What’s New in Google Analytics 4?

Posted on in Blog

Google Analytics 4 offers several new features that make cross-domain tracking, event reporting, and gathering valuable insights more convenient for marketers. While the transition to GA4 might seem like a steep learning curve, there’s one big reason to invest time in learning the platform: You have to.

Google announced that Universal Analytics will stop gathering data in July 2023. That’s reason enough to dive deep into GA4 changes and prepare yourself for the switch.

GA4 Overview: New Features We Love

GA4 received a general “meh” reaction when first released in October 2020. The new platform is visually and functionally different, even introducing new terminology to basic dimensions, metrics and reporting functions. Once users get a feel for the verbiage, however, they’re likely to stumble onto some neat new features.

1. Easier Event Tracking

GA4 event tracking comes with several automatically tracked events right out of the box. The dozens of automatic events cover basic functions that Universal Analytics does, like session starts (session_start) and pageview (page_view). But they also cover video progress (video_progress) to see where users stopped watching a video, external link clicks, and more. Plus, if you set up custom event tracking through Google Tag Manager, there are several parameters (like page_location) automatically sent with those events.

2. Conversion Tracking That Makes Sense

Universal Analytics conversion tracking, known as Goals, is work to set up and limits users to 20 conversions per account. Those conversions were also permanent; fill up your 20 spots and you’re locked in. With Google Analytics 4, you get 30 conversion spots, you can archive conversions that no longer serve a purpose, and configuring a conversion is as easy as clicking a toggle button next to the relevant event!

3. New Ways of Looking at Channel Groupings

Instead of only having one set of default channels like Universal Analytics, GA4 allows you to view website sessions by channel from a “first user” perspective (User acquisition) or a “session default” perspective (Session acquisition). The former shows in what channel a new user was firstacquired, while the latter shows in what channel a new session was acquired. This allows you to think about performance metrics in a completely different way.   

4. Free Brain Cells (or Bytes)

Google ramps up artificial intelligence in GA4 with tools like predictive audiences and baked-in churn probability. Having access to predictive modeling for free is a luxury for marketers, especially those at smaller businesses who will benefit from having an extra set of digital eyes on their data.

5. Grab’n’Go Reporting

Google Analytics 4 includes several pre-packaged reports in the Explore feature. While the platform offers some handy custom reporting capabilities too, the pre-configured options generate reports that are easy to digest and help drive strategy conversations. They can also be exported or shared.

Related content: Six Things We Learned About GA4 in a Year+

Google Analytics Reporting Made Easy

For marketers looking to organize the chaos of the internet into neat, actionable reports, having pre-made reports saves time and is a starting point for an in-depth examination. Convenient reporting is perhaps the most important of GA4’s new features.

GA4’s Ready-Made reports are:

  • Home – An overview of site users and other key metrics.
  • Realtime – An assortment of data focused on user data collected in the last 30 minutes.
  • Acquisition – Explores how new users and sessions land on your website.
  • Engagement – Includes data points focused on popular pages, session duration, events, and conversions.
  • Monetization – Details transactions by page, order value and other transaction-focused metrics.
  • Retention – Good websites and excellent content bring users back. This report provides information about returning users.
  • Demographics – This shows users by location, gender, interests, age, and language. 
  • Tech – This report includes the types of devices and browsers visitors use to access your website or application. The dimensions that are “new” with GA4 here are operating systems and screen resolutions.

But these reports are just the beginning. There are endless ways to manipulate data to discover what is working on your website or app and what isn’t. You can even create custom reports that you add to the literal navigation within GA4! Or you can integrate with Google Looker Studio (formerly Data Studio) or another reporting solution to create visualizations. If you need help unraveling the endless thread that is website data, you know who to call. (Us. It’s us.)

Cross-domain Tracking with Google Analytics 4

Hey, you guys keep saying “app.” What’s up with that? GA4 is designed to offer cross-domain tracking to provide a more accurate snapshot of the customer journey. Even without third-party cookies, GA4 can recognize a user from one domain to another if both domains use the same Data Streams and the same property. Google Analytics 4 app tracking is possible too under the app Data Stream type.

Set up correctly, you’ll be able to follow a user who lands on your site, downloads your app, and makes a purchase in-app every step of the way.

So, does Google Analytics 4 use cookies? Yes and no. GA4 uses first-party cookies generated by your GA4 data stream. It does not use third-party cookies, which are the flavor that Google is working to phase out of the kitchen in 2023.

What About Using Google Tag Manager and GA4?

Organizations that use Google Tag Manager to track custom events can connect to GA4 using their GA4 measurement ID. Just like your Universal Analytics property, your GA property has a unique ID you’ll use to connect to GTM. The process is detailed here, but let us know if you need a little GA4 help!

Switching to GA4 Is a Good Thing

Start now, and you’ll be so comfortable navigating and reporting with Google Analytics 4 that you might not even notice Universal ride off into the sunset. It’s important to recognize that what’s new in GA4 is what’s new in digital marketing: stronger emphasis on privacy, conversions, artificial intelligence and measuring the complete user experience. Need help keeping up? Contact Oneupweb for all your marketing services.

Make sure you sign up for our Digital Digest, too, a weekly round-up of all things digital marketing.

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