If your marketing lives and dies by Google Analytics, things are about to get crazy – in a good way. Google’s Universal Analytics (GA3 or UA) will soon be a thing of the past as the next generation comes into its own. Google Analytics (GA4) is making data collection more accessible and will soon replace GA3.
Now is the time to get to know this new Google property and see how you can put it to use to better your brand. Change is hard, but GA4, by design, should only improve your marketing efforts. If you don’t have it, you need to add it to your website now.
What is GA4?
Before we talk about the new generation, let’s talk about the older ones. Google Analytics made its market debut in 2005. Originally, this property was the brainchild of Urchin Software Corp. Google took it over and made it mainstream in 2005.
Today, Google Analytics is a web-based program that tracks website data and puts it in a report for your review. It has undergone many changes over the years, and Google is now releasing the fourth iteration of the program called GA4.
GA4 is a significant update to the analytics platform because it offers some powerful new features that will help you better understand your website traffic. That means you can make data-driven marketing decisions for more conversions.
GA4 uses machine learning to give marketers a holistic view of the website’s performance. In the past, GA had a somewhat fragmented design. You had to look at everything to find the critical things for your brand’s performance. GA4 is how Google is dealing with the recent changes in the ecommerce landscape, like fading cookies and enhanced privacy regulations.
GA4 will use various identity spaces, such as User and tracking IDs, to provide a more complete view of customer interaction. That means you’ll get a better understanding of the actions of your customers from engagement to conversion. For example, you can watch customers move across your content and see what they interact with and pass by. The scroll tracking in GA3 was less intuitive.
What’s New About GA4?
Google has given the interface a fresh new look with a more intuitive design. The new dashboard gives you a quick snapshot of the website’s:
- Most popular pages
- Visitor retention
- Top-selling products
The new dashboard provides better visibility and is customized to meet your unique needs.
They are also introducing a new overview report that provides the key points. Then you can dig deeper with other reports if necessary. That granular view allows you to spend your time on data that matters.
GA4 Provides Smarter Insights
Your goal as a marketer is to get the best return on your investment. The new analytics program will automatically tell you what is working and what isn’t. It will pinpoint significant trends in data so you can act on them.
For example, let’s say one product is getting more customer attention. GA4 will highlight these interactions so you can increase the promotion of the product. That allows you to use your marketing budget where it counts the most.
GA4 will also help you predict the future. It does churn analysis, using historical data to predict possible future outcomes. That allows you to invest your ad budget wisely based on data. If the historical data shows customers tend to interact with ads on Wednesday afternoons, you know that is when you should schedule them. You make a change based on the data and then watch to see how the tweaks work to make more adjustments.
Enhanced Data Stream Measurements
The clear goal when designing GA4 was simplification. The new analytics program makes monitoring metrics easier and more automated. One significant improvement is web data streams. GA4 pre-selects key stream measurements for you. It will automatically track:
- Page views – Allows you to see what pages viewers visit the most
- Scrolls – Shows how deep into the pages viewers go. This critical assessment allows you to see underperforming content and make adjustments. The GA4 scroll tracking fires at the 90 percent mark.
- File downloads – Shows what resources viewers use the most
- Video plays – Another critical metric. Videos are costly to make. This data can help you determine which ones are the most impactful and what type of videos users respond to the most.
- Site search – Identifies search terms used, so you know what people are looking for when they visit the website.
- Outbound links – What takes the user away from your website? This can also help you make choices for affiliates and partnerships. You will know what social media channels are getting the most engagement directly from the website.
Simplicity, automation, and machine learning take GA4 to the next level and give marketers a more interesting tool.
GA4 vs. UA
There are critical differences between these two Google properties.
- UA tracks screen views in web-specific properties. In other words, people who access the website via a computer or mobile device.
- GA4 measures both web and app data.
This full cross-device and cross-platform reporting offer a more comprehensive report. GA4 will allow you to analyze data in subsets, which is not that different than GA3. GA4 is adding more subsets, though. In addition, with GA4, you can break data down into session segments and event segments.
The process of creating subsets changes in GA4, too. You use the “Explorations” option to create your custom subset.
- UA used a session-based data model.
- GA4 upgrades to a flexible event-based data model.
In UA, “sessions” are the foundation of all their reporting. Sessions refer to user interactions done in a single time frame.
