Get to Know Google Analytics 4

What You Need to Know about Google Analytics 4

In October 2021, Google announced the latest iteration of its analytics platform. Dubbed Google Analytics 4 or GA4, this new data analytics and user behavior prediction platform came with a slew of features. The world had already started to move towards a sessionless, cookieless future, and with the introduction of privacy laws like GDPR, the need for an update to Google’s aging analytics platform was needed. With GA4, Google has pushed website/app analytics technologies to a new level, but is it something that you should be interested in as a business leader? Let’s find out. 


What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4) 

Google Analytics 4, or GA4 in short, is the latest version of Google Analytics combining data from websites and apps both. Google has named its beta reporting platform App & Web GA4 for increased clarity. Older versions of Google Analytics are named Universal Analytics. Universal Analytics will be deprecated on 1st July, 2023. All Universal Analytics (UA) properties can be upgraded to GA4. This upgrade results in a new analytics property being created for data collection without affecting your existing GA account. Existing Firebase Analytics accounts, however, are auto-upgraded to GA4. 


If you have an app, a website, or both – Google recommends you set up a new GA4 account alongside your existing GA account to have GA4 start collecting data without affecting any data held in your existing GA account(s). 


GDPR requires websites to ask users to provide their consent to use cookies to track website behavior and performance. GA4 uses machine learning algorithms to fill in the gaps in website performance tracking and other metrics where user consent is not given, thus reducing the reliance on traditional cookies. This approach makes GA4 a more stable solution to industry changes. GA4 is also more scalable and growth-focused. Unlike Universal Analytics which tracks user data across sessions, devices, or platforms, GA4 instead focuses on the user journey. 


The Difference Between GA4 and Google Universal Analytics 

The new Google Analytics 4 uses a different approach to collect and report on data from its predecessors, Google Universal Analytics. UA relied on a session-based model for data collection and reporting, grouping user interactions into sessions. GA4, however, utilizes a more flexible, event-based model that allows for more accurate reporting. Examples of website events include page views, clicks, language, page title and more. Also, additional reporting per interaction can be passed into Google Analytics with GA4 – e.g. page title, user location, value for purchase, etc. User interactions in GA4 are sent to analytics as standalone events, instead of clubbing them together in sessions or hit events like in UA. You can send up to 25 additional event parameters per event to Google Analytics in GA4, far greater than the current 4 that UA allows (Category, Action, Label, and Value). Additionally, a maximum of 500 distinctly named events can also be sent to GA4. This gives you a much wider set of data to monitor engagement. 


Should Your Business Switch to GA4? 

Let’s look at why moving to GA4 might be the right solution for your business: 


GA4 with its event-based measurement model gives you a complete, unfragmented view of the customer lifecycle. This is not organized into independent sessions or divided by platform.


  1. GA4 helps you with data-driven attribution to analyze and understand the full impact of your marketing. By providing you with more comprehensive insight into user actions in your website or app, GA4 lets you understand how your marketing activities influence your target users. You can use this data with Google Ads and Google Marketing Platform media tools to further optimize your targeted campaigns and improve your ROI as a result.
  2. GA4 enables country-level privacy controls that let you manage user-level data collection like cookies and metadata, while also preserving key measurement functionalities. 
  3. GA4, unlike its predecessors, uses machine learning algorithms to generate detailed, sophisticated predictive insights into user behavior and conversions. This helps fill in gaps in data collection mechanisms, as well as gives you insights about what the users are likely to purchase or are looking for. These critical insights with GA4 give you pointers to improve your marketing further.
  4. GA4 integrates seamlessly with other Google Products like Google Ads that work across your web/app data to grant you more granular analytics. 
  5. GA4, in tandem with Analytics 360, is purpose-built to meet data governance needs. New sub and roll-up properties allow you to customize the structure of your GA4 properties, ensuring different teams or partners can access the data according to your policies.
  6. Analytics 360 in GA4 also provides increased scalability, with up to 125 custom dimensions, 50 conversion types, and 400 audiences per property. You can further fine-tune it to meet your Service Level Agreement (SLA) demands. 


Does GA4 Use Cookies 

Google Analytics 4 uses first-party cookies to be compliant with newer privacy laws like GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act. But as the world moves to a more cookie-less future – with companies like Apple adopting the approach since the release of iOS14 – Google with GA4 has also created provisions to support the same. By moving to an event-based approach, GA4 can move away from the traditional cookies/session-based data tracking if required. 


GA4 also uses machine learning and other technologies to predict data patterns, mixing predicted data with actual, tracked data to create ‘blended data’ which can then be analyzed to get greater insights into user behavior. 


Features of GA4: 

Salient features of Google Analytics 4 include: 

  1. GA4 uses machine learning and artificial intelligence for powerful prediction and insights. It can highlight data trends (e.g. change in demand for a product or a service), and predict outcomes and potential revenues from a customer segment.
  2. GA4 has deeper integration with other Google products like Google Marketing Platform and Google Ads. This enables businesses to maintain audience lists that have greater depth with an increased ROI.
  3. Compared to Universal Analytics, GA4 gives you a more complete view of customer engagement for a business across devices and channels. Additionally, users can be allocated with an ID, or deduplicate users across devices for improved reporting and ad targeting.
  4. GA4 enables more granular user data controls, helping companies to comply with data regulations such as CCPA and GDPR.
  5. GA4 is built for a cookieless future. Using machine learning algorithms, it fills out the gaps in sparse data to create a complete behavioral picture, retaining reporting accuracy and enabling useful insights.

As we speak, about 5 million websites worldwide are already using GA4, including 24% of the top 10,000 sites. The set of features and upgrades over UA can be one of the major reasons behind this rapid adoption, and it is not hard to see why. Machine learning-based data filling, event-driven data collection, broader integration with other Google ad and marketing tools, and more granular controls are all strong suits of GA4, enabling better ROI and cutting down ad spending. If you are a business leader still using UA, GA4 is the next-gen analytics you need. 



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