The Google Analytics tool is used worldwide for online measurement. With the ongoing changes in consumer behavior and due to privacy concerns, Universal Analytics – the legacy version of Google Analytics, will stop processing new data on July 1, 2023. Universal Analytics will benefit from three months of data processing, meaning that the service will end on October 1, 2023. Google’s only available tool for tracking and analyzing customer activity will be Google Analytics 4, or GA4 for short.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4 focuses on providing as much data as possible throughout the customer lifecycle. The service was released in October 2020. The reasons for creating a new system that will make it easier to analyze campaigns. The reason behind such as swift are changes in consumer behavior and significant limitations in online privacy rules. In addition, a study conducted by Forrest Consulting reinforced Google’s belief that current analytics solutions do not guarantee a complete picture of the customer journey, which is multi-platform or multi-device.
How does Google Analytics 4 work?
Google Analytics 4 proposes a machine learning-based approach, as well as a method for sharing cross-platform signals, and a privacy-focused approach. At its core, it relies on machine learning to automatically obtain useful information and provides a complete understanding of customers across devices and platforms. By design, it focuses on privacy, so you can rely on Analytics even when industry changes, such as cookie and ID restrictions, create gaps in your data.
Google Analytics vs. Universal Analytics: key features and benefits of Google Analytics 4
It is worth taking a more detailed look at the upgrade features, differences and benefits of Google Analytics 4.
Connection to Google Ads
One of the most important reasons behind the decision to create the new service was the need for deeper data integration to measure a combination of application and web data. Such a change allows defining the flow of app and web data for Google Ads, YouTube Ads, as well as for Facebook and other channels and email. The integration of mobile and app data makes it possible to measure the impact of all marketing investments, regardless of the acquisition channel.
Another goal of the update is a more customer-centric approach to tracking the customer journey.
As Google describes, Google Analytics 4 : Uses multiple identity spaces, including user IDs provided by marketers and unique Google signals from users who have opted in to ad personalization, to provide complete insight into customer interactions with your business. This boils down to detailed knowledge of where our customers are coming from and what decisions and actions they are taking throughout the lifecycle of a relationship with your company.
For reporting purposes, Google’s goal was to make it easier to track a customer across the entire marketing path. A new section called “Lifecycle” was introduced. Previously, Universal Analytics provided access to custom dashboards that were not comprehensive. In Google Analytics 4, you have access to Exploration sections that allow you to create custom, advanced reports. Visually, the reports are very similar to an Excel workbook. This allows you to create tables or visualizations using templates for conversion path analysis, user flow and cohort analysis, which will influence better understanding. In addition, the new sections guarantee much better insight into the later stages of the customer lifecycle.
Access to reports allows you to monitor traffic, analyze data and learn more about users and their activities.
Going to the GA4 dashboard, you can find two types of reports:
Reports in Google Analytics 4Under the Reports Overview and Real Time reports, you will see a collection of reports, or sets. GA4 gives you the ability to customize the collections under your own preferences.
Report collection in Google Analytics 4
If you want to dive deeper into some of the data, you can create an exploration for more detailed research or export the data to BigQuery so you can apply SQL-like commands to it.
You can also download the Analytics app to access your Analytics account and data on your phone or tablet. The Analytics app includes many of the same reports as Analytics on your site. You can download the Google Analytics mobile app for Android and iOS.
A new approach to data control
Create and track up to 300 events
GA 4 makes it easy to implement events yourself. Most of the basic events are tracked by Google Analytics 4 with automated events and enhanced measurement events. Interestingly, in the absence of events, it is possible to create a new event on the platform. Events allow you to measure an established interaction or occurrence on your site or application. With events, it is possible, for example, to measure when someone loads a page, finalizes a purchase, clicks a link, or to calculate system actions such as application crashes or ad displays.
Types of events that are recorded automatically:
In order for the following events to be active they must first be implemented:
A few words about the Real Time report
The Number of Events by Event Name tab located in the Real Time report includes information about each triggered event and the number of times it was called by users of your site or application in the last 30 minutes. To view its parameters, click on an event.
A few words about the DebugView report
The DebugView report shows all the events that a single user has caused. This is helpful in checking whether the event and its parameters are configured correctly. To fully use this report, you need to enable debug mode.
Create and track up to 30 conversions
In Universal Analytics, it is possible to access tracking of only 20 goals. In contrast, in Google Analytics 4 you can track up to 30 conversions and additionally delete conversions when they are no longer needed. Tracking conversions in GA4 is much easier than tracking events. In addition, once an event is tracked, there is an option to mark them as conversions, you just need to enable it.
In addition, Universal Analytics uses configured e-commerce goals and transactions to measure conversion rates. In Google Analytics 4, there is no distinction between goals and e-commerce. All conversions are measured using GA4 events. GA4 events are triggered by a user’s interaction with your site or app. Using this interface, you can mark as conversions all events that contribute to the success of your business. When each of these marked events is triggered, the transitions are recorded in GA4.
GA4 automatically marks the purchase events you use to tell Google Analytics that an e-commerce transaction has been completed as conversion events.
Events instead of “actions”
Universal Analytics relies on session measurement, while GA4 uses events. The way events are sent in GA4 is slightly different from the way events are sent in Universal Analytics. Events in Universal Analytics have 3 attributes (category, action and label), while events in GA4 have any number of parameters.
In Google Analytics 4 page views are sent as events. In addition, there is no concept of page view actions (or action types at all). All interactions are sent as events, for example, Google Analytics records a page view when a page_view event is received. The page_view event contains parameters indicating the URL, page title, etc.
Event instead of “goal”
With GA4, you no longer need to set goalbased on a limited set of conversion criteria.
Instead, GA4 automatically marks 4 collected events as conversions in the mobile app. Additionally, you can mark up to 30 (50 in the case of Google Analytics 360) in-app or web events as conversions. This provides great flexibility and precision in measuring important user actions.
New way to configure smart conversions
The Smart Goals feature in Universal Analytics uses machine learning to identify signals that indicate the likelihood of conversions. Smart Goals enable users who do not import explicit Analytics goals into Google Ads or use native Google Ads conversion tags to optimize Google Ads campaigns based on these signals.
Google Analytics 4 does not support smart goals. You can also use predictive audiences, which use machine learning to predict future user behavior, including the likelihood of purchase. You can then use Join Audiences to convert predicted audience data into events that you can mark as conversions.
A conversion is any user action that is valuable to your business. For example, it could be a purchase in a store or a newsletter subscription. If you want to count conversions, mark events that measure user actions as conversions.
By setting up conversions you can:
In Google Analytics 4, it is possible to create audience segments without having to save them, this is because of the comparison tool available on each page of the report. Compared to Universal Analytics, this is quite a change, because in that version, every time to filter audiences, you had to create a segment. It was stored until you deleted it yourself. To create a permanent recipient segment in GA4, you can do this in the Configuration screen or by creating a segment in Explorations. Just select Build audience before saving the segment.
In summary, the goal of Google Analytics 4 is to help companies and marketers achieve key and intended results, with the provision of more customer data. These events are usually created by modifying an already tracked event or by placing conditions using already tracked parameters.