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What is GA-4 and what does it mean for your business?

Earlier in October, Google quietly released its newest iteration of Analytics. So quietly, in fact, that we don’t blame you if you missed it. Google Analytics 4 or GA-4 is Google’s latest offering, and if you’ve only signed up for a Google Analytics account recently, you will have set-up a GA-4 property by default. Existing users of Analytics can create a new GA-4 property from inside their admin panel.

So, what’s new in GA-4?

And what does GA-4 mean for your business and your data?

Combined reporting

Before GA-4, web analytics were measured using Universal Analytics or web-based properties. If you wanted to measure app data, a separate view for Google Analytics App or Google Analytics for Firebase was required. GA-4 replaces the web + app beta and combines reporting for web and app data. Connecting information on web and app usage will remove huge data gaps for many businesses, enabling cross-platform reporting and analysis. Importantly for e-commerce businesses, GA-4 should help to tackle some of those app/web team silos. (Yes, consumers can tell they exist!) But that’s just the beginning.

Behaviour-focused data modelling

If you’ve already created a new GA-4 property, you should have noticed a lot has changed. There’s a new user interface and the dimensions you’ve come to know have nearly all changed – with good reason. GA-4 is built on Firebase, and models data around events and behaviour, as opposed to individual cookies or sessions of the past. Scroll-depth, video plays and other common on-site actions are tracked and reported on as standard in GA-4, although to get the most out of this you’ll want to add additional parameters. There’s no need for custom tagging or Tag Manager implementation to track these, although for most businesses a thorough tagging strategy will still be wholly necessary to make the most of your data.

With all that’s changed in GA-4 it’s probably not surprising to learn that you will need to review changes in parameters and schema businesses if you are currently using Google’s Tag Manager to implement event tracking or have custom tracking set up.

The good news is that a lot of these syntax changes are not mandatory for migration, but with all the new possibilities now available, we recommend considering your data collection strategy when implementing GA-4.

Contact joeh@rbh.co.uk to talk through your data strategy.

What does it all mean?

Cross-platform and event-orientated data collection is more than just convenient, though. It’s a major departure in terms of how Google understands user data, enabling businesses to move beyond focusing on the minutia of individual user sessions and instead observe tangible behaviour patterns across multiple customer touchpoints. It also supports Google’s enhanced machine learning to scale its predictive capabilities. GA-4 allows businesses to leverage event-focused data collection to model predicted conversions and churn, creating rich data sets to optimise user experience and conversion. And that’s before adding custom events or parameters. Google’s machine learning has another role to play too – in the final phase of the long-fabled death of the cookie, ML is used to fill in data gaps left by GDPR and changes in cookie policies.

What should I be doing?

When you create a GA-4 property you’ll start the process of collecting data from scratch. The data in your Universal Analytics property is still accessible but given that the shift towards event-driven data is the future of cross-channel reporting, the sooner a business is set up with Analytics 4, the sooner they can begin collecting new insights.

As with any new release, some integrations are still in beta or pending. For this reason, implementation via Tag Manager is recommended to maintain your reporting within Universal Analytics too. But, by setting up GA-4 now you’ll be positioning your business ahead of the curve and ensuring you have a good amount of data to hand when Universal Analytics is eventually depreciated.

Written by Joshua Price

Digital Media Manager

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