The Benefits of GA4 Over Universal Analytics
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What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?
Google Analytics 4, often referred to by most people as GA4, is Google’s latest version of the Analytics platform that they say has been ‘designed for the future of measurement’.
Google launched GA4 in October 2020, announcing it would eventually replace the Universal Analytics dashboard and reports as the new default.
But thankfully, Google recognised how big of a change this is, and last year they announced a deadline of the 1st of July 2023 for GA4 to take over entirely. Any properties still running Universal Analytics will stop processing data at that point.
So, with only a couple of short weeks until we say goodbye to Universal Analytics forever, we wanted to talk about some of the main changes being brought in and the benefits of GA4.
Before we get into that, though, if you still haven’t transitioned to GA4 yet or you’re worried your account isn’t set up correctly, then give us a call on 01329 565001 to learn how we can help!
What’s the difference between GA4 and Universal Analytics?
GA4 introduces some big changes to the type of data collected and processed on the Analytics platform, new features and data models, and changes to how the reports look in the dashboard.
Here are some of the main changes brought in and how they differ from what was in place before.
Event-driven data model
GA4 tracks and analyses user interactions as events rather than page views or session duration.
This means that rather than focusing on how many pages users visit or how long they spend on the site, your reports will be focused on the detailed tracking of user actions and engagements across the different touchpoints on your website.
Enhanced cross-device tracking
GA4 gives a more comprehensive view of user behaviour by combining data across different devices into one report. Using updated algorithms, GA4 can identify and link user interactions across different platforms and detect when users switch devices or channels.
Deeper integration with Google Ads
GA4 introduces a more robust integration with Google Ads by allowing marketers to measure and better understand user acquisition, engagement, and conversion data for Google Ads campaigns more effectively. This gives you more data to work with when optimising your campaigns.
Simplified data reporting and analysis
The reports in Google Analytics have been redesigned in GA4 to provide a more intuitive and user-friendly experience. With preconfigured reports and more opportunities to explore data, it makes it easier to find and understand key metrics.
GA4 uses machine learning algorithms to automatically pull valuable insights from data and showcase them in reports. Other features powered by AI include predictive metrics, anomaly detection, and user segmentation.
With online privacy’s massive importance, GA4 emphasises privacy-centric data collection and measurement. Enhanced consent controls, data deletion options, and support for tools like Google’s Consent Mode give users more control over how their data is collected and measured.
What are the benefits of GA4 over Universal Analytics?
So we’ve covered a brief overview of what’s changed from UA to GA4; now, here’s a deeper look at some of the features and the benefits they have over the previous version of Analytics.
More accurate goal conversions
With previous versions of Google Analytics, conversion tracking relied heavily on ‘Goals’.
You could set up various goals, such as views of specific pages, duration of site sessions, and the number of pages viewed per session as goals and tie these to a conversion.
For example, you could mark any views of a contact form confirmation page as a conversion by creating a destination goal.
In GA4, goal conversions are out, and conversion events are in.
Instead of setting up goals based on a limited set of conversion criteria, GA4 will automatically mark four collected events as conversions. Plus, you can also mark another 30 app or web events as conversions.
This change gives you much more flexibility in tracking the user journey across your website and allows you to focus on the specific events that matter to you.
GA4 allows you to combine the usage data from your website and mobile apps in one Google Analytics property.
With first-party cookies in place, you can easily identify and measure user activity across your different domains and platforms. For example, you’ll be able to track users that may visit your website first and then switch to your mobile app later.
This provides you with a much clearer picture of your users’ journey and will allow you to see which platforms are performing best, more accurately.
Automatic tracking of events
GA4 automatically collects events when triggered by basic interactions on your website or mobile app.
There’s a long list of both app and web events that can be automatically triggered that you can find on Google’s Analytics Help page, but here are a few examples:
Event: ad_click (app)
Triggered: When users click on an ad.
Event: file_download (web)
Triggered: When a user clicks a link that leads to a file download (this could be a document, presentation, compressed file, or audio or video files).
Event: in_app_purchase (app)
Triggered: When a user makes an in-app purchase processed by the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
With no extra code required for these automatically collected events, it makes tracking conversions and other important user actions much simpler.
Better options for user privacy
Google Analytics 4 offers additional measures to enhance user privacy.
One of the most significant data protection features in GA4 is IP anonymisation. In certain regions, like the UK and the EU, IP addresses will automatically be anonymised to protect user privacy.
Instead of the entire IP being shown in the dashboard, there is a truncated version that allows you to collect the information you need but also ensures that the data is not personally identifiable and is compliant with data privacy laws like GDPR.
GA4 brings in a load of other data control measures, including adjustable limits on the type of data that is collected and shared with other Google products, where and how long data is stored, and the option to delete data associated with specific users upon their request,
This gives you much more control over what user data is collected and processed, where it is stored, and for how long – allowing you to remain fully compliant with data privacy laws.
GA4 also uses Google’s machine-learning algorithms to analyse your data and predict the future behaviour of your users.
Google says its predictive metrics allow you to “learn more about your customers just by collecting structured event data.”
The predictive metrics that GA4 focuses on are Purchase Probability, Churn Probability, and Predicted Revenue.
Here’s what they mean:
- Purchase Probability: This is how likely a user that has been active on your website or mobile app in the last four weeks will trigger a specific conversion event within the next week.
- Churn Probability: This is how likely a user who has been active on your website or mobile app within the last week will NOT be active within the next week.
- Predicted Revenue: The revenue that Google expects to come from all purchase conversions over the next four weeks from a user who was active within the last four weeks.
You can find more information about Predictive Metrics on the Analytics Help page.
More focus on the user journey
As I’m sure you’ve gathered already, GA4 focuses more on tracking and visualising the typical user journey across your platforms.
With cross-platform tracking, more accurate conversion events, and the integration of machine learning and predictive metrics, it allows you to get a better understanding of how users interact with your website and complete their goals.
This gives you more opportunities to optimise your website, deliver a better User Experience, and improve your website conversion rate.
So although the new GA4 platform may take a bit of getting used to, it will provide a much more detailed and valuable way of analysing user activity on your website or app.
Need help migrating to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?
With the complete takeover of GA4 fast approaching (the 1st of July 2023), you need to get your properties fully set up and tested to ensure you don’t lose or miss any event data that can be collected through your website.
As a specialist Technical SEO Agency, we’ve been helping loads of businesses get set up on GA4 and test the data collection to ensure everything works as it should.
If you need a hand getting your GA4 properties set up, or if you’re already set up and want us to test that everything is working as it should, give us a call on 01329 565001 or book a call with our team here.