Magnifying glass hovering over metrics.

What is Google Analytics 4 and how will it impact marketers?

For almost a decade, marketers have relied on the web analytics powerhouse Google Analytics for data, traffic reports, and visualizations to better understand how users navigate and interact with their websites and mobile apps. Google recently announced that it will be permanently ending the previous generation of Google Analytics, Universal Analytics, in July 2023. This change will affect the Google Analytics UI that many marketers have come to know and understand, but the change is also slated to offer privacy, targeting, and reporting enhancements.

The replacement for Universal Analytics is Google Analytics 4, or GA4. GA4 is the evolution of the Web + App Tracking beta released in 2015. Since the beta, it has expanded in size and scope to become Google's comprehensive Web + App tracking tool. The intention of the platform is to provide interaction-focused reporting and metrics along with enhanced privacy and targeting capabilities.

Two questions that marketers may be asking are, “Do I need to switch to GA4 now?” and “What happens to my old data?” Google recognizes that this is a big transition, and while Google is requiring all accounts not currently using GA4 to make the change, Universal Analytics data will be accessible for at least six months after the July 1, 2023, end date and the 360 Universal end date of October 1, 2023. 

Marketers may also be asking, “How is GA4 going to benefit me?” GA4 uses event-based data modeling. Event-based data modeling will help eliminate the guessing game when evaluating data because one of the most important metrics has changed from sessions to users. Here is an outline of the changes and enhancements as well as a recommended action plan.

Google Analytics 4 compared to Universal Analytics

GA4 puts users and events at the forefront of data analysis. Historically, Universal Analytics relied on session-based model data. In GA4 properties, you can still see session data, but now Google Analytics will collect and store user interactions with your website or app as events. Events provide insight into what is happening in your website or app, such as pageviews, button clicks, user actions, and system events.

Another major difference between the two is ID tracking. GA4 will track how users interact with a website or app using event tracking, offering standard and enhanced event tracking without the need to do setup in Google Tag Manager.

While Google Analytics prides itself on being a user-friendly tool, GA4’s interface is more beginner-friendly and limits the need to enable event tracking, which often caused user confusion in Universal Analytics.

New GA4 features

GA4’s rollout and announcement is a big deal for Google as well as current and future users of Google Analytics. With accounts making the transition, GA4 needed to make sure it had great new features to wow users and make the change worthwhile. As marketers, we need to be able to fully understand data and what strategic moves to make based on that data.

Predictive metric analysis

Fully understanding how users interact with a website is key to marketing success, but what about predictive analytics? With GA4, predictive metrics are a new feature driven by machine learning that provides an in-depth understanding of customers and potential customers as well as their purchasing habits. These metrics do require a minimum data amount to properly activate: 1,000 users who have triggered the applicable events. Once that data amount is reached, the metrics can provide insight into purchase probability, churn probability, and revenue prediction. GA4 users can also create predictive audiences based on criteria to support the metrics as comparative segments.

Create customer reports

The Google Analytics dashboard is about to be a thing of the past. With GA4, custom reports can be created to provide a full understanding of the data. Users will be able to access Explorations, previously known as Analysis Hub, which gives users the ability to perform ad hoc queries, sort and drill down into data, focus on data through filters and segments, create audiences, and share as an Excel workbook or pdf export.

Create and track up to 300 events

GA4 provides automatically collected events and enhanced measurement events, and up to 300 per property can be created and tracked. Automatically collected events are captured when data collection is set up, while enhanced measurement events are collected when it is enabled. Additionally, recommended events are events that are implemented using predefined names and parameters. Custom events are events that are used if the other event options don’t have what is needed to track — these events don't show in standard reports.

Create and track up to 30 conversions

With Universal Analytics, only 20 permanent conversions were available to use. However, GA4 increased the conversion number to 30 and they can be deleted if no longer needed. Creating conversions is done by selecting events and marking them as conversion events. Conversions are actions that users take that can be considered important points along a purchase journey or website activity.

Customize automated tables

It can be difficult to create data tables when the options for customizing are limited. GA4’s data report templates include free form, cohort analysis, funnel exploration, path exploration, segment overlap, and user explorer. Admins can use the report format options to organize and present data as needed using metrics to visualize data.

Detect anomalies

Ever wonder if your data has anomalies? With anomaly detection using Analytics Intelligence, data anomalies can be detected in time-series data for given metrics on most line graphs. By using the Bayesian state-space time series model and historical data to predict datapoint values, the model predicts a credible interval to evaluate the metric’s data anomaly.

Easily create audience segments

One of the final newest features of GA4 is audience segmentation. Audience segments can be created without having to save the segments, as was required with Universal Analytics. Permanent segments can be created in the Configuration or Explorations sections. There are three audience types: general, templates, and predictive. Conversion volume is an important success factor to consider when using audience segmentation. You need at least 1,000 users who have purchased over a seven-day period in the last 28 days. This feature may not be relevant for smaller businesses.

GA4 experts

Marketers should be excited about migrating their analytics to GA4. The new features and improvements to Universal Analytics are going to help marketers better understand their data and make smarter decisions for their customers. Two Rivers Marketing is using this transition as an opportunity to become experts in all things analytics and GA4. We are educating our digital and analytics teams so they can assist with migration and training, and we’ll give clients a full understanding of how this affects their business and how to improve upon their data analysis.

Need help navigating GA4 and how it impacts your data marketing strategy? Let us know! Check out our GA4 planning guide or email us with your thoughts or questions.