Are you ready for GA4?
Just when we had all gotten comfortable using Universal Analytics, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) was brought in to replace it. The switch itself is happening in three phases:
- It began on October 14, 2020, when GA4 displaced Universal Analytics as the default platform on the Google Analytics website.
- The next milestone will be on July 1, 2023, when the new Google Analytics 4 will permanently cease supporting Universal Analytics properties.
- The sunset for Universal Analytics 360 will then follow a year later on July 1, 2024.
This is no ordinary “system upgrade”, though. Google Analytics 4 is, rather, a complete overhaul of the previous generation of Analytics. It has changed the entire data tracking ecosystem, forcing Universal Analytics users to retrain themselves on leveraging the platform. They now have a ton more data and customization options to work with, which in turn makes the learning curve even steeper.
That has, understandably, elicited mixed reactions from the business community. On the whole, however, the users of Google Analytics 4 are seeing positive results from the renewed digital analytics. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) from the platform are turning out to be exceedingly transformative to websites and apps.
All that power is yours for the taking, as GA4 itself is completely free of charge. This guide will even provide you with the headstart needed to get it underway. By the time you’re done reading it, you’ll have understood not just the full potential of Google Analytics 4, but also how to set it up on your website or app.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4, or GA4 in short, is the latest version of Google’s web analytics platform. And while previous generations provided data analytics for websites, GA4 is engineered to track both web and app properties.
The tracking system here is not built on the same technologies as its predecessors. Google Analytics 4, instead, rides on a user-centric ecosystem that follows customers through their entire journey. You get to monitor not just your traffic metrics, but also the corresponding customer usage analytics.
Google has also future-proofed GA4 by aligning its data tracking with the latest privacy laws, including CCPA and GDPR. Third-party cookies and identifiers have been replaced by first-party trackers, which only monitor user behavior and keep the users anonymous. Any arising data gaps are then filled by predictive analytics from sophisticated machine learning and statistical models.
Setting up Google Analytics 4 for Your Website or App
Your GA4 setup options depend on the strategy that you’re currently running on Google’s Analytics platforms.
If, for instance, your properties were added to the Google Analytics platform after October 14, 2020, you don’t need to take any additional steps. You’re already set, as GA4 has been the default solution all along.
The exemption doesn’t extend to any properties configured before that October 2020 D-Day. Universal Analytics was the default option back then, and you can even confirm it for yourself by checking your property’s ID. If the number begins with “UA”, it means the property was built on Universal Analytics and is due for GA4 migration.
In that case, you might want to create a new one on Google Analytics 4 and then link it with your existing Universal Analytics asset. The setup process itself is as follows:
- Go to analytics.google.com and log into your Google account.
- Once you’ve landed on the dashboard, proceed to the left navigation panel and click on Admin. This will take you to your admin settings.
- Under the Admin tab, you’ll see two sections – Account and Property. Go to the Property section and hit the Create Property button positioned at the top.
- Google will subsequently display a series of property setup prompts, which you should follow to add a new property to the account.
- After the property has been added, GA4 will list it in the Property column of the Admin Settings page. You can then click on the Setup Assistant to launch the setup wizard.
- It’s on that Setup Assistant wizard where you get to connect your new Google Analytics 4 deployment with your website or app. The button at the top links your GA4 property with its pre-existing Universal Analytics equivalent, the Data Collection subsection configures Google Analytics 4 into your website, while Property Settings offers controls for defining audience segments and KPIs.
Understanding Key Features of Google Analytics 4
Google Analytics 4 is essentially a blend of privacy-centric tracking, cross-channel data metrics, and AI-driven predictive analytics. This is what ultimately generates in-depth insights into your customers’ journeys – from the moment they land on your website, through all their touchpoints, to the actions they might take in the future.
Universal Analytics had some pretty decent analytics too. But, it only offered generalized traffic data, with page views being the primary Key Performance Indicator (KPI). Google Analytics 4, on the other hand, goes beyond the page views to highlight individual audience interactions. You should be able to generate reports on engagement time, engagement rate, engagement sessions, etc.
Another thing that GA4 saves you is the trouble of piecing together measurements from Google Analytics for Firebase, Firebase Analytics, and Google Analytics for Apps. You no longer have to combine different data analytics tools to monitor multiple devices. Everything is now available on one centralized interface, courtesy of GA4’s cross-device tracking.
What it logs as user behavior is progressively fed into its underlying machine-learning engine, which then uses artificial intelligence and statistical models to make predictions about future events. It’s from these reports that you get to find out your revenue forecast, churn probability, purchase probability, etc.
