This summer Universal Analytics (UA) was sunset, and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) became Google’s sole data collection platform. With the upgrade not being optional, marketers have had to learn on the platform and navigate collecting data, reporting and other best practices.
GA4 has been designed to provide a more holistic and future-focused approach to data analysis, offering a wealth of features that empower businesses to better understand their audience and optimise their online presence.
In this blog, we will be navigating through the key changes of GA4 and sharing insights gained from using the platform.
Navigating the new platform
The transition to GA4 makes a shift from the traditional UA model. While the initial adjustment feels daunting at first, the enhanced capabilities of GA4 quickly make their presence felt. At its core, GA4 is an event-based, user-centric model, unlike UA, which is primarily session-based.
Google’s decision to transition to GA4 is driven by the shifting trends in digital marketing and the need for a more robust and future-ready analytics platform, which is clear when navigating the platform.
Key feature 1: Event-driven tracking
Rather than relying solely on pageviews, GA4 tracks user interactions as events. This means that you gain deeper insights into user behaviour, allowing you to understand not only what pages users visit but also their actions within those pages. Setting up custom events, such as button clicks, video views, and form submissions provides a comprehensive view of user engagement. The event-driven tracking has proven to be a standout feature, allowing tracking of specific goals and user interactions, ensuring the data collected is directly relevant to the objectives.
Key feature 2: Predictive metrics
One of GA4s main features is harnessing the power of machine learning to provide actionable insights. By analysing user behaviour, the platform generates recommendations that can inform your decision making. These insights provide invaluable optimising of user experience. However, it has caused some concern on the accuracy of the predictive metrics, as it depends on the quality and quantity of data.
Key feature 3: User centric reporting
GA4 shifts the focus from tracking sessions to analysing user behaviour. The ability to filter data based on user segments enables us to identify high-value user groups and tailor marketing efforts accordingly.
Key feature 4: Privacy-centric approach
Privacy concerns are paramount in today’s digital landscape. GA4 addresses their concerns by offering a more privacy-centric approach to data tracking. With built-in features to handle user consent and data retention, GA4 ensures that businesses follow evolving privacy regulations. Our experience has shown that GA4 is committed to ethical data practices – this approach is a game-changer, as it empowers businesses to maintain the delicate balance between gathering meaningful data and respecting the individual rights of their users.
On the other hand, like any new platform – it is important to also acknowledge the drawbacks. Here are some of the limitations the platform has presented:
Drawback 1: Limited historical data
Since GA4 is a new platform, it does not have access to historical data from the previous UA property. This means that you won’t be able to directly compare historical trends and data, which could hinder your ability to make informed decisions based on past performance. While the limitations of historical data might seem like a roadblock, the absence is avoided by downloading historical data from UA.
Drawback 2: Reporting changes
The reporting interface in GA4 is quite different from what users are accustomed to in UA. It can be challenging to locate specific reports or data points (due to familiarity of UA). GA4’s revamped reporting interface reflects its evolved capabilities. It’s designed to align with GA4’s core principles, emphasising user-centric insights, event-driven tracking, and predictive metrics.
Drawback 3: Uncertain future changes
As with any technology, the direction that GA4 will take in terms of updates, changes, and future features is not entirely predictable.
Since using GA4 as a key platform after UA sunset this summer, the key features including seamless cross-platform tracking, BigQuery integration, event-driven approach, and predictive analytics have demonstrated their potential to transform how businesses approach data analysis and decision-making based on user interactions. From event-tracking to predictive metrics and user-centric analysis, GA4 offers a comprehensive toolkit for gaining valuable insights into user behaviour and optimising digital strategies.
However, the platform does take some getting used to. Everything is now built around events and users, rather than sessions which is what we have been used to. While this does take some getting used to, the change provides better flexibility and prediction of user behaviour.