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Why Is Google Analytics 4 Important?
Updated on 29 January 2023
It’s critical that you are aware: Universal Analytics (the standard version of Google Analytics) will discontinue processing new data after July 1, 2023. Those with universal analytics 360 properties have an extra three months until October 1st when their tracking will be discontinued as well. As a result, the only viable option for website activity monitoring is now Google Analytics 4!
Are you still unsure of what Google Analytics 4 has to offer? Are you pondering the advantages of Google Analytics 4 in comparison to its predecessor, Universal Analytics? This article will provide invaluable insight into GA4’s potential and help you make an informed decision about including it in your digital strategy. With its multitude of advantages, GA4 is the future – don’t get left behind!
Keep in mind that these benefits have no specific order—it doesn’t mean #5 is above #23 or vice versa. Are we ready? Let’s go explore the fantastic gains that come with using Google Analytics 4!
Unlock the full potential of Google Ads with deeper integration
Advertisers have been asking for a tool from Google Analytics to measure the performance of their apps and websites together. Thanks to this integration, you can now easily analyze conversions coming from your Google Ads, YouTube Ads, Facebook Ads or organic channels such as search engines, social media platforms and email campaigns in one place. This mobile data integration helps brands understand the exact impact of all their investments across different marketing channels with ease!
Measurement with the Customer at the center
To better accommodate customers, the upgrade focuses on tracking and enhancing the customer journey. This is usually a convoluted experience that spans several devices and platforms. As Google explains it:
It uses multiple identity spaces, including marketer-provided User IDs and unique Google signals from users who opted into ads personalization, to give you a complete view of how your customers interact with your business.
Knowing exactly the source of customers and their actions when interacting with a business is essential for successful customer lifecycle management.
1. Advanced Reporting With Explorations
The Universal Analytics suite of features, otherwise known as Advanced Analysis, used to be exclusive to GA360 customers who paid extra. Thankfully though with Google Analytics 4 (GA4), it’s now part of the standard feature set – accessible for everyone!
Explorations provide you with the capability to create informative custom reports, dive into your data and uncover exactly what you need. The visualization/analysis methods available are plentiful and if your aim is to gain meaningful insight from your data, this will be where much of your time is spent. A couple of examples include- Free form exploration, Funnel exploration, and Path exploration – all offering invaluable feedback for shaping better business decisions!
2. A new approach to data controls & privacy
Google Analytics is reinventing its platform to better protect user information, providing more comprehensive privacy controls. With this novel approach, the new analytics will no longer rely on cookies or other identifiers to track data; instead, they are using advanced modelling techniques that enable them to accurately fill in missing pieces of a customer’s journey despite incomplete or unavailable data.
To further personalize your experience, Google Signals can be disabled for certain regions. Additionally, you can exclude specific events from being used in retargeting by marking them as non-personalized ads. To maintain privacy and accuracy with data retention, the maximum time available is two months for explorations; however, if a user contacts you to request the deletion of their information it is easily attainable – even down to subsets of data!
3. Cross-platform tracking—web and apps
Utilizing Google Analytics 4, you can track users and their interactions with your brand across different devices and platforms, therefore providing a comprehensive overview of how they interact on both your website and mobile app. This is one feature that makes GA4 so powerful!
Harnessing the power of data streams allows you to gain invaluable insights about your business. Data streams are essentially different ways for you to view and analyze data that meet specific criteria, such as web traffic, app traffic or even from a particular country.
An immense benefit of this is its capacity to effectively monitor conversions, as you can track the entire journey of a user from beginning to finish—no matter what type of device or platform they are using.
4. BigQuery integration
With GA4, you have access to Google’s state-of-the-art BigQuery cloud data warehouse service allowing for the export of your data in order to be stored and further analyzed. This opens up a whole world of possibilities regarding actionable insights and optimization strategies!
This is particularly beneficial for two reasons: first, it provides you with virtually infinite data storage; and second, it enables more complex analysis that Universal Analytics was incapable of achieving without an external connector.
To illustrate, you can swiftly output your data into BigQuery and then run intricate queries through SQL that wouldn’t be available in the GA interface. Subsequently, machine learning is a powerful tool to uncover unexplored insights in your data.
5. Better insights with machine learning
Unfortunately, the quality of our data continues to decline and that’s something we must accept. Limitations such as ad blockers, privacy regulations, etc., are making it more difficult for us to collect relevant data each year with increasingly diminishing accuracy.
Google Analytics 4 is utilizing machine learning to tackle the problem of missing data in an effort to make up for it. Through using various algorithms, GA4 attempts to fill any voids in the data that are present. For instance, conversion modeling has been running recently and promises to re-attribute conversions from a direct channel source into another one once enough data has been accumulated; this can be done through its predictive capabilities via machine learning which is at work within GA4.