GA4 still allows you to see session data but adds “events.” Events expand the information to focus more fully on the actions of the user. You will get a more comprehensive view of what is happening on a website or app, such as button clicks and user actions. These are events.
- UA had minimal automation.
- GA4 uses machine learning to simplify insight discovery.
With GA4, Google introduces predictive metrics. With this addition, it will predict what customers will do based on what they have done in the past.
Why Do You Need GA4?
Probably the biggest reason you need GA4 is that GA3 will disappear. So, if you rely on Google Analytics to track website traffic, you’ll need to upgrade. GA4 will replace GA3 fully by July 1, 2023.
Also, GA4 will not import data from GA3. So all that historical data will be lost. However, GA4 is fully functional, so the sooner you get it, the better.
Consider some other reasons you need GA4 on your websites.
It’s an Easy Upgrade
If you are worried about spending hours setting up a new analytics platform, don’t. If you already have GA3, you simply need to tell Google to give you the upgrade. Go to the Google Analytics platform, move to your preferred account name, and then select “Upgrade to GA4” under the property column. From there, just follow the prompts.
There are a couple of things you should keep in mind during your upgrade:
- If your analytics is set up on your properties with “gtag.js,” then you need to select “Enable data collection using your existing tags.”
- If you don’t use gtags, but use Tag Manager, then you’ll need to do this part manually. You’ll need to add GA4 tags. Don’t delete your UA tag; just add the new GA4 ID.
There is Greater Flexibility with GA4
Customization is a nice thing to have; you get more of it with GA4. That means you can do away with the tedious and frustrating GA3 premade reports and just monitor what matters to your brand.
What If You Don’t Use Data Analytics?
You could use other metrics programs, but Google Analytics is the gold standard. And if you don’t use metrics programs at all, then it is time to move your website into the 21st century.
Why Use a Metrics Program?
Metrics programs allow you to see how well your properties are functioning. It shows you what is working and what is dead in the water. You can take what doesn’t work and replace it with something that will give you a return on your investment. With a metrics program, you can:
- Replace or improve underperforming pages or elements
- See who comes to the website, what they view, and how long they stay
- Determine how well certain marketing assets work, like videos, social media, and online ads. Metrics tell you who comes from where so you know what is driving traffic to your site.
Metrics allow you to understand better your ideal customer and what they need to buy your product or service.
Google Analytics is one of the best because it allows you to measure and analyze key data, such as:
- Website traffic – How many visitors you get and how many are unique. That measures the effectiveness of your site and the assets designed to drive traffic to it.
- Bounce rate – The bounce rate tells you if visitors open any page and leave immediately. That is an indication of how engaging that page is or isn’t.
- Top pages – What pages draw the most traffic? Knowing what people look at when they are on your website provides insight into the viewers and the effectiveness of your marketing.
- Conversion rate – How many visitors do something you want them to do, like buy a product or sign up for a newsletter.
- Customer lifetime value or CLV – How much revenue is generated by a single customer
- Average time spent on site – See how much time the visitor spends on your website. That can tell you what works best to engage your customers.
- Returning visitors – How many visitors come back to your website
- Cost per conversion– How much does each conversion cost in advertising
That is a short list of what you can learn using Google Analytics. With GA4, you can gather insights from data even more efficiently.
How to Set Up GA4?
If you are sold on the idea of GA4 but don’t have Google Analytics, determine how you want to use the program, starting with what properties will benefit from it. It is not uncommon for one business to have multiple web properties. You will want to create a hierarchy of these accounts just to keep things organized. For example, the upper website might be the company’s main property, the one that is likely to be there even if the others disappear. Then work your way down through the properties and list them by their importance.
The next step is to set up your Google Analytics account. Follow the instructions on the screen to establish your account.
You need to place tracking scripts and codes when you have the account set up and the properties established at Google Analytics. This part can be a bit complicated. If you are unfamiliar with tags, this is a good time to bring in a professional.
The analytics experts at Vinci can get you started using GA4 properly. Google Analytics is only as good as the setup. Once the tags are in place, we will do test reports and ensure you see the metrics that matter most to you. We will work with you to establish your goals and then develop the reports around them.
Find out more about what Vinci can do for you by booking a free strategy session with us today. You get the benefit of all our knowledge about data streams and tags for free.