Anytime Google announces a change in their algorithm, marketers worldwide scramble to understand the change, optimizing content and adapting future SEO strategies accordingly. But when the technology giant changes Google Analytics (GA), it can have an even more immediate impact on marketing operations for those that use GA to track their most important KPIs. Google recently announced the launch of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), a significant change that promises to streamline data collection and provide more useful data insights. Here’s what you need to know about the update, what it means for marketers and how you can start using the new capabilities to enhance your brand.
What is the Google Analytics 4 Update?
Smarter Data Analytics
Perhaps the shortest and simplest way to sum up the GA4 update is this: Google Analytics just got smarter. Developers applied Google’s advanced machine learning models to add predictive metrics, automatic alerts and other functionality that creates better forecasting and makes it easier to anticipate and adjust for changes in future consumer behavior. These insights also allow you to define and refine audiences more granularly, making it easier to target higher value customers.
GA4 allows marketers to use “customer-centric measurement, instead of measurement fragmented by device or by platform.” It accomplishes this by using multiple “identity spaces” to identify users and give you a more complete picture of how customers are interacting with your organization. For example, you can seamlessly track a user’s journey from a web display ad to an app download all the way through to checkout.
Track the Entire Customer Lifecycle
Google “simplified and re-organized” reporting to make it easier to identify marketing insights at each stage of the customer journey. For example, you can monitor the top channels driving new customers in a user acquisition report and then leverage engagement and retention reports to better understand customer behaviors and conversions.
Combined Data Tracking for Websites and Apps
The most foundational change in the update is that it creates a new way to track data across your various digital platforms. According to Google, “Google Analytics 4 (formerly known as “App + Web”) is a new kind of property, with different reports than what you’re used to seeing in Universal Analytics properties.” That means you can use GA4 to collect data on a website, app or both. In the past, Google Analytics could only work with websites.
But you don’t have to make a complete switch right away. Google understands that many marketers want to maintain certain capabilities from their current UA setup, which is why you can implement GA4 tracking right alongside your current UA tracking. This minimizes disruption to your operation and allows you to transition on your own time.
Other Benefits of GA4
- Designed to be future proof, by working without cookies or identifiers.
- It features “data streams” instead of the views and segments used by old Universal Analytics properties.
- Provides cross-domain tracking that does not require code adjustments either, can be done within the UI.
- Google will add modeling capabilities in the future to address gaps in data analysis.
- Event tracking can be enabled, tracked, and fine-tuned within the UI, this means interactions like clicks and page-scrolls. Classic Universal Analytics required modified Analytics code or gtag.js script.
- Strong privacy controls regarding what activity you share with GA.
Impact For Marketers
The most important GA4 advancement for marketers has to be the improved AI capabilities. Those updates are designed so you can achieve greater data insights without investing additional resources. That’s because “new Analytics can automatically alert you to significant trends in your data — like products seeing rising demand because of new customer needs,” according to Google. That kind of automated data analysis makes it easier to identify important opportunities and challenges so you can work proactively to optimize your overall marketing strategy.
GA4 is also a step toward more streamlined data gathering, with both web and app data collected simultaneously. This more holistic approach is one we are likely to see in future updates as the company looks to make data analysis more efficient. While you don’t have to transition right away, it’s important for marketers to understand this foundational change and how to successfully implement GA4 tracking to maximize efficiency and position your operation for future updates.
How to Add Google Analytics 4 to Your Website
To start taking advantage of the new GA4 update, you’ll need to make some changes to your tracking code and GA account. Here’s how to add Google Analytics 4 to your website that is already running Universal Analytics:
- Sign into Google Analytics and click Admin.
- Make sure to select the correct account in the Account column.
- In the Property column, select the Universal Analytics property that currently collects data for your website.
- In the Property column, click GA4 Setup Assistant. If you do not have this option available check that you have admin rights for the account, not just the property.
- Under “I want to create a new Google Analytics 4 property,” click Get Started.
- If your site uses the gtag.js, tag, you can enable data collection using your existing tags. If you use a website builder/CMS, Google Tag Manager or your website is tagged with analytics.js, the wizard can’t reuse your existing tagging and you’ll need to add the tag yourself.
- Click Create Property.
- Once you click Create Property, and follow the prompts in the setup wizard.9. When you complete the setup wizard, select Realtime in the report navigation, browse your website, and you should see activity in the Realtime report. This will verify that everything was set up correctly.
New Capabilities Create New Opportunities
This certainly won’t be the last Google Analytics update marketers have to deal with, and already the company is teasing an “Analytics 360 version that will offer SLAs and advanced integrations with tools like BigQuery.” But it’s important for marketers to fully understand this latest update as it represents a significant step forward in how Google will shape their GA offering in years to come. By understanding and embracing the new changes, marketers can unpack better data insights easier and streamline data collection to create more effective strategies and campaigns.