This comprehensive overview of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will provide users with a better understanding of this powerful analytics platform. We will discuss its features, benefits and best practices for data analysis, and explain how it differs from Universal Analytics. We will also explore how GA4 is likely to affect digital marketing strategies. This guide is suitable for those new to web analytics as well as seasoned professionals who want to make the most out of GA4.
Introduction to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
“Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions, and more easily observable data from cookies. This measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete.”
Russell Ketchum, Director of Product Management, Google
What is GA4?
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google Analytics, the popular web analytics service offered by Google. It was released in October 2020 and replaces the previous version, Universal Analytics (UA). GA4 is designed to provide businesses with a more comprehensive and future-proof way to analyse user behaviour and customer journeys across multiple devices and platforms.
Why is Google switching to GA4?
Digital interaction has changed drastically over the last few years and Universal Analytics was not built for mobile activity. Google also wanted to harness the power of their AI work and provide modelled data to give analytics users a better picture of what’s happening on their website. Privacy is also at the centre of internet usage and Universal Analytics isn’t able to keep up with requirements.
Is GA4 replacing Google Analytics?
Not exactly, GA4 is the new version of Google Analytics, replacing the old version, Universal Analytics. This year, Google will be switching off Universal Analytics and only allowing the use of GA4.
- 1st July 2023 – you will only be able to access your collected data on Universal Analytics for six months and it will stop processing data.
- 1st October 2023 – all businesses will switch to GA4.
How long has GA4 been around?
GA4 was launched in October 2020 and Google has been working on it ever since. If you were an early adopter of GA4 you’ll have noticed platform changes, that’s because it isn’t finished yet. Whilst this makes learning the platform frustrating, it’s something that’s going to keep happening, it’s so new that it will keep adapting and improving for a few years. Unfortunately, that’s just the nature of technology and the digital world – change can happen overnight.
Is GA4 Free or Paid for?
GA4 is a free tool and will suit most businesses, but if you’re a large business dealing with huge amounts of data then you can pay for Google Analytics 360 properties.
Why is GA4 important for businesses?
GA4 is important for businesses because it provides a more complete view of customer interactions and helps businesses to better understand customers and how they engage with their brands. With GA4, businesses can track user behaviour not only on their websites but also on mobile apps, offline channels, and other digital touchpoints. GA4 also offers more advanced tracking and analysis capabilities, such as machine learning-powered insights and predictive metrics.
Key features of Google Analytics 4
Some of the key features of GA4 include:
- Enhanced data tracking capabilities
- Improved cross-device measurement
- Integration with Google Ads and other Google products
- Advanced analysis and reporting capabilities
- Machine learning-powered insights and predictive metrics
GA4 Features and Benefits
Enhanced data tracking capabilities
GA4 provides more comprehensive data tracking capabilities compared to UA. With GA4, businesses can track user interactions across multiple platforms and devices, including mobile apps and offline channels. GA4 also allows businesses to track specific events and user behaviours, such as scrolling, video views, and file downloads.
Improved cross-device measurement
One of the major advantages of GA4 is its improved cross-device measurement capabilities. GA4 uses machine learning algorithms to identify and connect user interactions across multiple devices, helping businesses to understand the entire customer journey and better target their marketing efforts.
Integration with Google Ads and other Google products
GA4 is tightly integrated with other Google products, including Google Ads, Google Tag Manager, and Firebase. This makes it easier for businesses to track and analyse user behaviour across multiple touch points and platforms and optimise their marketing campaigns based on real-time data.
Set up Google Analytics 4: Step-by-Step Guide
Create a Google Analytics 4 property
To set up GA4, businesses first need to create a new GA4 property in their Google Analytics account. This can be done by following the instructions in the GA4 setup wizard. This Google Analytics 4 tutorial will guide you through the process:
How to install Google Analytics 4 on your website or app
Once the GA4 property is created, businesses can add the GA4 tracking code to their website or mobile app by following the setup instructions provided by Google.
Configuring data streams in GA4
After GA4 is added to the website or app, businesses can set up data streams to collect specific types of data, such as website data, app data, or offline data. This can be done by following the instructions in the GA4 data stream setup wizard.
Navigating the GA4 Interface
Overview of GA4 user interface
The GA4 user interface is divided into several sections, including the Home tab, the Analysis tab, and the Admin tab. The Home tab provides an overview of key metrics and insights, while the Analysis tab offers more advanced analysis and reporting capabilities. The Admin tab is where businesses can manage their GA4 property settings, data streams, and user permissions.
