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Your Fast Guide to GA4

You may have recently received emails from Google Analytics alerting you to the upcoming release of Google Analytics 4. And if you missed those, we’re here to help you understand what GA4 is and what you need to know about it.

Here to answer your pressing questions about GA4 are Keyon Hedayati, our resident Google Analytics expert, who formerly worked at Google on the Google Analytics team and brings more than 12 years of Google Analytics experience to Neon Ambition, and Rocco Baldassarre, our head of paid search and paid social. So let’s get to it.

What Is GA4?

Keyon describes GA4 as a “new form of Google Analytics” that offers “more event-based tracking instead of page-based tracking.” While not a paradigm shift, GA4 does take a new approach to analytics and reports look different than what you’re used to.

GA4 was launched as “App + Web” in 2020, but the property has since been renamed Google Analytics 4. When the change was made, additional features were included, and more features are still being rolled out in GA4.

Here to answer your pressing questions about GA4 are Keyon Hedayati, our resident Google Analytics expert, who formerly worked at Google on the Google Analytics team and brings more than 12 years of Google Analytics experience to Neon Ambition, and Rocco Baldassarre, our head of paid search and paid social. So let’s get to it.

Why Is It Important?

Tech-savvy businesses like to be aware of when Google Analytics makes a significant shift in how it does things. GA4 is important because it offers the ability to track both app and website data from one property and offers the use of cookie-less tracking which we’ll get into below. Another big change is that in GA4, everything is labeled as an event, which allows businesses to better track consumer actions and events on websites, apps and other spaces, Keyon noted.

How Does It Impact Businesses’ Analytics Insights?

GA4 offers cookieless tracking, in part because of newer concerns about online security. Instead of a reliance on cookies, the property will use machine learning and algorithms, among other means, to predict user behavior and trends in data. For businesses with a European presence, GA4 can help keep them be compliant with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulations, which require all websites reaching European Union customers to ask for direct Internet user permission before using cookies.

What Are the Pros and Cons?

On the whole, GA4 offers some exciting features and options for businesses not available in Google Universal — the current platform — though businesses with apps will be able to benefit most. Since Google is still rolling out features and additions, there are still a few drawbacks. The main advantages right now include:

  • More data. One of the exciting things about GA4 is that it allows you to determine how someone got to your website or your app, and learn more about how users switch from your app to your website or move between the two platforms. Through a ‘Lifecycle’ section, it’s possible to learn more about what the GA4 terms Acquisition, Engagement, Monetisation and Retention mean, and a ‘User’ section offers additional data about user demographics.
  • Real-time reporting. Today’s businesses run in real-time. Almost all reports have a real-time aspect to them in GA4, so you no longer will have to go to the specific real-time report.
  • Information you can use. Since you can track journeys across different platforms, you’re better able to optimize your marketing spending, because you can see if a user started their journey or even purchased on an app, then finished it on your website, for example. Since you don’t have to guess as much how customers are interacting with your online presence, you can make better decisions about advertising and campaigns and can track them more accurately.
  • You can segment users more. GA4 gives website and app owners more information about the demographics of users, such as general age and what kinds of things they may like. This can help marketers parse out customers for campaigns and promotions. While you can get some basic demographic info from Universal Analytics today, GA4 has a more robust system backed by machine learning.

Since GA4 is still being rolled out and since Google is still adding to it, users may notice that GA4 doesn’t always have everything they may expect. For example, ecommerce is not as robust as it is with Universal Analytics. There are also a few additional drawbacks:

  • You need to create events. You will notice that instead of seeing a bounce rate, for example, you can track events such as outbound clicks and file downloads. While this can give you even better information about how engaged your customers are, making the switch to events and setting them up can mean some adjustment.
  • It takes more technical acumen. While the interface is user-friendly, you may need to work harder to get more information and there is going to be a learning curve. The familiar Audience, Acquisition, Behavior and Conversion information is gone from where it appeared before.
  • There is currently less data. As of this writing, GA4 lacks the level of data that Google Universal provides, although it certainly has the potential to collect even more, notes Rocco. As Google is likely to continue to update GA4, we can expect that such gaps will be filled, leaving us with an overall better platform for data collection and analysis at our disposal. So, even though right now, some reports, like the conversion path report, are not in the platform at all, that’s not to say that such reports will be permanently left out.
One of the big differences with GA4 is that you will see events such as Page View, User Engagement, Session Start, First Visit, Scroll, and Click. And, you can add as many custom events as you like. While this can be a benefit to you, it will also take time to learn how to add these events or you’ll need to rely a bit more on your agency to set them up for you.


What Should Business Owners Know?

Keyon reiterates that while GA4 has the “potential to offer more insights about your customers themselves” over time, there is a learning curve to overcome. So, early adoption makes sense. GA4 is not replacing Google Analytics just yet, but it will soon simply because support for the old platform is ceasing. Plus, if cookieless tracking is important to you or if you have an app, website, or other platforms, you may want to try GA4 to take advantage of more information about customer journeys.

Google will stop support for Google Universal on July 1, 2023, meaning it will no longer process new data. Also, GA4 will not show historical data from Universal Analytics, Rocco adds. So, the sooner you start using GA4, the more data you will have collected before Google Universal support goes away.

Keyon thinks running the two properties side by side can make sense for now, too. GA4 is free and relatively simple to run parallel. If you get familiar with it now, you’re ready for anything in the future. Remember, if the U.S. and other parts of the world adopt security policies that move users away from cookies, using GA4 now means you will have the historical data and won’t need to start from scratch.

How Is Neon Ambition Helping Clients Stay Ahead of Changes?

Because getting started with GA4 for data collection sooner rather than later is a wise approach, Neon Ambition is working with clients to get GA4 installed on the site. That way, by the time GA4 is the only option, our clients will have some historical data to work with.

It’s inevitable that technology constantly evolves, but you don’t have to worry: Neon Ambition stays on top of properties like GA4 so you don’t have to. Our reporting services can even take analytics off your hands entirely. Our team of Google Experts, Google Analytics experts and other professionals can create custom solutions to get you the analysis you need to run your business. We do the heavy lifting so you get to reap the rewards. To discuss your needs, contact Neon Ambition so we can start talking about what’s best for your business.

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