Have you also had the feeling that you need a degree in Data Science to understand the thicket of metrics and dimensions of Google Analytics and to derive profitable insights from the many tables and data views? If so, I have good news for you: with Google Analytics 4 (GA4), Google Analytics has received a big brother that will accompany you in the future and simplify a few things. Whether and when a switch is worthwhile for you and which advantages GA4 brings with it, you will find out in this article. [Reading time 5 minutes]
What are the advantages of Google Analytics 4?
In October 2020, Google announced the release of «Google Analytics 4» or GA4 for short in its blog. GA4 is therefore considered the new Google standard in terms of Analytics. Previous Google Analytics, now Universal Analytics (UA) accounts, properties and data views can still be used as normal. However, no new updates and features will be developed for the older Google Analytics version from now on. Consequently, the future is called GA4 and the question is when you are ready to make the switch.
I will spare you the technical details and would like to summarize below the main advantages that you can expect when switching to GA4:
Easier to use
The technical unification in interaction with other Google products like Google Ads, Campaign Manager or the 360 Suite, makes GA4 much easier to use. The consolidation of different platforms and data streams allows a holistic view of one's own marketing activities. In addition, the new interface and simplified functions, such as the creation of conversions, offer users a clear and simplified user interface.
Focus on the customer journey
In GA4, you may wonder where to find familiar metrics such as page views or sessions. These no longer exist. The focus of GA4 is the «Customer Journey», which can be better visualized using the metrics «User & Events». The data, which is based on machine learning, can measure, analyze and visualize user behavior uniformly across different channels.
GA4's data collection is based on a global site tag, the so-called GTAG. This makes it possible not only to link your data from applications and your website, but also connects the data of various Google products. This is not only possible for the website, but also for YouTube, Cross-Network, Display-Network, Google Search.
No more cookies
GA4 does not need cookies anymore. While this does not mean that you no longer need to inform your customers that you are collecting data, IP anonymization takes place automatically and you can relax a bit regarding privacy issues.
Increased importance of events
Events could be captured earlier by implementing code or via Google Tag Manager (GTM). This now gains additional importance as events are considered a central parameter in GA4. It's worth setting up GA4 directly with GTM, as the implementation of new events and additional services such as Facebook Pixel or Hotjar can be conveniently done without the help of your IT. This not only saves money, but often also time.
How and when is the best time to switch to Google Analytics 4?
You can't do much wrong for a successful transition to GA4. The tracking code you have entered on your website or managed pages remains the same. Only your tracking ID will be converted into a new measurement ID in the GA4 property. In short, you can create a GA4 property for each property and still use the older version of Google Analytics.
Move to Google Analytics 4 now, BUT continue to use Universal Analytics.
The switch is definitely worth it, as new data must also be collected on your GA4 property due to the new data collection. Consequently, the sooner you switch to GA4, the more historical data will already be available to you when you actually make the switch. In fact, it is still too early to use GA4 without UA, as the new tool does not yet provide all functionalities and analyses in many respects. Nevertheless, it is already worthwhile to get to know some of GA4's functionalities. It is clear that GA4 is being driven forward by Google and will replace UA in the future.
The new face of Google Analytics 4
Looking at the interface of GA4, it looks quite familiar at first sight. On the left side, various reports can be selected from a variety of breakdowns and on the right side, the reports can be examined in detail or filtered. What catches the eye relatively quickly upon closer inspection is that some reports are missing on the left side and have been replaced with new ones. This is because the focus in GA4 is on the customer journey. For a clear introduction to the new interface of GA4, I recommend the video by Krista Seiden [video duration 11 minutes]:
With the introduction of Google Analytics 4, Google is providing a response to the many market changes and requirements that have arisen in recent years. Not only does the topic of data protection play an increasingly central role, but also a new definition and attention to a holistic marketing approach. By bringing together different data streams from the various touch-points customers have with a company, GA4 manages the balancing act between a user-friendly presentation and data protection compliant tracking.
Since GA4 will replace the previous UA , you are facing the changeover in the next few years anyway. Therefore, we recommend that you plan to make the switch as early as possible so that you have past data to fall back on as well.
If you need help setting up your GA4 property, feel free to contact us. We will be happy to help you out.