In October 2021, Google announced the latest iteration of its analytics platform. Dubbed Google Analytics 4 or GA4, this new data analytics and user behavior prediction platform came with a slew of features. The world had already started to move towards a sessionless, cookieless future, and with the introduction of privacy laws like GDPR, the need for an update to Google’s aging analytics platform was needed. With GA4, Google has pushed website/app analytics technologies to a new level, but is it something that you should be interested in as a business leader? Let’s find out.
Google Analytics 4, or GA4 in short, is the latest version of Google Analytics combining data from websites and apps both. Google has named its beta reporting platform App & Web GA4 for increased clarity. Older versions of Google Analytics are named Universal Analytics. Universal Analytics will be deprecated on 1st July, 2023. All Universal Analytics (UA) properties can be upgraded to GA4. This upgrade results in a new analytics property being created for data collection without affecting your existing GA account. Existing Firebase Analytics accounts, however, are auto-upgraded to GA4.
If you have an app, a website, or both – Google recommends you set up a new GA4 account alongside your existing GA account to have GA4 start collecting data without affecting any data held in your existing GA account(s).
The new Google Analytics 4 uses a different approach to collect and report on data from its predecessors, Google Universal Analytics. UA relied on a session-based model for data collection and reporting, grouping user interactions into sessions. GA4, however, utilizes a more flexible, event-based model that allows for more accurate reporting. Examples of website events include page views, clicks, language, page title and more. Also, additional reporting per interaction can be passed into Google Analytics with GA4 – e.g. page title, user location, value for purchase, etc. User interactions in GA4 are sent to analytics as standalone events, instead of clubbing them together in sessions or hit events like in UA. You can send up to 25 additional event parameters per event to Google Analytics in GA4, far greater than the current 4 that UA allows (Category, Action, Label, and Value). Additionally, a maximum of 500 distinctly named events can also be sent to GA4. This gives you a much wider set of data to monitor engagement.
Let’s look at why moving to GA4 might be the right solution for your business:
GA4 with its event-based measurement model gives you a complete, unfragmented view of the customer lifecycle. This is not organized into independent sessions or divided by platform.
Google Analytics 4 uses first-party cookies to be compliant with newer privacy laws like GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act. But as the world moves to a more cookie-less future – with companies like Apple adopting the approach since the release of iOS14 – Google with GA4 has also created provisions to support the same. By moving to an event-based approach, GA4 can move away from the traditional cookies/session-based data tracking if required.
GA4 also uses machine learning and other technologies to predict data patterns, mixing predicted data with actual, tracked data to create ‘blended data’ which can then be analyzed to get greater insights into user behavior.
Salient features of Google Analytics 4 include:
As we speak, about 5 million websites worldwide are already using GA4, including 24% of the top 10,000 sites. The set of features and upgrades over UA can be one of the major reasons behind this rapid adoption, and it is not hard to see why. Machine learning-based data filling, event-driven data collection, broader integration with other Google ad and marketing tools, and more granular controls are all strong suits of GA4, enabling better ROI and cutting down ad spending. If you are a business leader still using UA, GA4 is the next-gen analytics you need.