We’ve been asked this question enough times to decide it was worth providing a bit more insight into what Google Analytics 4 is, and how this new data tracking tool will impact your reporting capabilities.
Let’s start with the basics.
What Is Google Analytics 4?
GA4 is actually a reworking of Google’s current data tracking product, Universal Analytics. Utilizing machine learning technology, this new data tracking tool will be able to generate different reporting capabilities that offer deeper insights into user behaviors across websites and mobile apps.
“This technology is also used to predict outcomes, such as churn rates and the potential revenue a business could earn from a particular segment of customers. Those insights can help marketers anticipate actions their customers might take in the future and focus on higher-value audiences,” (Search Engine Land).
How Will GA4 Differ from Universal Analytics (GA3)?
If you have Google Analytics tracking currently installed on your website, it’s most likely Google’s longstanding Universal Analytics tracking tool, especially if you set up GA prior to October 2020.
Most of us like Universal Analytics for two reasons:
- It helps us understand our website traffic in terms of who the users are, how they’re engaging on the site, and where they’re coming from.
- We’ve used this generation of GA for so long that we’ve become pros at understanding its features and capabilities.
No one likes change. Well, no one likes big overhauls, especially if you grew up with the old saying: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! But as technologies like AI continue to evolve and online privacy policies begin to tighten up across the globe, it was only a matter of time until Google announced they were changing things up.
Google wants to provide search engine users with a positive browsing experience and provide advertisers with effective digital advertising channels, so as third-party cookies continue to be phased out, Google is developing new tools and metrics to help Google Analytics users make their websites, apps, and ads a better match for search engine users.
GA4 vs. UA [what you need to know]
Let’s get back to the focus of this section. Here is a brief summary of the top three changes you can expect from GA4 vs. UA.
- Unlike UA, which can only support data tracking on websites, GA4 will allow you to track user data across multiple device platforms, such as apps, using a feature called “data streams.”
- GA4 will use an “event-based” vs. “session-based” model to track data, meaning any type of interaction within your website or app will be captured as an event. That means a pageview or even an online purchase is considered an event.
- GA4 will feature “Predictive Audience” and “Predictive Metrics” to help businesses target ads to users who are most likely to buy from them or request a service.
Should I Upgrade to GA4?
If this is the first time you’re adding Google Analytics to your website, Google recommends that you start with GA4 because it is their newest product. Although it is still possible to install Universal Analytics, Google makes it challenging to do so.
Since GA4 is going to be the new standard going forward, it makes sense to install it as soon as possible so that you can begin tracking data and learning how the new interface works. Also, like UA, it’s completely free.
If you already have Universal Analytics data tracking set up on your website, you can add GA4 tracking to your site and start accessing its features. This could prove beneficial if you’re wanting to dip your toes into the new tools and predictive analytics without worrying about losing the UA interface and data you’re already tracking with UA.
Follow Best Practices
Though it might be tempting to install GA4 and immediately delete Universal Analytics, don’t replace your existing UA tracking just yet.
Google is still in the process of releasing features that are currently missing from GA4. There’s no official timeline announced for when this will happen, so for now, it’s best practice to keep your Universal Analytics tracking in place to ensure that all of your essential data is still being captured.
Some experts believe that Universal Analytics isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so there’s really no cause for concern to make the switch right away, but adding GA4 tracking to your website should be on your digital “to-do” list in the near future.
Brandography Digital Marketing Specialist Rachel Butzler says, “Year-over-year data can be extremely important when making decisions on where to invest your marketing dollars, so the sooner you start collecting data in GA4, the better data you will have to make informed decisions later when GA4 becomes Google’s new standard data tracking tool.”
As Google continues to improve its tools, Brandography recommends having both UA and GA4 implementations tracking at the same time to help you get a handle on the new reporting model and features while still having access to your familiar UA dashboard, tracking tools, and data.
Need Help with Data Reporting?
We hope this article helped put your mind at ease. If you do have questions about Google’s newest products, or want to learn how Brandography can help you improve your reporting capabilities, contact us for a free consultation.