Google Analytics and their Universal Analytics property is changing. Digital marketing over last decade has become extremely complex and relies on multiple different platforms and tools. A key platform which many people use daily in their work is Google Analytics and the Universal Analytics (UA) property. However not everyone is aware that soon this platform will become obsolete or ‘sunset’ as Google calls it. UA will be replaced with the latest reiteration from Google in July 2023.
In October 2020, Google started rolling-out the latest iteration of its web analytics platform, Google Analytics 4 (GA4). In October 2021, this latest programme became the latest default when setting up new properties in your Google Analytics accounts. Google’s new platform iteration encapsulates the previous version (Universal Analytics), as well as, their beta ‘App + Web’ platform that was released the year prior. This means that this latest version combines data from both apps and websites. GA4 brings with it new features including expanded predictive insights, deeper integration with Google Ads, cross-device measurement and even more detailed and specific data controls. The current ‘Universal Analytics' properties can now be upgraded to GA4.
WHY THE CHANGE?
As you could imagine, the world of gathering data analytics is extremely complex and forever evolving. Cookies have been enormously useful for Google to gather users information and track habits. However, the introduction of GDPR in 2018 meant that websites now had to ask for users to consent to cookies being used to track their experience. Google needed to start reducing its reliance on the usage of cookies in order to gather data. GA4 has the ability to ‘fill in the gaps’ of data where consent has not been given by the user to track their data via the usage of machine learning. As data solely extracted from cookies becomes more fragmented, the GA4 system becomes more effective. The GA4 system is more dynamic to changes in the industry and keeps data sets whole.
BENEFITS OF GOOGLE ANALYTICS 4
A USER JOURNEY FOCUS
The overarching focus of data collection has shifted. GA4 is not centred around measurements such as sessions which are easily divided between devices, as was the case in Universal Analytics. Instead, the focus is now predominantly on users and their interactions. Google captures each interaction as an event. The new event driven data focus allows for a single set of data metrics to be applied to both websites and apps. A user's entire journey can be understood.
This is helpful for businesses making use of both apps and websites. They will be provided with a fuller representation of how a customer has acted; for example, if a customer has downloaded your app and then decides to interact with your website as a result. A user's journey can be viewed as one instead of separate journey’s. This allows for a greater understanding of customer habits. As well as a greater understanding of the effectiveness of marketing campaigns across different channels.
CONCISE AUDIENCES FOR AD CAMPAIGNS
The stitching together of user journeys across devices has been very beneficial for businesses. This new insight into how users interact with services can be incredibly useful when creating ad campaigns. The integration of cross-platform data analysis creates a more concise and powerful audience which is likely to reduce wasted money from advertising budgets as well as increasing ROI.
Users often float between using a website for one action, followed by an app for another. Allocating ad spend to target these users have often resulted in wasted money for the business however now that the user journey across platforms can be pieced together, it is possible for businesses to optimise how far their ad budget stretches. Unnecessary money previously may have been spent attempting to entice a user to a website and app even if they had already been using both. However as it would've been tracked as separate sessions and not been registered as one ‘journey’.
FEATURES OF GOOGLE ANALYTICS 4
Funnels in Google Analytics were notoriously difficult to use and as a whole they were widely regarded as being lack-lustre. They were very ‘static’, having had to configure them upfront without an option to tweak the settings and apply them to previous data. Any mistake in the set up of the funnel and the data would be useless. Google Analytics 4 has largely improved upon this service. You now have the ability to build funnels and apply them to historic data. Furthermore, it is now possible to edit the settings of funnels, steps can be added and removed at any point. This provides analysts with invaluable insights as to how their users are acting whilst also generally making their lives easier.
Enhanced Measurement is a new feature introduced with GA4. It is a suite of automatic event-tracking features that allows marketers/analysts to collect more data out of the box. In prior versions of the programme, it was only possible to see page views, if you wanted to see other interactions in your reports you had to manually customise your setup. However with ‘Enhanced Measurement’ more events can be tracked without the necessity to adjust your Google Tag Manager or websites code. This is a big deal, especially for smaller businesses who perhaps didn’t have the time or budget to configure additional events to be tracked. A few new events that are auto-tracked include; File downloads, outbound link clicks, interactions with embedded YouTube videos.
DATA DRIVEN ATTRIBUTION
A number of features that were previously only accessible via the paid premium service offered in universal analytics are now freely accessible in GA4. One of these features is Attribution analysis.
Attribution in Google Analytics refers to the assignment of credit for conversions to different ads, clicks, and factors alongs a users journey to completing a conversion. The attribution model basically decides which source of traffic the conversion has come from and deserves the credit.
There are complications when deciding attribution as multiple traffic sources could have been used; for example, a paid ad may have been clicked but then the same user organically searches for the product, which source should be credited? This is where the Attribution method has changed between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4. Previously, the attribution was determined by the ‘last non-direct click’. However, now Google has introduced a ‘data driven’ attribution model, this model uses complex algorithms to decide how much each traffic source should be credited for their role in the conversion. With this upgrade in the attribution model, traffic sources will more accurately receive credit they deserve in conversions, helping marketers decipher which traffic sources provide the greatest ROI.
WHATS NEXT FOR GOOGLE ANALYTICS 4?
Google has stated that “On July 1, 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties will no longer process data. You'll be able to see your Universal Analytics reports for a period of time after July 1, 2023. However, new data will only flow into Google Analytics 4 properties.”
If you would like assistance transferring your Google Analytics to GA4 or even setting up your analytics suite – do get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information regarding the upgrade to Google Analytics 4 take a look at Google’s detailed blog.