Understanding the GA4 navigation menu
The GA4 navigation menu is located on the left side of the interface and contains several sections, including Realtime, Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions. Each section provides a different view of user behaviour and customer journeys.
Customising GA4 dashboards and reports
GA4 allows businesses to create custom dashboards and reports based on their specific needs and goals. This can be done by using the GA4 report builder and visualisation tools, which allow businesses to customise metrics, dimensions, and visualisations according to their preferences.
Understanding GA4 Reports and Metrics
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google’s analytics tool that helps businesses measure website traffic and user behaviour. GA4 provides basic metrics such as page views and sessions, but it also offers more advanced features for tracking and analysis.
Event tracking and analysis in GA4
Event tracking in GA4 is a powerful feature that allows businesses to track specific user interactions on their website, such as button clicks, video plays, and form submissions. GA4’s event tracking feature is more flexible and advanced than the one offered in Universal Analytics (UA). GA4 allows businesses to create custom events using parameters such as event name, category, and label. This makes it easier to collect data that is relevant to business goals and objectives.
User engagement and behaviour analysis in GA4
GA4 provides detailed reports on user engagement and behaviour on your website. This includes data on how users interact with your website, how long they stay on each page, and how frequently they visit. GA4 also offers insights into user demographics and interests, which can be used to create personalised marketing campaigns.
Conversion tracking and analysis in GA4
GA4’s conversion tracking feature allows businesses to track website actions that are important to their business goals, such as form submissions, product purchases, or email signups. Businesses can set up conversion goals and track their progress over time. GA4’s conversion tracking features are more flexible than UA’s, allowing for more customisation and control over how conversions are tracked.
GA4 Best Practices for Data Analysis and Insights
To make the most of GA4’s features, businesses need to follow best practices for data analysis and insights.
Setting up goals and conversions in GA4
Businesses should set up conversion goals in GA4 to track important actions on their website. Defining clear and specific goals that align with business objectives is important. Businesses can use the conversion tracking feature to track progress towards these goals and make data-driven decisions based on the results.
Creating custom audiences in GA4
GA4’s audience feature allows businesses to create custom audiences based on specific website behaviours, such as repeat visitors or users who have abandoned a shopping cart. These custom audiences can then be used for remarketing campaigns or to create personalised content for specific groups of users.
Using advanced analysis features in GA4
GA4 offers a wide range of advanced analysis features that can provide deeper insights into user behaviour and website performance. These include cohort analysis, user navigation analysis, and path analysis. Businesses should explore these features to gain a more complete understanding of their website traffic and user behaviour.
Comparison of GA4 with Universal Analytics
Differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics
GA4 and UA are different versions of Google Analytics with distinct features and capabilities. One of the main differences between the two versions is that GA4 uses an event-based data model, while UA uses a session-based model. This means that GA4 tracks user interactions individually, while UA groups them into sessions. GA4 also offers more advanced features for tracking user behaviour, such as custom events and predictive analytics.
Pros and cons of GA4 compared to Universal Analytics
GA4 has many advantages over UA, including more flexible tracking options, better integration with Google Ads, and more advanced analysis features. However, GA4 is still a relatively new product and may not be suitable for all businesses. Some businesses may prefer the simplicity and familiarity of UA, while others may require more customisation and control over their analytics data.
Future of GA4 and Its Impact on Digital Marketing
Google is investing heavily in GA4 and plans to phase out UA in the coming years. This means that businesses will need to migrate to GA4 if they want to continue using Google Analytics.
Updates and new features in GA4
Google is constantly adding new features and capabilities to GA4. Recent updates include improved cross-device tracking, expanded machine learning capabilities, and new reporting features. These updates will help businesses gain even deeper insights into user behaviour and website performance.
How GA4 will impact digital marketing strategies
GA4’s advanced tracking and analysis features will allow businesses to gain a deeper understanding of their customers and their behaviour online. This will help businesses create more personalised marketing campaigns and improve the customer experience. However, businesses will need to invest time and resources in learning how to use GA4 effectively and making the most of its features. This means it’s time to review your whole strategy and consider these 5 steps:
Step 1: Define Your Business Goals and KPIs
Having a clear vision of where you want to be with your business and when will help you to get the most out of your analytics data. Make a big list of goals and objectives, then label whether you think they’ve achievable in a month, quarter, year, 3 years or 5 years. This will help you prioritise tasks and objectives.
Once you know what you want to achieve and when you then need to think about how you’ll know you’ve completed the goal, for each goal set a KPI.
