What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the rebrand of Google App + Web, first available in beta in July 2019. With the rollout of GA4, Google is requiring businesses to think differently about their users, and making its measurement tools more user-centric. Customers are accessing a brand’s website/apps on different devices across many different browsers at different stages in their journey and today’s reporting and analysis need to reflect that behavior. At its core, GA4 is meant to bring all your analytics touchpoints that occur on all your owned websites and apps into one consolidated reporting container, allowing you to deliver a personalized experience while adhering to increased privacy requirements.
This is an extremely advantageous upgrade for users who currently use Universal Analytics, the legacy default property of Google Analytics. It serves to unify user analytics throughout their lifecycle instead of relying on separate reporting containers for website measurement and application measurement. You will now be able to review all performance in one place.
What is different about GA4?
If you’ve set up reporting across Universal Analytics and Firebase previously, you are aware that the measurement frameworks are different. Universal Analytics supports a page view framework whereas Firebase supports an event-parameter framework. GA4 supports an event-based hit type more similar to Firebase which allows for a single taxonomy across your reporting to identify meaningful actions, regardless of device. This is a significant reporting benefit as it de-silos data and allows for greater flexibility and customization in Google Analytics reporting.
What are some of the other benefits of migrating to GA4?
Customization is absolutely one of the more exciting opportunities with migrating to Google Analytics (GA4). You will have the ability to set up to 50 event-scoped custom dimensions and 50 custom metrics per property. This is an upgrade from 20 custom events and custom metrics provided in Universal Analytics and allows for a reporting infrastructure focused on the organization’s specific business touchpoints instead of generalized one-size-fits-all reporting. In addition to customization, here are some other exciting features:
- GA4’s event-based tracking allows Google to bundle events together in fewer network requests than the individual beacon request of every Universal Analytics hit, significantly reducing the load for Google’s servers. This is great for Google’s bottom line, but it’s huge for marketers too — sampling data should be less of an issue with GA4, as it won’t require as much server power to produce large data reports.
- Automated event tracking. When setting up a GA4 property, businesses will now be able to track certain events by simply enabling them in the settings, something that previously required Google Tag Manager (GTM) or hard-coded tags for event tracking. This is great for businesses who may have limited resources to set up tracking, as anyone can get detailed event reporting set up with the click of a button in the GA Settings. These automated event options include scroll tracking, outbound clicks, site searches, video engagement, and file downloads.
- Cross-device and cross-platform tracking to provide businesses with a comprehensive view of user activity across any tracked app/site. GA4 is reported to be much better at de-duping users across devices than Universal Analytics and gives a much more accurate user count for marketers. As multi-touch attribution and enhanced user tracking becomes increasingly more important, this will be a huge asset for brands.
- New Engagement metrics. GA4 reports include several new engagement metrics to track user engagements including engaged sessions, engaged sessions per user, engagement rate, and engagement time.
- Bye-bye Bounce Rate. With GA4, brands will be able to measure user behavior more insightfully than just un-engaged users to truly see which site content is most engaging to users.
What other changes should I expect to see?
- Reduced Ecommerce reporting in the first release
- To date, multi-touch attribution reports don’t yet exist in GA4.
- In addition to bounce rate no longer being a metric in GA4, it’s also missing landing page dimensions making campaign and SEO reporting harder.
- Rollup reporting had not yet been confirmed
Top Advertising and Marketing Impacts of Google Analytic 4 (GA4)
Google is ultimately positioning itself as a solution to the loss of third-party cookies with the help of its Topics API which is designed to help your web browser determine the topics most relevant to your search and browsing history that week. Topics API shares three topics from your browser with the site, and its advertising partners. Marketers will be able to buy contextual ads targeted at these topic groups, allowing the users to remain semi-anonymous. While there is still much to be learned about this new system, we believe this is a core part of the move to GA4, with an option to view and optimize topics as part of the reporting to set marketers up for greater success in a cookie-less world.
When should we transition to GA4?
Google announced in March that by July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics properties will no longer process data. If you are on Google Analytics 360, you get a one-time processing extension ending on October 1, 2023. We strongly believe now is the time to transition to GA4 to set you up for success with enough time and historical data to pull from.
How do I migrate from GA4 from Universal Analytics?
Like all analytics migrations, your GA4 build should be actioned out with a strategy and implementation plan. ROI DNA supports clients’ GA4 implementation by designing a framework of measurement that meets the business requirements of the organization. To start any analytics build you should create a solution design reference document that outlines the business goals of the organization, the data you would like to track, and the qualitative points that describe the data points. Your solution design reference should have inputs from key internal stakeholders and identify the technical specifications of producing tacking. Below please find our analyst steps to support your implementation.
- Identify Business Tracking Requirements
- Outline Solution Design Reference
- Add DataLayer Documentation
- Design Data Stream Outline
- Implement Google Tag Manager Tags
- Implement Google Analytics Setup
- Test setup on an ongoing basis
By following these steps you can make sure to provide the correct direction and governance for a best-in-class analytics platform. Drop us a line to schedule your complimentary GA4 consultation, learn more about GA4 and ROI DNA’s Google Analytics custom implementation process, or just say howdy.