The future is here.
Sounds like the opening line of a brand new sci-fi novel?
Well, let’s just tweak that a little bit.
The future of event-based data analytics is here, thriving and on the verge of changing the way businesses boost their online presence and credibility whilst maintaining user privacy, which wasn’t exactly the case with GA (Google Analytics) and UA (User Analytics). Yes, we are indeed referring to GA4 or Google Analytics 4, widely quoted as the next generation of analytics.
To quote the search giant itself, “Starting July 1, 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing 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.”
This means that if you run an online business, you will need a deeper understanding of GA4 insights, GA4 features, and, ultimately, how to use GA4 to realize hitherto unrealized ROIs.
Data is equivalent to its weight in gold, and the following statistics bear testimony to its nonpareil importance in the collection, reporting, and analysis of specific data. According to a recent article in Forbes, “87.8% of businesses reported increases in data investments during 2022, and 93.9% of organizations are planning to increase their investments in data in 2023.”
The mind boggling numbers point only in one direction, and that is the need to step up your data analytics game in a user-friendly way without compromising your customers’ privacy and focusing on behaviors that actually mean something for your business.
That is exactly what GA4 can do for your business and more! Let’s hit the throttle and get cracking on the goose that WILL lay the golden eggs!
Decoding the Differences Between Google Analytics & GA4
To gain a better understanding of the latest in data analytics, one has to become familiar with the distinctions with its predecessor. We will discuss them in this section.
1. Mode of Data Collection
Remember that mildly irritating pop-up whenever you visit a new website that asks for your “cookies” preference? Well, that’s set to change. GA UA, the erstwhile model of Google Analytics, employed cookies (small files) to track user behavior on websites. Whereas GA4 comes as a breath of fresh air as it deploys event-based data modeling as a means of collecting and organizing information about what your website and app visitors are viewing, clicking on, or searching for commonly called events. This can allow businesses to collect multiple kinds of information across different devices and browsers, thereby rendering an essence of flexibility.
Reporting basically refers to the way Google Analytics displays the information it collects about your app or website visitors. There is a stark difference between the two modes here as well.
The GA UA reports were centered across predefined categories of data, namely metrics, and dimensions. Let’s break that down. Dimensions refer to the device, location, or source of your visitors, whereas metrics refer to measurable attributes like the number of visitors, sessions, or conversions. These are pre-set by Google Analytics, and you can choose from them.
In the latest version of Google Analytics, data reporting has come off as quite a game changer with its groups of information called events and parameters. Events refer to user-based actions such as clicking on a product, signing up for a newsletter, or completing a purchase, whereas parameters are the extra details or tags that you can choose to add to the events, such as the name, category, or price of a product or service. For instance, you can create a parameter as product_name: “blue jeans’ ‘ and set a metric called Product Views to analyze the number of times a user views a particular product. This can help you segment and target your audiences better with more personalized marketing strategies. Also, these user defined actions and characteristics are determined by you, and you can create them as per your need. How cool is that?
3. User Identification
GA4 also helps website and app owners identify visitors more accurately and holistically than GA UA.
In the case of GA UA, users are identified through a Unique Client ID that is associated with a device or browser. This means that it assigns a random number to each browser or device that visits your website and tracks their behavior. However, this comes with certain limitations, such as,
- It cannot track the same user who happens to visit the app or website first through their laptop and then their phone. It will count them as two different users, which results in duplicity.
- Similarly, it cannot distinguish between the same user across different platforms; for instance, if a visitor visits your website and then your app, GA UA will count them as two separate users.
On the other hand, GA4 employs a conflation of an Anonymous User ID and a Google Signals ID, deploying the power of Machine Learning to identify users across multiple devices and platforms. It uses two different methods to track user identity;
- An anonymous user ID that is provided by you and not by Google Analytics, which can be in the form of email ids or account numbers. This can also help you monitor and filter internal traffic. However, for this method to be effective, the user needs to sign in or register on your app or website, which might not always be the case.
- A Google Signals ID is an identifier that can be used by Google Analytics to analyze and recognize user behaviors who have signed up for ad personalization in their Google Accounts. This allows Google Analytics to track and identify users who haven’t signed up on your website. However, this also depends on the user’s consent and settings.
4. Machine Learning
GA UA relied on manual analysis to help you understand your users’ perspectives and tendencies using data such as the number of times they visited your website or app, for how long they stayed, and which pages they visited. But, it cannot help you assign a reason for this behavior or predict their next step.
On the contrary, GA4 utilizes the power of advanced machine learning techniques to analyze user behavior and provide deep insights into behavior patterns. This makes analysis simpler for you on account of readymade predictions regarding the segment of users that are ready to buy, those who will not and user segments which are similar to each other.
5. Data Retention
The collected data is retained for a default period of 26 months in the case of GA UA, whereas the figure stands at 14 months for GA4. The setting can be changed in both cases for longer or shorter periods; however, in the case of GA4, the options are limited as compared to GA UA.
6. Data Privacy
Privacy concerns are rampant in today’s day and age, and GA4 honors the need for users’ data privacy by giving them the option to delete their data or opt out of data collection. This is not the case with GA UA, wherein users cannot easily stop Google Analytics from collecting their data and cannot request Google Analytics to delete their data.
In summary, GA4 gives users greater control over their personal information and offers a more comprehensive and flexible approach to tracking and analyzing user behavior as compared to its predecessor. It may, however, require a greater level of customization and setup than GA UA.
GA4 Features & Their Implications For Data-Driven Decision Making
1. GA4 Measurement Settings
Tracking conversion events means measuring important user events on your website or app, such as buying a product, downloading an ebook, etc.
With GA4’s Advanced Measurement Settings, business owners can customize how GA4 tracks and reports specific conversion events that are important for the business. This is how you can change your management settings,
• In Google Analytics, click on Admin.
• Ensure that you are in the correct account and property.
• In the Property column, click Data Streams > Web.
• Under Enhanced measurement, slide the switch On to enable all options.
• Click to edit individual options as per your unique needs.
You can unleash the full potential of the above feature in the following ways;
- Track multiple types of conversion events without adding any code to your app or website.
- Deploy advanced machine learning techniques to analyze user behavior patterns and make accurate predictions.
- Conflate your GA4 data with other CRM data to measure offline conversions.
- Remarket audiences based on user IDs.
- Export GA4 data to BigQuery for further detailed analysis.
2. GA4 Sessions
Sessions refers to a way of measuring the number of times a user visits your website or app within a certain duration.
In GA UA, sessions are counted based on how long users stay on your app or website, irrespective of what they do.
GA4, however, calculates sessions based on user-driven events-based actions such as clicking a button, filling out a form, etc. If the user keeps interacting with your website or app for thirty minutes, it counts as one session. However, if they stop interacting with your website after a period of thirty minutes and then resume shortly afterwards, it is counted as a new session.
A cool and unique feature of GA4 is the Engaged Sessions, which reflects users who spend at least ten seconds viewing or browsing pages or screens or indulging in a conversion event such as making a purchase or signing up for a freebie. This helps you understand and segment consumers who are more engaged and involved with your brand.
This knowledge helps you deliver better and more personalized user experiences to such audiences.
Other features of GA4 include GA4 Audiences. GA4 Predictive Metrics, GA4 Event Parameters, Default Channel Mapping, etc.
In conclusion, it is safe to say that the possibilities are limitless with the latest GA4 Google analytics feature, and it can help you debug your website without affecting other performance metrics. If you’d like professional SEO wizards to deploy the latest data analytics tools to help your business scale new heights, then team Mavlers is the way to go! Hit us up now!