Picture the power of being able to forecast which users are going to buy within the next month and how much revenue you can garner from their conversions. Impressive, right? With this knowledge in hand, your path becomes clear: nudge them into buying!
To get the most out of Google Analytics 4, take advantage of its three predictive analytics metrics to gain insight into your business’s future.
- With purchase probability, you can predict the likelihood of a user that has been actively engaged within the past four weeks making a purchase in the following week.
- With churn probability, you will get the likelihood of a user’s inactivity within the next week as predicted by their activity during the past 7 days.
- With Revenue prediction, you can calculate the expected revenue within the next 28 days from a user who has been active in the past 28 days
You can leverage these metrics to assemble foretelling audiences, which subsequently allows you to roll out exceptionally targeted campaigns during times when the probability of conversion is at its peak.
6. Upgraded data model
GA4 presents an innovative approach to data collection as opposed to Universal Analytics. Rather than collecting data from tags on each website page, GA4 utilizes ‘event-based tracking’ that traces user interactions – or events – in real-time. This method of recording information is far more efficient and accurate than depending solely on pageviews like the previous generation of analytics did.
With GA4, you have more liberty and accuracy when it comes to tracking user behaviour. For example, suppose your website has a search tool. With Universal Analytics, you would track pageviews for the search results pages; however, with GA4 this is not necessary as each individual search can be tracked precisely and accurately regardless of what page the user is on.
By adopting an event-based model, you are not just limited to tracking user interactions that only occur on a web page; instead, it can be used for offline conversions or even in-app purchases.
9. New Automatic Tracking with Enhanced Measurements
Google Analytics 4 offers a useful feature called ‘Enhanced Measurement’ which simplifies the tracking process. It will automatically track website user actions, such as scrolling pages, clicking outbound links and viewing embedded YouTube videos – all without requiring any custom set-up as Universal Analytics did. This makes it easier to get comprehensive analytics data with minimal effort!
10. More Effective Data Exporting
With Google Analytics 4, the exported data will be more comprehensive and useful. This is because you’ll receive much finer-grained information that’s even more applicable to what you need. You can expect a plethora of additional details per export compared to before. And for those who desire absolute control over their collected data, simply send it off to Google BigQuery!
11. Limited Sampling Of Data
Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 both sample data, though the approach in which they do so is vastly different. UA can be difficult when it comes to identifying if your reports are sampled or not; additionally, session limits come into play for generating reports while a hit limit sets an ultimate boundary as far as collecting data goes.
The moment your report is based on sampled data, GA4 shows an orange triangle icon. When your report is not sampled, you see a green check mark.
With GA4, there’s no limit on the number of hits it can accumulate – so data collection is never halted or hindered. There is still one small caveat: “most” of the available reports will be generated using this data, however, sampling can still kick in for some cases.
Nevertheless, this is still an upgrade when compared to Universal Analytics.
12. Extended segmentation possibilities
Now you can segment users based on events, something not possible with UA. Plus, by adding the element of time to your segments, you’re able to analyze how much time passes between various stages in your sales funnel and focus more specifically on user interactions—no more aimless splitting according to device or platform type!
Whenever you publish an audience, it will instantly be shared with Google Ads. This allows you to precisely target the individuals that are most likely to engage with your campaign and maximize its reach!
13. Richer insights into User Journey
There’s a new section in GA4 called Life Cycle, under which reports on Acquisition, Engagement, Monetization, and Retention can be found. If you noticed, these categories align with the customer journey.
It’s now easier than ever to zoom in on customer behavior and get insights on where marketers should direct more attention or change their strategy. The acquisition and engagement reports could tell you which of your awareness campaigns or paid ads, for example, are working and which types of content bring the most value to your users—or the reverse.
GA4’s ability to stitch together the user journey comes from its user-centric analytics and event-driven data model. So if a user first visits your website on their desktop computer, then browses through your products on their smartphone, and eventually purchases through your app, GA4 gives you the tools to track all these events together and give you a holistic view of the customer journey. That’s one key benefit of GA4 that marketers can fully take advantage of.
14. Improved Path Analysis
The flow reports in Universal Analytics had a few drawbacks, such as dependency on sampling and limited insights from the end of the funnel. Fortunately, Google has improved this with GA4’s Path Exploration feature. It is not perfect yet but it definitely packs quite a punch when used! For instance, you can now easily track visitors’ activities prior to making purchases by setting “Purchase” as the endpoint for your analysis. These progressive changes make using analytics much more efficient than ever before!
15. New Audience triggers
With GA4’s audience triggers, it’s now simpler than ever to track conversions. When a visitor enters an audience in your website, GA4 can be configured to register the event automatically – and you’ll even have the ability to designate that event as an official conversion! This opens up plenty of possibilities for creating more intricate rules surrounding events on your site.
