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Tracking

GA4 – The future of analytics is here

In this article, find out everything you need to know about the next generation of Analytics and why you should set it up today.

Šime Živković 10 months ago
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First, let me give you a little intro.

The new version of Google Analytics came out in October last year, and if you want to learn a thing or two about it, stick around, you’ve come to the right place.

The previous versions of Google Analytics have always been the gold standard in web analytics. Universal Analytics (hereafter UA), with new technologies on the rise, became insufficient and that’s where the new version jumps in with all kinds of new features like predictive metrics, audience triggers, enhanced cross-device user tracking, etc.

UA can only be used for website business, and in case if you own an app, you will use Firebase. That means that if you have both website and app, you track separately different stages of what should be one customer journey.

Google Analytics 4 (previously named Google Analytics Web + APP) is built on Firebase technology and it unifies your website and apps data. Amazing, right? What’s even more amazing is that you don’t need to own an app to utilize all of the new opportunities that come within GA4 cause it can also be used for web-only business. 

So what are the main differences and what are the key features of GA4?

Cross-device tracking 

Until now there was no free solution that can process data from both website and app. It’s for sure one of the most promising features GA4 has to offer. GA4 can track a complete customer journey across different devices and platforms because it uses the same data schema for both web and app, and alongside cookies, it uses two additional techniques to track and recognize users across platforms, devices and browsers; User-ID for your logged-in users and Google Signals, for non-logged users. For those of you who don’t know, Google Signals is the data of users who are signed into Google.

GA4 focuses on the user and capturing the whole customer journey across different devices/platforms, instead of simple measuring and standalone metrics across platforms, devices and browsers.

Event tracking

In UA, interaction with the website is a hit. Hit types are pageview hit, event tracking, e-commerce hit, social interaction hit. In GA4 all hits are events.

Events in UA are defined by event category, action, and label. This convention is now abandoned and in GA4 you use event parameters that you send alongside an event to describe it. You can send up to 25 event parameters per event.

Another great upgrade when it comes to tracking is a built-in set of automatically tracked events. You need to enable this option in GA4, but it means you will be able to track events like page views, scroll tracking, site search tracking, file download, video engagement, etc. without any additional effort and coding. 

Predictive Metrics

Another cool innovation from Google. Based on your historical data, Google’s machine algorithms will try to predict the future behavior of your users. 

There are three predictive metrics* available so far:

Purchase probability
Churn probability**
Revenue prediction

We still don’t have proof to confirm how valuable and precise these metrics are, but they sure sound interesting and they could have an important role and impact on your marketing strategy in the future.  We’ll publish an article on this topic as soon as we conduct research.

* There are several prerequisites you must meet in order for these metrics to become available in GA4

** The probability that a user who was active on your app or site within the last 7 days will not be active within the next 7 days.

Advanced custom report builder – Analysis Hub

Collection of reports previously available only to GA 360 users is now free for everyone. For me, it is the most prominent feature in GA4 because it unlocks a wide range of opportunities when it comes to reporting. Long story short, the process of creating non-standard reports is shortened and simplified and now you can create complex custom reports with no sweat.  

Following techniques of data visualization are available so far:


Funnel Analysis report
Exploration report
Path Analysis report
Segment Overlap report
User Explorer report
Cohort Analysis
User Lifetime report

No sampling 

Yes, you read it right. In contrast to UA where sampling is an everyday thing, the data in all GA4 standard reports will stay unsampled even if you apply a segment, add a secondary dimension, or use a comparison feature. 

However, sampling can occur in the Analysis hub if you exceed 10 million events in a custom non-standard report, but still, this is a breakthrough in terms of sampling problem.

Conclusion

Don’t be intimidated by GA4, no matter how complex it looks at first glance. It’s just different from what you are used to but over time you will get the hang of it. 

If you already have a GA4 implemented on your website/app you’ll probably notice that a lot of features are not available yet; there is no option to create more than one view, referral exclusion is not yet supported, reporting in DS is far from fully functional, complex e-commerce reports and attribution reports are not there yet, etc. but Google keeps rolling out new features regularly and we hope over time most of the missing features will be added, and when that happens you’ll be glad you did your homework and set up GA4 on time.

If you’re not using GA4 yet, no biggie, it’s not late, but you should think ahead and start collecting the data today because it’s only a matter of time when the GA4 is going to dethrone UA and become cutting edge web analytics tool that will help you to make better business decisions in future.

Key takeaways



No sampling in standard reports
Focus on the user and the complete view of the customer journey
Everything is an event
Free BigQuery integration
Cross-device tracking is finally a reality
Analysis Hub – advanced analysis tool is now available to everyone
Built-in IP anonymization
Insights based on machine learning look like something worthwhile



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