The Sun is Setting on Your Google Analytics Data
Part 3 of 5: The Sun is Rising on GA4
Birds are chirping, bees are buzzing and the sun is rising on Google Analytics 4 (GA4). The search engine and media juggernaut is far along in the process of phasing out Universal Analytics (UA) in favor of its new tracking system. In fact, if your company hadn’t already set up a GA4 account, Google did it for you in March of this year.
But the big change will come in July. For some who have been holding on to the UA format, starting next month, you’ll only be able to access previous data through UA and that system won’t collect any new information or provide any additional advertising or audience insights. Past data will still be available for download for at least six months, but all new data will be filtered into GA4.
Additionally, if your brand is using Universal Analytics 360, depreciation of third-party cookies will take place in July 2024. Establishing a strong base of historical data in GA4 will be imperative for your future success once that change takes place.
For continued prosperous marketing on Google, it’s vital that brands assess, set up and understand GA4. In this piece, we’ll cover three main differences between UA and GA4, spotlighting key features and benefits of the new system.
Get caught up
Before we get started, let’s review a few highlights from Part 1 and Part 2 of the series. The timeline outlined above is already underway, so if you haven’t gone in and tailored your setup in GA4, now’s the time.
There are a few steps you can take to make the transition go smoothly:
- Audit your UA account – Review the data you’ve collected in UA and determine if you want to continue with the same strategy or add/remove events.
- Set up a timeline – This process will take time, so make sure to block off your calendar to work on this transition.
- Take stock of important data sets – Google transferred over most information. However, if you have customized reports, audiences or other items, make a list of those so that you can recreate them in GA4.
- Make a plan to archive data – You won’t want to lose the important metrics collected in UA. Once your GA4 account is set up and customized, start the process of archiving your UA data.
You’ll want to avoid these common pitfalls as you work through the process:
- Lack of preparation – Prepare in advance and set aside time to work through the setup process.
- Rushing – Being in a hurry will increase the likelihood that important settings might be missed.
- Forgetting to exclude internal traffic –You don’t want your employees’ utilization of your website to get included in the data collected by GA4.
- Poor data quality going in – Use your audit to go through data and update any needed items to make sure all data you import or recreate in GA4 is good.
- Skipping custom options – Take advantage of the opportunity to get additional and actionable insights and use customized options.
- Going with default settings – Not all default settings will work for all brands. Pay attention to what GA4 is showing you and then check out your other options.
All caught up? Good.
Keep reading to learn about GA4.
UA versus GA4
Events, reporting and the use of machine learning (ML) are some of the biggest differences between UA and GA4. You can also check out Google’s Skillshop for some online courses that can guide you through using GA4 (or you can use the expertise of a wonderful agency… hint, hint).
Google is moving away from sessions which it used in UA and is now tracking events. During a UA session, the system recorded things such as pageviews, app/screen view, social and purchases during a discrete amount of time that a user was on your page. For example, if the user logs off after 15 minutes, the session has ended and the next time they log on a new session will begin. Within the sessions were hits, and each of these actions was considered its own hit.
Now, each of these items (hits) are considered an event. There are more trackable options for events that provide additional insights for those that want to dive deeper into the details. Here are the different types of events that are collected:
- Automatically collected events – There are a host of actions that are recorded including ad clicks, first open, app subscription, app update, form submit, in-app purchase and more.
- Enhanced event measurement – This can be enabled or disabled. Events here are triggered by other engagement such as scrolls, outbound clicks, site search, embedded video engagement and form start/form submit.
- Recommended events – These can be added for website and mobile apps and available events are grouped by properties, online sales and games.
- Custom events – Google offers the ability to set up customized event(s) tracking. It does note that it is preferred to use a default metric since those will automatically populate, however if you need something not already available you can set up and modify a custom event.
Here’s how event tracking is process within GA4:
Events are processed in real-time, giving marketers and brands access to updated metrics every 30 minutes.
UA provided about 30 standard reports under different categories. In GA4, there are far fewer standard reports. Companies are encouraged to create customized reports that showcase data in helpful ways for each brand’s marketing goals.
- Reports snapshot – Gives a quick glance of your reporting on one screen.
- Realtime report – Delivers information every 30 minutes on stats such as number of users, users by source/medium/campaign, audience, page title or screen name, event counts, conversions and more.
- App collections – Delivers metrics based on the type of app that is being tracked.
- App developer – Summarizes key metrics including users and behaviors about apps in Firebase.
- Games reporting – Game-specific information to measure user actions and behaviors in mobile gaming apps.
- Life cycle – Follows users through the customer journey and provides insights on acquisition to retention.
- User – Provides details on people who access your website and apps including demographics such as age, interests, devices and app versions.
- Customized reporting is a big GA4 perk. This allows your brand to look at data in ways that are significant to its marketing and branding goals. You can create a collection from scratch or you can utilize one of Google’s collection templates.
Analysis Hub Reports
Search Engine Journal has identified the Analysis Hub as the most impactful new feature in GA4. It allows for advanced data processing as well as a template gallery to display data in easy-to-understand charts. Here are some insights from Search Engine Journal on the types of Analysis:
- Exploration – Configures data that previously wasn’t accessible in UA including anomaly detection which notifies admins about red flag data sets outside the norm.
- Funnel – Shows the steps shoppers take through the customer journey and identifies events which are prone for success or failure.
- Path – Similar to the behavior flow report from UA, this generates a tree graph that shows the path which users take as events. This report is also a good way to identify looping behavior where users become stuck, giving marketers insight where clarification or simplification on the path to purchase needs to take place.
- Segment – Defines user groups and then tracks events to see where there might be commonalities.
- Cohort – Groups users by a common characteristic such as same acquisition date, event or conversion. This is ideal for tracking users that were attracted to the brand by a specific piece of creative or offer.
- User lifetime – Repeat business is important in sustaining a company. This analysis allows brands to track which source is delivering leads with the highest lifetime revenue, and which campaigns lead to the most valuable users.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and ML have burst into the marketing world recently with several use cases. One of the applications is the integration of predictive analytics into campaign assessment. GA4 offers two different ways of using predictive analytics:
- Predictive audiences – Allows brands to build sample audiences based on conditions including most likely, least likely and custom setting. Brands can figure out which users are most likely to churn, least likely to churn or to enter a customized percentage range.
- Predictive metrics – Works to anticipate future user behavior based on past events and audience profiles/demographics. This can help anticipate purchase profitability, churn probability and predicted revenue.
Enjoy the sunrise
While some might be disappointed that the sun has set on UA because it will take effort to transition and not everyone is good with change, the dawn of GA4 offers some exciting and insightful features. From a new and expanded way of tracking events to a host of tailored reporting and analysis, and the introduction of ML to offer predictive analytics and help brands anticipate future user activity, GA4 has a lot going for it.
We’re ready to help our clients start using new features and be able to glean as much actionable data from the refreshed tracking and reporting options. If your company hasn’t finished the setup of its GA4 account, it’s time to get started. The more useful data collected now, the better position you’ll be in once third-party cookies are depreciated. Begin building a foundation of all that powerful historical data to fuel your future marketing endeavors.