Using the select_promotion and purchase events as an example (both of which are part of the e-commerce setup), you can craft a personalized audience when these two actions happen within one session. You could also use this same concept to define an “engaged user” by establishing that they must stay on a page for more than 60 seconds and scroll below 50% of its total height. Ultimately, Proof enables you to customize your audiences in order to maximize conversions.
16. Data-driven attribution
Universal Analytics has previously provided attribution capabilities only to those paying customers. Attribution, in essence, is the recognition of various ads, clicks and factors that served as part of a user’s journey towards completing conversions. Furthermore, an attribution model decides which traffic source deserves credit for the said conversion.
Have you ever found yourself questioning which traffic source should be credited for a conversion when a website visitor lands on your page from both paid advertisements and Google Search? By default, Universal Analytics considers the last non-direct click as the attribution model applied to all reports. Although there are select areas in which users can switch between models, this is essentially how it works.
Google Analytics 4’s default attribution model is a data-driven one, which distributes credit for conversions tailored to the unique data associated with each conversion event. Unlike other models, it calculates the actual contribution of every click interaction by leveraging your account’s existing information.
Here, more sophisticated algorithms are utilized to calculate which traffic sources should be given the most credit for a conversion. It’s likely that the results from one Google Analytics 4 property will differ significantly compared to another.
By using this method, some sources of traffic are able to receive more accurate credit for conversions and prove their return on investment. On the flip side, there is an additional element that requires our trust in order to optimize outcomes.
17. Adjustable Attribution Model
Universal Analytics only allowed the use of the last non-direct click attribution models, and it couldn’t be changed – until now! Google Analytics 4 provides a unique feature that allows you to modify your reports’ attributions. This change will affect all past and future data in GA4, but without altering the actual data itself; rather, these changes are reflected through how the data is calculated or attributed.
Please Note: if any standard report utilizes session dimensions (e.g., Session source) or user-scoped dimensions (e.g., First user source), then unfortunately none of your altered attributions can apply there either.
18. Cross-domain tracking made Simple
In the past, cross-domain tracking using Universal analytics was quite confounding. But with Google Analytics 4, this process is now incredibly simplified. Instead of having to configure various code commands for it to work properly, we only need to specify all domains owned by our business within in the settings of a web data stream! Now that’s real convenience!
19. The DebugView
Debugging and resolving errors has never been easier than with Google Analytics 4, thanks to DebugView. We can see incoming events in a matter of seconds – their parameters, values and all – instead of waiting hours for standard reports! All this makes it incredibly simple to efficiently troubleshoot any issue on your website.
Although DebugView is an effective source of data, it is still essential to assess other reports occasionally (whether standard or exploratory) so you can be certain that everything functions properly.
20. Upgraded Conversion Settings
Configuring conversions with GA4 is remarkably simpler than before. All you have to do is follow the steps and track an event, then mark it as a conversion. The process in Google Analytics 3 was more complex since users were required to determine the category, action, etcetera of an event; whereas now all that’s needed is one click (some cases excluded).
With the help of audience triggers, Google Analytics 4 events can be triggered when certain conditions or sequences are met. What’s more impressive is that those same events will also count as conversions! For instance, if a website visitor spends 60 seconds on a page and scrolls to at least 50% down the page height, it could register as an effective conversion in your analytics reports.
21. User ID & non-User ID data in the same view
With your website’s login feature, you can monitor user IDs and deliver the information to Google Analytics. Previously in Universal Analytics, this data could only be reviewed from an exclusive User-ID view; however, with the arrival of Google Analytics 4, it is stored and readily available within the same property/reports as non-user-id information which makes evaluation simpler than ever before!
22. Reporting identity
Google Analytics offers a myriad of methods to identify website visitors, depending on the type of data you provide. Even without using Google Signals and User IDs, it will still utilize basic device-based identification via 1st party cookies. But if you do choose to enable Google signals with user IDs? Then additional modes are unlocked that apply both retrospectively and prospectively – so whenever changes occur with your settings, they’ll already be applied!
23. Anomaly detections
With Universal Analytics, you could configure alerts; however, GA4 does an even better job at detecting anomalies. As soon as it notices a sudden drop or spikes in your data, it will bring that to your attention with a notification! All of this can be done by setting up custom insights on the property. Even though false positives may occur occasionally, its performance is impressive overall.
He is the Founder of DataVinci. After many years working for iconic brands like Citi Group, eClerx, MakeMytrip and Vodafone, he decided to found DataVinci in order to tackle major problems in the digital analytics domain. His unique model allows customers to pay only one person but they can access top-tier professionals with great communication skills enhanced by an unrivalled work ethic! Thanks to this innovative concept, DataVinci has grown into a team consisting of over 30 people in just 5 short years and is now supporting multiple global brands with their analytics needs as well as optimization functions.