Google Analytics 4 – Yay or Nay?

The short story is we don’t have a choice! Eventually GA4 will become the dominant analytics platform, overtaking its predecessor, Universal Analytics. Having said that, it may not be the time to completely forget about UA while Google still irons out some kinks with GA4.

Maddie Keen Reports

 

Google Analytics is a tool to better understand your customer base and how they interact with your website. Insights from analytics can then be used to optimise your digital advertising strategies for increased results. 

So, what is GA4 and what’s so great (or not) about it?

GA4 is Google’s 4th version of Google analytics. Google stated that GA4 is:

“To help you get better ROI from your marketing for the long term, we’re creating a new, more intelligent Google Analytics that builds on the foundation of the App + Web property we introduced in beta last year.”

What benefits can we gain from GA4?

Combined web and app tracking

  • GA4 will allow you to track activity from cross-device and platform between websites and apps to gain further insights to the user’s behaviour. You will gain greater insight into a customer’s purchase journey to therefore provide better user experiences and improve the effectiveness of your marketing across multiple channels.

Events-driven data model

  • Automatically collected events and new enhanced measurement feature. Basic interactions with your site will now be automatically collected by GA4. The new ‘enhanced measurement’ feature allows for automatic tracking of events such as video viewing, scrolling, site searching and file download. When using the GA4 wizard to set up your property, you can use existing tagging setups that automatically enable this feature.

Recommended events

  • Previously, Google followed a ‘one size fits all’ approach to Universal Analytics. GA4 has separated from this mentality when creating manual events by providing recommended events based on industries. While we’ll see these industries expand over time, GA4 recommends industries such as travel, education, gaming, and real estate. 

‘Exploration’ feature for reporting

  • GA4’s reporting looks drastically different than Universal Analytics, with the ‘exploration’ feature. This allows you to find data on specific user journeys and the particular moments of the journey that is of interest. This can provide greater knowledge of your customer’s conversion journey and spot areas to improve. Universal Analytics also does not report on total unique users, with returning and new users being combined. GA4 now allows you to view total unique users across platforms to differentiate new vs. returning users.  This reporting feature can enable you to answer specific user questions like:

 

  • What events are underperforming/ performing well?
  • What products or services have high interest
  • What products or services are generating the highest/lowest sales?
  • What products or services gain repeat customers?

 

What are the downsides to GA4?

Historical Data

  • Unfortunately, GA4 does not collect historical data and only begins collecting once the property is set up. In the long run, you will not be able to compare historical data within the new version (year on year data especially). On the upside, UA can still be used for these comparisons and accessing historical data. Thankfully, you can still run UA and GA4, with Google not yet stating when the old version will be taken offline. We recommend using UA and GA4 simultaneously while becoming familiar with GA4 as time permits to gain further insight into the capabilities of GA4 and how it informs business decisions. 

Creating custom events

  • Creating a custom event in GA4 is no longer similar to UA. Previously behavioural actions (events) would consist of classing them in a Category, Action, and Label. These have now been replaced with custom events through parameters such as link_classes, link_domain, or link_id. You must also mark an event type as a conversion in order to start tracking conversions. This may be confusing to start but we believe that this features further integrates GA4 with Google Ads. 

Using analytics.js tagging

  • As stated in the cons, your GA4 wizard can use existing tags to enable automatic event tracking. However, if your website is tagged with analytics.js (instead of gtags.js), the existing tags will not be transferred over. You will have to manually add the analytics tags in the back end to begin integrating data to GA4. With this, the old analytics tag should not be removed as it will continue to collect data for the old tags.

As the leading digital marketing agency on the Sunshine Coast, we’re careful to put all of our eggs in to one tracking basket. Whilst we set all of our clients up with a robust GA4 account/view, we still look at UA, ad channel data like Facebook Ads, Google Ads and more to ensure we’re getting the full picture of what is (and isn’t!) happening.

 

 

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