Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will replace Universal Analytics (UA) on 1st July 2023, becoming the default version of Google’s analytics tool. To continue measuring how users interact with your website, content, adverts and marketing campaigns, you need to know how GA4 will work. Here we take a look at exactly what it means for you and your business…
A huge part of what’s driving the change is an increased focus on privacy from both users and regulators. GA4 will not rely on cookies – the text files in browsers that gather data about users for marketing purposes. You will no longer store IP addresses and you’ll have the ability to exclude specific events and user properties from adverts personalisation. Ultimately, GA4 gives you and your users more control over what personal data is collected and will help you comply with data protection laws such as GDPR.
But it’s not just about privacy. GA4 has been developed to provide more data across different devices, apps and platforms. As users now tend to visit the same site from different devices before they convert, GA4 aims to give you a clearer picture of the entire user journey. For example, if a user looks at your website on their mobile, then visits again using their laptop and finally makes a purchase through your app, GA4 uses machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to ‘join the dots’ and show you the complete journey from the first visit right through to retention of a customer after they’ve made a purchase.
In short: yes. Although GA4 doesn’t become your default analytics tool until next year, Google will not migrate your data across from UA, so we recommend you start the transition now. This will give you several months of data by the time GA4 does become the default – which will also give the machine-learning and AI aspects of GA4 time to start gaining accuracy.
It’s important to note that you won’t be able to migrate your historic data from UA to GA4, as the two services work differently and measure slightly different things – but you can have both GA4 and UA running simultaneously until the changeover in July 2023.
The first thing you’ll notice about GA4 is the new dashboard. You’ll have fewer standard reports and more options to create customised reports, which means you can measure exactly what’s relevant to your business.
The next major benefit of GA4 is the shift in focus from ‘sessions’ to ‘events’. In UA, page views were the most important metric, whereas in GA4, you get more of an insight into how users are engaging with your website. Events tracking measures actions like clicks, scrolling, file downloads, form submissions and transactions.
Another advantage of GA4 is that more detailed data is available after the acquisition stage. GA4 has replaced the Audience, Acquisition, Behaviour and Conversion menus with a ‘Lifecycle’ section that includes Acquisition, Engagement, Monetisation and Retention. The new sections provide more in-depth insights into what users are doing in the later stages of the customer lifecycle.
You’ll notice that bounce rate – which measures how many visitors land on a page and leave again without taking any further action – has been removed from GA4. Due to the variety of ways UA could be set up to record non-interactions with a page, bounce rate wasn’t always a reliable metric. In GA4, bounce rate has been replaced with ‘engagement rate’, giving you more granular information about how long users are spending on your site and how they’re interacting with your content. A session counts as ‘engaged’ if a user spends 10 seconds or more on a page, completes at least one conversion event, or views more than one page.
GA4 offers improved real-time data, showing you where visitors to your site are coming from and what they’re doing as it happens. GA4’s enhanced real-time tracking allows you to see immediately and continuously the effects of marketing campaigns, whether promotions and social media posts are working to drive traffic to your site, as well as enabling you to create groups of visitors to compare activity between cohorts.
Exciting new features include a real-time snapshot of data for a single user, giving you information about the user’s device, location, app version (if relevant) and engagement events. You can also set up custom audiences to compare real-time activity between specific groups. And see how users enter the conversion funnel, and how they behave once they’re in the funnel; look at where your customers are coming from, who they are, what content they engage with and what events they trigger.
GA4’s machine-learning function can make predictions about the future behaviour of your users, including:
Analytics tools are vital for measuring the success of your website, content and marketing campaigns. The knowledge ensures you attract the right audience and that your business can successfully grow. Switching to GA4 now is essential as the switch over is evitable.
If you haven’t got Google Analytics 4 set up yet, then get in touch with us today.
We can do it all for you so you’re ready to hit the ground running for 2023.
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