You may have heard the word ‘GA4’ floating around, or even have seen that banner across your analytics reminding you about the upcoming change from GA... but not to fear, it’s not a bad thing. We’ve done some training, and digging, and chatting, and agree on the following benefits that GA4 will bring to marketers like us.
So here's a quick run through of the advanced features, insights, and cross-platform capabilities that GA4 offers, making it a powerful tool for us to gain deeper understanding and drive meaningful actions based on user behaviour data. Please though, resist the temptation to over analyse small bits of traffic/data/activity as you need plenty to be running through these features to truly make some decisions based on what they’re showing.
Enhanced User Journey Tracking
GA4 offers a user-centric approach, allowing marketers to track and analyse the complete user journey across multiple devices and platforms i.e. not just last click. It provides a more comprehensive understanding of how users interact with your website or app, helping you to optimise the user experience and improve conversions (of course).
GA4 is designed to be flexible and scalable, accommodating evolving business needs. It can handle high data volumes and provides the flexibility to track and analyse data from various sources, including websites, apps, and offline interactions.
GA4 enables tracking across web, mobile apps, and offline interactions, providing a holistic view of user engagement rather than on one platform alone. It allows you to analyse and compare user behaviour across different platforms, gaining insights into how users engage with your brand across various touchpoints.
Advanced Machine Learning Insights
GA4 integrates advanced machine learning capabilities to provide actionable insights. It includes features such as predictive metrics, automated insights, and anomaly detection - i.e. comes up with insights for you saving you time, energy and money figuring it out yourself. These features aim to help identify trends, predict future outcomes, and uncover valuable insights that can guide your marketing strategies into the future.
GA4's machine learning capabilities enable smarter insights and predictive analysis. It can identify valuable customer segments, predict future user behaviour, and provide recommendations for marketing strategies to maximise conversions and engagement.
Streamlined Reporting and Analysis
GA4 introduces a more streamlined reporting interface with enhanced customisation options. It provides access to the Analysis Hub, where you can explore data, create custom reports, and perform ad-hoc analysis. This flexibility allows for more in-depth analysis and reporting tailored to your specific business needs aka less time in spreadsheets.
Future-Proofing for Privacy and Cookie Changes
GA4 adapts to evolving privacy concerns and shifting regulations to ensure your users information is protected each change that's made. It supports cookie-less tracking methodologies and offers privacy-focused features like consent mode, data deletion controls, and data retention settings. By transitioning to GA4, you can future-proof your analytics setup and ensure compliance with privacy regulations without all of the heavy lifting.
Improved Integration with Google Ads - we thought this was OK already but …
GA4 offers improved integration with Google Ads, providing more detailed campaign measurement and attribution options. It allows you to access cross-channel attribution reports and leverage machine learning capabilities to optimise their advertising campaigns effectively.
What Are The Key Differences between GA and GA4?
It's important to note that GA4 is the future of Google Analytics, and Google encourages marketers to transition to GA4 for new projects. While GA will still be supported, GA4 offers several advantages and more advanced capabilities for marketers to analyse user behaviour and make data-driven decisions.
Data & Privacy
- GA uses a session-based data model, where user interactions are grouped into sessions and each session is associated with a unique client ID GA4 uses an event-based data model, focusing on individual user interactions called "events." Each event is associated with a unique user ID.
- GA follows the traditional data control and privacy model, primarily relying on cookies for tracking. GA4 adapts to evolving privacy concerns and shifting regulations. It supports cookie-less tracking methodologies and offers additional privacy features, such as consent mode, data deletion controls, and data retention settings.
- GA primarily tracks website interactions, such as page views, clicks, and conversions. GA4 provides more flexibility and allows tracking across multiple platforms, including web, mobile apps, and offline interactions. It offers enhanced event tracking capabilities for better understanding user behaviour.
Users vs sessions
- GA primarily focuses on tracking sessions and page views, with limited visibility into individual user journeys. GA4 provides a user-centric approach, allowing marketers to track and analyse the complete user journey across different devices and platforms. It enables cross-device and cross-platform data integration to better understand user behaviour and engagement.
- GA offers limited machine learning capabilities, such as smart goals and smart lists. GA4 integrates advanced machine learning features to provide more actionable insights. It includes features like predictive metrics, automated insights, and anomaly detection to help marketers identify trends, patterns, and anomalies in user behaviour.
Reporting and Analysis
- GA offers a range of predefined reports and dashboards with customisable options. GA4 introduces a more streamlined and customisable reporting interface. It provides access to the Analysis Hub, which allows marketers to explore data, create custom reports, and perform ad-hoc analysis without relying solely on predefined reports.
- GA offers tight integration with Google Ads, enabling marketers to import cost and campaign data for performance analysis. GA4 provides improved integration with Google Ads, offering more detailed campaign measurement and attribution options. It allows marketers to access cross-channel attribution reports and leverage machine learning to optimise campaigns.
Now we’ve covered the main differences, you might be asking yourself this – how do I move over to GA4?
To move your website analytics from the previous version of Google Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), you'll need to follow these general steps.
1. Create a Google Analytics 4 Property
Start by creating a new GA4 property in your Google Analytics account. This property will be specifically dedicated to tracking data using the GA4 data model.
2. Install the GA4 Tracking Code
Obtain the GA4 tracking code from your newly created property. This code will be different from the tracking code used in the previous version of Google Analytics. Insert the GA4 tracking code on every page of your website, ideally just before the closing </head> tag.
3. Set Up Data Streams
In GA4, data is collected through data streams. Set up data streams for your website by defining the data source, such as a website or a mobile app. This step is crucial for GA4 to begin tracking data from your website.
4. Configure Events and Parameters
GA4 focuses on tracking events rather than pageviews. Configure and define the events and parameters that you want to track on your website. Events can be actions like button clicks, form submissions, or any other user interactions you want to monitor.
5. Enable Enhanced Measurement
GA4 offers enhanced measurement features that provide additional data automatically. Enable Enhanced Measurement within your GA4 property to track standard events like scrolls, file downloads, video engagement, and more without any additional code.
6. Test and Verify Implementation
After implementing the GA4 tracking code and configuring events, it's crucial to test and verify that data is being collected accurately. Use the "Realtime" reports in GA4 to confirm that events are being tracked correctly.
7. Set Up Custom Reporting and Analysis
Explore GA4's Analysis Hub and configure custom reports and analysis to suit your specific business needs. Take advantage of GA4's advanced features, such as machine learning insights, predictive metrics, and audience segmentation, to gain deeper insights into user behavior.
8. Transition Data and Reports
While GA4 provides historical data import capabilities, it's important to note that the data models and reporting structures differ between the previous version of Google Analytics and GA4. Plan and execute a smooth transition of your data and reports, keeping in mind the variations in metrics and dimensions.
9. Monitor and Optimise
Continuously monitor and optimise your GA4 implementation. Leverage the insights and reports provided by GA4 to make data-driven decisions, optimise user experiences, and improve marketing strategies.
It's recommended to consult official Google Analytics documentation, guides, and resources for detailed step-by-step instructions and best practices during the transition process – but this is in a nutshell.
At Virtual Marketers, we’re experts in analytics and we can work with you to ensure your GA4 is set up for success.