the event-based model of GA4, marketers must think carefully about their data collection, with its more holistic approach to understanding data.
Benefits of Using Google Analytics 4
With the new features installed into an event-based structure, you may notice several benefits that Google Analytics 4 can provide in comparison to using Universal Analytics stand-alone. Here are 5 benefits of upgrading or installing GA4 to your website or app.
User journey: As a result of integration between web and app as well as enhanced data stream capabilities, Google Analytics 4 focuses on the complete user journey. You can now measure users’ interactions across all the platforms through unique customer IDs. A customer ID is a unique set of alphanumeric characters assigned to the user across all their devices. You can assign the user an ID through a user authentication system, such as when they login to your website, through loyalty cards, coupons, and so forth. After you create a unique customer ID, it can be tracked throughout their buying journey.
Enhanced tracking and measurement: a new feature in GA4 is called “enhanced measurement”. This feature tracks all file downloads, outbound clicks, video interactions, site search, and scroll events with the GA4 tag. You do not need to create any additional code or tags, which means less time and effort maintaining custom tags. Similarly, GA4 uses data from Google Signals, which are session data from sites and apps that Google associates with users who have signed into their Google accounts to stitch together users across devices, regardless if they have a user ID. This will make it easier to identify the same person across multiple devices. Google Signals can be activated through Google Analytics 4. If you would like to learn more about how to activate Google Signals on your Google Analytics 4 account, click here.
Enhanced data visualizations and reporting: in GA4, you get real-time data visualization in a holistic view with just one glance. In comparison, Universal Analytics uses the Overview function in locations, traffic sources, content, events, and conversion, to view real-time data.
Predictive analytics capabilities: GA4 provides predictive metrics that use machine learning algorithms to measure conversion progress. These metrics will allow you to identify users and the actions that would likely lead to a conversion. There are currently 3 predictive metrics supported by GA4: purchase probability, churn probability, and revenue prediction.
Find more insights at a faster pace: “analysis hub” is currently only available for Analytics 360 users, the paid version of Google Analytics. With the GA4 update, not only can everyone access it, but more analysis types will also be available. Some things that are possible with Analysis Hub include exploration, custom funnels, pathing, and more.
So pay attention to new updates like Google Analytics 4. It will allow you to be more efficient and better equipped to understand customer habits and the predictive capabilities can help prepare you for potential impacts on your business and for your customers. Want to talk more about using these tools to supercharge your site? Contact an UpOnline representative.