A few weeks ago, a notification started appearing when you entered Google Analytics that mentioned its new version, Google Analytics 4. If it’s a resource you regularly use, it’s likely that you have been tempted to ignore the message and carry on with your work. However, in this article, you will see that the change is not so bad, and there are many advantages that this new version brings that can help you analyze your business and your users’ actions across various digital platforms.
Google Analytics 4, aka GA4, means a change in the way of understanding metrics in a way that we get to know our users better. They will ultimately have better experiences as customers, and in return we as channel managers will see an increase in our goals, conversions, etc.—wow, talk about a win-win. Let's review some of GA4's new features for you to get familiar with, as many more improvements are soon to come...
1. GA4: measurement projects more focused on the user journey
This paradigm shift is not something random that Google has come up with to make things more difficult for marketers, and make us adapt to what they say... well, maybe a little, but, follow me... Analytics has already become a priority for all marketing departments in all companies around the world, and it is essential to measure user behavior across all platforms and devices.
GA4 incorporates tracking options between platforms and devices, exhaustive measurement of users who sign in to our site, business intelligence functionalities (such as predictive analytics), measures a large number of events automatically, has greater integration with Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform and YouTube, and follows the attribution model to give the corresponding credit to the different touchpoints between devices and platforms. All of this (and much more), does so while guaranteeing the security and privacy of our users because it complies with all the newest data protection regulations. And that's not all, GA4 also incorporates new functionalities to the metrics of digital stores (e-commerce) and export options to BigQuery.
One of the things that will surprise you most initially about the new version of Analytics is that the structure of accounts, properties and views has disappeared, eliminating the latter and introducing the concept of a datastream, that is, a flow of data that comes from the points of contact of users with our website and/or our app. Thus, various flows can be added within a property (one for an Android app, another for iOS, and another for the web, for example).
This allows us to have a global and transversal vision of the data flows while creating filters to see one or another flow. It is important to know that if you are going to select the upgrade to GA4, this new property will only show data from that moment on; the data history must be searched in the old property of Universal Analytics. At the moment, all experts recommend keeping both properties active, GA4 and UA, so as not to lose anything that could affect your reports. Even so, some things have disappeared or changed names in the new version.
2. Reports in GA4 put more focus on engagement
Additionally, the reports that Universal Google Analytics offered us before are now distributed around the marketing conversion funnel through the acquisition, engagement, monetization, retention, demographics, and technology reports.
In the acquisition reports we can see how the user has reached our platforms and how they have interacted with them through various actions. Engagement reports give us data about user interaction with the different pages of our website or application. In this report, events are important, since it is the only interaction that will be reflected in GA4.
In the monetization reports we will be able to review the purchase volumes, the income per product, etc. Here, the conversion funnels do not exist yet, but are expected to be incorporated soon. The retention reports talk about our ability to retain our users, which ones become recurring, what their lifetime value is, etc. This allows us to know their purchases over time, for example, and to adjust the acquisition costs per user in our campaigns. Regarding demographic and technology reports, there is no need to say much more.
3. More accurate analysis tools
This new version also incorporates new options to get more "sophisticated" reports in the Analysis section. You will receive valuable information about your users and other aspects, which will lead you to make better decisions for your business.
There are different report templates, exploration templates, funnel analysis, tree diagrams, overlapping audiences or segments, cohort analysis to evaluate users with similar behaviors, and more. You can add dimensions, metrics and segments to these templates to create your own reports, as well as export them in different formats.
For more information on the new Analysis Hub, you can go to the source (Google Support).
4. Interactions are captured as events in Google Analytics 4
One of the most significant changes in GA4 from Universal is the information on engagement (or user interactions), which now comes to us only through events. Before, there were many types of engagement measurements (pageview, click event, transaction, etc.), but now there are only the events, which can be automatic (you can choose them within datastream and are like video display, document download, etc.). There are also several events that Google recommends that we track, and that we do it with a certain nomenclature so that it can give us the maximum information possible.
This change means that dimensions and metrics no longer exist and we must resort to other strategies if we want to define them. There is also the possibility of creating custom events created manually, which we have implemented in our measurement plans in Modyo and will see in more detail in the next article.
If Google is telling us how to measure certain things, we should probably pay attention to it. If we do things correctly, it’s possible that improvements will be incorporated that will positively benefit us.
5. Transversal measurement of users
One of the main improvements, and certainly one of the reasons to upgrade to Google Analytics 4, is the advanced and transversal measurement of users between devices and on different platforms, so that we can accompany them on their customer journey. For example, we can know if a logged-in user has seen a product on their cell phone, and then bought it on their home computer because we have their user-ID.
A new feature has also been added to Google Analytics 4, Google Signals, which allows users who have logged in to a Google account to be tracked. All this information is completed with the device-ID, the user's device identifier.
6. How does Google Tag Manager change with Analytics 4?
If we decide to use GA4, we must know that this will directly impact our GTM configuration in several ways.
First, we must configure, in GTM, two new tags, the GA4 configuration one, which must be activated in all pages and screens of our web and/or app, and the GA4 events one, which will allow sending customized events to GA4 from GTM. In addition, the UA configuration variable is different from the GA4 one and that makes the way in which all our tags are configured change.
On the other hand, as we mentioned, dimensions and metrics no longer exist as they did before, so if earlier we used custom dimensions, now we must configure custom fields to which we will give names and assign values. Getting the most technical, before we worked with the parameters of the analytics.js library, and now we must use those of the gtag.js library. There are also variations in the measurement of e-commerce, since there is a new scheme that is incompatible with Universal Analytics (it changes the nomenclature and the parameters and events of the tool). In these cases, dual configuration is necessary. We will talk about this in the second part of this series, so stay tuned…
Cover photo by Markus Spiske at Unsplash