As for the properties, Google Analytics 4 is flexible enough to accommodate both apps and web-based assets. You can set it to track up to 2,000 properties at once. The limit on the number of source properties is 50, each of which can be broken down into 400 sub-properties.
Using Google Analytics 4 for Website & App Tracking
GA4 is your go-to all-in-one digital analytics solution when you need to quantify user interactions on your website or app. It can track both website and app properties separately or as continuous experiences. Then from the analytics, you should be able to figure out not just the traffic volume streaming in, but also how users are engaging with your websites and apps.
All the interactions are measured as events. And they could be any type of user activity – from opening a web page, opting into a mailing list, or completing a purchase, to watching an in-app ad, running an app feature, or opening app messages.
You could also use Google Analytics 4 to track events executed by the website or app. This is where you measure occurrences like app crashes, form displays, page redirects, etc.
Overall, you’ll be tracking four types of events on your GA4 account:
- Automatically collected events: These are the events that are measured by default when you add your website or app property to Google Analytics 4. Examples include app updates, in-app purchases, app sessions, and page visits.
- Enhanced measurement events: These are the events that are tracked when you proceed to enable the enhanced measurement option. They include form interactions, file downloads, video engagement, site search, outbound clicks, page scrolls, and page views.
- Recommended events: While the previous two categories are default options, recommended events are set up manually from a list of predefined references.
- Custom events: Custom events are configured entirely from scratch. But, you’ll need custom coding skills to proceed.
Google Analytics 4 further allows you to mark specific events as conversions. And they don’t have to be sales instances – any important occurrence to your business should do.
Each user’s interactions are eventually linked to form a continuous user experience funnel. You’ll be able to view all the touchpoints and engagements that individual buyers sailed through before converting. This includes the actions taken on both your website and app properties.
To understand the users even better, you might want to separate them into segments. GA4 facilitates this by allowing you to define the audience conditions for each segment. You could, for instance, have a segment for users who’ve only interacted with your app, another one for PC-based visitors, plus maybe separate categories for first-time and returning customers.
Using Google Analytics 4 for Online Marketing
Now that third-party cookies are practically dead, Google Analytics 4 couldn’t have come at a better time. Cookie rejection rates have already reached 64% and still rising, yet marketers need them more than ever to cater to the growing demand for personalized experiences.
GA4 has found a way around the problem, allowing marketers to track audiences without violating any data privacy laws. Instead of identifying users by their IP addresses, the platform uses privacy-centric approaches such as IP anonymization. ID values here are in the form of randomly generated strings that are linked to users’ browsers and devices.
Otherwise, when the user ID is unavailable, the system relies on user info from Google signals. And in the rare occasions that the two identifiers are both missing, Google Analytics 4 turns to AI-driven statistical modeling. It basically uses machine learning to predict the attributes of an unidentified user based on the behaviors of similar users.
The predictive analytics go on to enrich the user data you’ve been collecting from events, and the result is usually accurately-segmented audiences. This is what you ultimately leverage in your targeted digital marketing campaigns.
If, for instance, you integrate Google Analytics 4 with Google Ads, you’ll find your custom segments imported automatically to the Audience Manager section of Google Ads. You could then proceed to target the different groups of users with well-personalized paid ads.
Google Analytics 4 can be said to be a more streamlined, future-proof version of Universal Analytics. You could even argue that the name “universal analytics” suits it better than its predecessor, as it offers an all-round view of customers’ journeys. Plus, Google has integrated multiple analytics assets to form a centralized dashboard for tracking both websites and apps.
The tracking system itself is adapting very well to a cookie-free future – with the help of IP anonymization approaches, AI-driven predictive analytics, calculated statistical models, and privacy-centric identifiers. All these resources are always active across omnichannel touchpoints, thereby mapping out your customer’s paths in real-time.
On the flip side, however, we’ll agree that all this power comes with a pretty steep learning curve. Setting up properties is the easiest bit. And after that comes the burden of coding custom events, defining audience segments, plus customizing multiple report attributes. All this is meant to culminate in meaningful insights, which you should then use to strategically optimize your web marketing campaigns.
Not the type of stuff a business executive would have time for. And that’s where we come in. Globe Runner is the digital marketing agency that’ll not only create and manage your Google Analytics 4 portfolio, but also transform the analytics into high-precision targeted campaigns.
Contact us today to find out more about the future of data-driven personalization.