Some will be easy like if your goal is to increase revenue by 10%, your KPI would be total sales for the year need to be £x.xx. However, some may be more complicated, like if your goal was to increase leads you would have more than one KPI such as X amount of website contact form submissions, X amount of telephone calls and X amount of in-person meetings.
Try and be as detailed as possible when doing this and always set SMART goals.
Step 2: Get To Know Your Existing Audience
Use your Universal Analytics property to compile data about your current website users. Understanding their journey, search intent, what technology they use and what information they find most useful will help you to identify where there is force and friction.
Break it down into user profiles by technology, acquisition channel (direct, organic search, social, paid search) and location then see where there are correlations between them.
Read our blog to help you find your audience, click here.
Step 3: Ditch ROI
In today’s digital society, people are constantly bombarded with information. This can make it difficult for businesses to break through and convert potential customers. Return on Attention (ROA) is the new Return on Investment (ROI) and focuses on understanding and strategy.
Basically, if your message is delivered but not understood and reinforced is it really going to create the impact on sales you’re looking for? Here’s how ROA can be measured and improved:
- Reaction – are potential customers reacting to your content, clicking links, liking posts, or opening emails?
- Actions and Results – has the marketing message generated more sales or customer enquiries?
- Enhance Experience – involve your customers in the process, get feedback, ask questions and improve the message. This promotes loyalty and customers are more likely to recommend your business.
Step 4: Embrace the Flywheel Modal
In the digital landscape, a standard sales funnel is no longer relevant, especially when it comes to driving conversions. Switching your business strategy to a flywheel model will provide a much better ROI and ROA. The flywheel modal is all about experiences. It creates a circular momentum to attract, engage and delight potential customers leading to business growth.
This approach leaves you with happy customers who will drive referrals and repeat bookings. Let’s quickly explain how to build a flywheel:
- Understanding – get reviews and testimonials from current customers and case studies from owners
- Social Proof – regularly share reviews and testimonials across your digital platforms, especially social media
- Force and Friction – Identify areas that drive the process as well as cause issues for potential customers. Invest in ironing out the issues so you can then spend more time focussing on the areas that drive the process.
Step 5: Identify the Conversions You Want to Track
Conversions are the new goals in GA4, we know this is a big change and to be honest, we think it’s for the best. The point of analytics is to see what is working well, helping you to identify issues.
The UA Goals can muddy the water, your business goal isn’t to get leads or purchases, it’s to increase overall leads or sales. Conversions are your KPIs, the way you measure whether you’re meeting your goals. If you’ve been granular enough in your strategy and goal-setting, you’ll get some rich data from conversions.
For instance, your goal is to increase leads by 10% within the next 6 months. You identify that you get leads from contact forms and phone calls and the majority of those leads come from Organic Google Search.
You will need to set up an event in GA4 for contact form submissions and phone number clicks and then mark both as conversions. Once this is set up you will be able to see week on week how those conversions are contributing to your overall goals and identify where you need to invest your marketing budget to improve the conversion rate in order to meet your goals.
In conclusion, Google Analytics 4 is a powerful tool that offers businesses advanced data tracking capabilities and improved cross-device measurement. By following the best practices outlined in this guide, you can maximise the insights provided by GA4 and leverage them to inform your digital marketing strategies. With its continuous updates and new features, GA4 is poised to remain a vital tool for businesses seeking to optimize their online presence and drive growth.
Does GA4 replace Universal Analytics?
No, GA4 is a separate version of Google Analytics that is designed to provide businesses with more comprehensive tracking and measurement capabilities. While Universal Analytics will continue to be supported and maintained, Google is encouraging businesses to transition to GA4 to take advantage of its advanced features.
Can I still use GA4 if I’m not familiar with Universal Analytics?
Absolutely. While some familiarity with web analytics is helpful, GA4 is designed to be user-friendly and accessible to businesses of all sizes and levels of experience. Google provides extensive documentation and support resources to help users get up to speed with the platform.
Do I need to create a new GA4 property for each website or app?
Yes, you will need to create a new GA4 property for each website or app that you want to track. This ensures that the data collected is specific to that property and can be analysed separately from other properties.
Will GA4 affect my existing Google Ads campaigns?
No, GA4 will not affect your existing Google Ads campaigns. However, by integrating GA4 with your Google Ads account, you can gain deeper insights into your ad performance and optimise your campaigns for better results.
Need some help?
Navigating this change can be overwhelming, so if you need a little help, we have a team of specialists who can make the transition easy for you. We can also help you to build your digital strategy but if you’re unsure then here are some reasons to hire a digital marketing agency, read the blog here.
From basic setup to complex event monitoring with Google Tag Manager, our team can deal with the full switchover.Contact Us