Everything You Need to Know About Google Analytics 4

A big development is coming from Google: in July 2023, Google will begin to sunset the previous generation of Google Analytics – Universal Analytics. As of July 1st, 2023, Universal Analytics will no longer be collecting data for Google. It will take a few more months for Universal Analytics to be completely phased out, but when it is, Google Analytics 4 will be the newest generation of Google Analytics. 

What’s Wrong with Universal Analytics?

For better or for worse, Universal Analytics is obsolete. The nature of data-collection and sharing has changed. Universal Analytics was founded under a different paradigm of internet usage and data collection. Universal Analytics relies on users using their desktops to search the web, as well as using cookies to track users. 

However, many people use their phones to search the web and now, especially with iPhones, users do not allow websites to use cookies to track them. Since Universal Analytics has been used, the desktop and cookies have grown out of fashion. So, to adapt to the times, Google Analytics 4 can be used across platforms – which means that GA4 can collect data across apps and websites, both mobile and desktop. In addition, GA4 does not collect IP addresses so, with the growing concern around internet privacy, GA4 offers its users some added user security. 

What is Google Analytics 4?

First and foremost, GA4 was designed to meet the current moment’s needs. GA4 will help businesses drive sales, app installations, and connect both online and offline customer engagement. There are some other great benefits of GA4. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.

Data-Driven Attribution

There is much more to the story than just the last click. Businesses need to see more details. With GA4, you will have a more complete picture of how your marketing efforts are driving conversions. 

Built for Enterprise

There are certain data governance needs that you should be aware of. GA4 will offer sub and roll-up properties in Analytics 360 that will allow you to customize the structure of GA4.

Data That You Can Act On

GA4 will be integrated across platforms and Google products, such as Google Ads. GA4 will make integrating and optimizing ad campaigns much easier and much more effective. 

Data With Value

The machine learning of GA4 will create insights that can help predict behavior, conversions, create new audiences who will either buy or engage with your content, and automatically create critical insights. 

Insights Across Touchpoints

GA4 will provide you with a complete view of the customer lifecycle. This is crucial because your insights will no longer be cut short or fragmented by platform or independent sessions.

Universal Analytics vs. GA4: What are the Differences?

Now that we have a basic understanding of what GA4 is and what some of the benefits are, you might be wondering how exactly this new program distinguishes itself from its predecessor. Before the migration process begins, it is important that any business owner using Google Analytics knows the key differences between these programs and how they can prepare themselves for the change.

Event Handling

Compared to Universal Analytics, GA4 handles events much differently. Universal Analytics recognizes events and categorizes them based on their category, action, and label. GA4, on the other hand, does not do this. To be more specific, GA4 handles events and categorizes them by automatically collected events, recommended events, enhanced measurement events, and custom events. For GA4, individual hits are not distinguished; each hit is an event. So, when the migration to GA4 begins, GA4 will require a new event structure for collecting data instead of porting the existing structure from Universal Analytics.

Hit Types

As we just discussed, GA4 categorizes each hit as an event. Universal Analytics would categorize hits a bit differently: they could be eCommerce hits, social interaction hits, and page hits. So on the data collection end, GA4 will translate the Universal Analytics hit types into events within a GA4 property.

Can Google Analytics Help Improve SEO and Reporting?

Tracking customer behavior is essential. However, there is much more to GA4 than just a tool for tracking customer behavior. In fact, GA4 can greatly help you improve content SEO and reporting. One of the best tools that Google Analytics can help you with is tracking conversions. Tracking conversions is the practice of tracking if clicks lead to purchases. Tracking conversions is essential to understanding how your digital marketing efforts are paying off. By using the referral data that Google Analytics offers, you can also easily track off-page SEO. In addition, Google Analytics and the most recent generation, GA4, will give marketers the ability to track organic traffic. By tracking this organic traffic, you will have insights into your marketing that will allow you to adjust, adapt, and excel. In short, Google Analytics is vital to improving any SEO strategy.

How Can GA4 Be Implemented?

Thankfully, Google has made the migration from Universal Analytics to GA4 as smooth and simple as possible. Google has implemented a migration tool specifically for this change: GA4 Setup Assistant. With this tool, a person can easily set up an administrative account to create a new GA4 account to collect data. The GA4 data collection tool will simultaneously collect data alongside Universal Analytics. What makes this side-by-side data collection so great is that businesses can now test out the latest iteration of Google Analytics while still being able to continue working with which data collection tool they are more comfortable with. However, you can also partner with a digital marketing team to assist you in implementing GA4 properly.

The Takeaways

Let’s recap some of the information we just went over. By July 1st of 2023, the migration from Universal Analytics to GA4 will begin and businesses will have a total of three months to transfer over any data and begin setting up their GA4 account. GA4 moves away from using cookies to track data and places a larger emphasis on data privacy and security. So, with all of this information, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about what GA4 can offer your business!