Inside Talk

Everything You Need to Know About Google Analytics 4

February 28, 2023
Talk Agency
Who remembers the old Google Analytics Premium back in 2007? What about the launch of Universal Analytics in 2011, which introduced new tracking codes and improved cross-device tracking? What about the - wait, we can’t possibly list all of Google’s updates in one paragraph. That would be ridiculous.

It’s no secret that Google is a fiend for updates. While some users can’t wait for the next new feature to roll around, others have a little trouble adjusting to the increasingly frequent changes. One such update is the soon-to-be Google Analytics 4, set to introduce new and improved privacy features, enhanced machine learning and a more advanced user experience. 

Before you balk at the thought of yet another  Google update, let us walk you through the new analytics tool and explain why you should welcome the change rather than run from it.

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4, or GA4 to those in the know, is the latest version of Google’s data analysis software. This comprehensive data tracking and analysis tool is set to replace Universal Analytics and Google Analytics for Firebase and will launch a range of new features and existing feature improvements.

Despite the polarising effect Google updates seem to have on many users, Google Analytics is evolving significantly. Its numerous updates and changes may come at the consternation of some (and we completely understand these feelings of ‘when will the updates stop?) but GA4 is actually a very positive next step in its aims to enhance its capabilities and usability. 

GA4 has certainly upheld Google’s update-happy reputation. It’s an evolution of the previous Analytics version, with fundamental advancements to keep it up to date with the new privacy policy regulations, cross-platform and cross-device tracking and improved machine learning. All good things, right?

As you can probably tell, these updates have largely focused on enhancing tracking capabilities, improving user experience, and expanding the range of tools and integrations available to users. As technology and user behaviour continue to evolve, we can expect to see further updates and changes to GA in the future. But don’t panic - we’re going to break things down for you step by step.

What is Google Analytics 4 Used For?

Simply put, GA4 is used to track and analyse website and app traffic data. It provides a deep understanding of users' behaviour and engagement online.GA4 is an essential tool for any business that wants to know who is browsing their website and apps, how people are interacting with their content, where their traffic is coming from,and how users navigate through their site or app.

Understanding such data assists businesses in improving their content and targeting content towards their user base. Without in-depth insights into the movements, preferences and behaviours of potential customers, it’s pretty tricky to generate higher success rates. This is what GA4 does incredibly accurately.

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New Features of GA4

So what are the features of the new Google Analytics tool? GA4 includes several new features and improvements compared to the previous version, Universal Analytics:

  1. Event-Based Data Model

You can track more detailed information about how people interact with your website or app. This means you can see things like what buttons they click on, what pages they visit, or what videos they watch.

  1. Cross-Device Tracking

GA4 uses machine learning to identify users across different devices and platforms, allowing you to get a more complete view of how users are interacting with your brand.

  1. Improved Data Analysis

GA4 includes new machine learning features that allow you to identify trends and insights in your data, even if you don't know what you're looking for.

  1. Deeper Integration with Google Ads

If you use Google Ads to advertise your business, GA4 makes it easier to see how your ads are performing and how you can improve them.

  1. Enhanced Privacy Controls

GA4 includes improved privacy controls, such as the ability to set data retention periods and opt users out of tracking.

  1. Customisable User Interface

Customise the GA4 dashboard to suit your preferences, so you can focus on the information that's most important to you.

Do the Positives Outweigh the Negatives?

All these new features must mean a dazzling data-filled world of streamlined possibilities, right? Well, hopefully, but it’s important to note that the  changes introduced in the new Google analytics combined with Google’s frequent updates can have both positive and negative impacts on users, depending on their needs and priorities. 

Positive Impacts of GA4

The new features in GA4, as well as the frequent updates to Google's products, can provide users with more advanced tracking and analysis capabilities, allowing them to gain deeper insights into user behaviour and make informed data-driven decisions. Google's updates can also lead to improvements in the user experience, such as faster load times, more intuitive interfaces, and better mobile compatibility. They’re also designed to enhance privacy and security, such as improved cookie management and stronger encryption.

Negative Impacts of GA4

Like with any new technology, there are bound to be a few less-than-favourable effects. New tools and updates can require users to invest time and effort in learning how to use them effectively, which can be a barrier for some users. As new tools and updates are introduced, they may not be compatible with existing tools or workflows, leading to confusion and inefficiencies. Lastly, if data is not migrated properly or if historical data cannot be transferred to new tools, users may lose valuable insights that could impact their decision-making.

To keep up with the changes and updates, users should stay informed about new features and best practices, and be willing to invest time in learning how to use these new tools effectively. This can include reading documentation, attending training sessions, and networking with other professionals in the field. 

Additionally, users should be aware of the potential risks and limitations of new tools and updates, and be prepared to adapt their workflows and strategies accordingly.

How To Migrate From Universal Analytics to GA4

Migrating from UA to GA4 requires careful planning and execution to ensure a smooth transition. Here is a summary of the tasks that should be done to ensure a perfect migration:

Step 1: Create a GA4 Property

Use the GA4 Setup Assistant tool to make it easier. You can find it in the Admin/Property section of your current Universal Analytics property.

Step 2: Set Up Data Streams

In GA4, you'll need to set up data streams to collect data from your website, mobile app, or other digital platforms. Make sure to configure the data streams correctly to capture the data you need.

Step 3: Install GA4 on Your Website

Install the GA4 tracking code on your website, and ensure it is properly configured to track the desired events. 

Step 4: Set Up Events and Conversions

Create a list of the Events, Conversions, and Audiences you need to track on GA4 and make the setup.

Step 5: Update Reporting

GA4 uses a new reporting interface, so you'll need to update your reporting workflows and processes accordingly.

Step 6: Update Integrations

If you have any third-party integrations that use Universal Analytics, you'll need to update them to use GA4.

Step 7: Test and Validate

Test your GA4 setup to ensure it's capturing data accurately and meeting your reporting needs. Validate your data by comparing it to your Universal Analytics data.

Step 8: Train Your Team

Ensure your team is trained on the new GA4 interface, reporting capabilities, and event tracking model.

Is It Worth Upgrading to Google Analytics 4?

The bottom line: Universal Analytics is phasing out after the 1st of July 2023, which means it will no longer track any data after that. So, everyone who uses UA must migrate tracking to GA4. 

It's important to highlight that you won't be able to push data from your Universal Analytics to GA4, so as soon as you can start to push data to GA4, the better.

Overall, GA4 provides a more modern, flexible, and powerful analytics platform that can help you better understand user behaviour and make data-driven decisions to improve your online presence. So try not to let yet another Google update get to you - this one looks set to be a game changing problem-solver that may well provide analytics with the facelift it deserves.

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