What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?

Mackenzie | December 15, 2020 | Search Engine Optimization

In case you haven't heard, there's a new version of Google Analytics out, and it's different. Google Analytics 4 is creating a bit of a stir in the marketing community, so we thought we'd take a minute and let you in on everything we know so far. 

 

While there's a lot still to come from Google on this new GA version, here's the basic breakdown of what Google Analytics 4 is and what's different about it:

 

What is Google Analytics 4?

 

Google Analytics 4 is Google's most recent version of Analytics, which started rolling out mid-October 2020. This new version of Analytics builds on Google's App + Web system released in 2019 and aims to provide a more comprehensive, customer-centric view into your analytics. Most marketers and webmasters agree that Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is developed out of necessity, as more privacy restrictions are imposed on data collection, and as more users opt-out of cookie usage. 

 

This version of Google Analytics is designed to be "future proof" and relies on machine learning to fill in the gaps where businesses may be losing insight as we all work to protect our data and privacy. 

 

Like its predecessor, the App + Web system, GA4 also aims to provide a more comprehensive look at your data across your website, apps, software, and more. Here's what Google has to say about this new version of Google Analytics:

 

 

If you want to know more about GA4, from how it's different to how you'll use it, the Evenbound team has you covered. Here's our quick, comprehensive breakdown: 

 

What's different about GA4?

 

There's a lot that's different about Google Analytics 4. To understand some of the new features and differences, it's helpful to understand where GA 4 is coming from. There are a few fundamental shifts in how Google Analytics 4 is approaching data and providing analysis, and as far as we can tell, it's bound to provide a range of useful insights, once we all get used to the new look and features.

Here are a few of the key shifts that make Google Analytics 4 different from previous versions:  

 

  • Built with machine learning at its core. GA4 is designed to be more intelligent than any of its predecessors. Machine learning is the main form of data measurement, and GA4's robust AI uses "modeling" to make assumptions about user behavior based on existing data.
  • Focused on giving you greater insight into the customer journey. The final big perspective shift associated with GA4 is an increased focus on the customer journey. GA4 focuses less on individual metrics across different pages and devices, and more on the end-to-end customer journey, providing deeper, more comprehensive insight into how your customers are interacting with your digital platform from start to finish.

 

To give you a basic understanding of how Google Analytics 4 properties are different from traditional Analytics, take a quick look at these dashboards. The first is what you're used to, and the second is a GA4 dashboard. Notice anything different?



A few of these modules are similar, and some are even the same. The biggest change you should notice right off the bat? The menu change. Look at all of the options available to you in the GA4 property. They've got options like: 

  • Acquisition
  • Engagement
  • Monetization
  • Retention
  • And so much more!

Let's dive into a few of the new insights and features that Google Analytics 4 provides.

 

 

What new features are included in Google Analytics 4?

 

There is a lot that's new, a lot that's different, and even some features you may have grown to love in your Universal Analytics account that you won't find in GA4. While we can't cover them all, these are the big, notable new features and changes to be aware of: 

 

  • GA4 automatically alerts you to significant trends in your data. From purchasing trends to new, intuitive reporting like churn probability and revenue predictors, GA4 is designed to use machine learning to help you stay ahead of your customer's wants and needs. 
  • Better audience building for remarketing and returning visitors. Segment your data by audiences to better analyze why some customers aren't engaging or why some audience segments tend to spend more. Admins can even remove a user from specific lists from within GA4 to ensure your data is always accurate. 
  • Codeless event tracking is one of the new features we're most excited about. Instead of adding code or script to set up an event in your Analytics account, GA4 automatically tracks events for you and enables editing, tracking, and fine-tuning of those events directly within the UI. 
  • A new take on User Acquisition Reports. GA4s user acquisition reports have a greater focus on the entire customer journey. For example, the new user acquisition report allows you to see what channels are driving new customers, while engagement and retention reports give greater insight into what actions those customers take once they land on your site. 
  • GA4 integrates efficiently with Google Ads. Google Analytics 4 is designed to offer deeper integration with Google Ads, so you can get a better picture of your audience, and tailor your ad campaigns to fit. 
  • No view level section. Where traditional Analytics offered three levels — Account, Property, and View — GA4 only has Account and Property levels. 
  • GA4 is a “flat model” that prioritizes a granular approach to your customer data.
  • Data streams are used in place of old views and segments used in traditional Analytics properties. 

 

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What does this mean for your traditional Google Analytics properties?

 

There's a lot going on with Google Analytics 4. There's a lot to learn, and there's a lot that Google hasn't even finished yet. So what are you to do with your Google Analytics account in the meantime? 

 

While it's likely that Google will eventually phase out older versions of Google Analytics, even they are recommending that users keep their existing traditional Google Analytics properties for now. Experts recommend you start by setting up a new Google Analytics 4 property to run alongside your existing properties and start collecting data as soon as possible.

 

Not sure how to set up your GA4 property? If you want us to help install Google Analytics 4 for you, we're offering this service for free until January 31st! Schedule time with an Evenbound expert.

 

This will allow you to play around with these new features before you need to make the transition. Setting up your GA4 property will also ensure you're gathering data now, and give you access to any new features Google rolls out as they continue to grow this new version of Google Analytics. 

 

GA4 is a big change for the SEOs, marketers, and webmasters who love the functionality of their existing GA account. Luckily, we've got some time to get used to it. If you've got questions about this new version of Google Analytics, we're here to help! While we're all learning about these new features together, we'd be happy to walk you through any questions you might have about setting up or using this new version of Google Analytics. 

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