Google Analytics 4 Walk Through: 10 Key Benefits + GA4 vs UA

Google Analytics 4 can help marketing professionals make smarter decisions with surprising accuracy when it comes to predicting customer behavior. Here’s how you take advantage of this powerful tool.

While some things are still in development in GA4, one thing is for sure – with Google Analytics 4 marketing experts can achieve a level of insight that wasn’t possible before.

Google Analytics 4 was officially launched with machine learning at its core in October 2020.  

The previous versions of Google’s platform for web analytics include:

  • GA1 – Classic Google Analytics (ga.js JavaScript library)
  • GA2 – Universal Analytics (analytics.js JavaScript library)
  • GA3 – gtag.js JavaScript library.

10 Key Benefits of Google Analytics 4

Your business needs a boost in the right direction, and that’s where Google Analytics comes into play. What better time than now to make this switch! 

Here are ten reasons why everyone should choose GA4 today:

#1 Unsampled Data

Earlier versions of Google Analytics had a limit of 10 million hits per property to the amount of collectible data. Not only that, but sampling occurred when applying segments exceeding 500k sessions. 

Luckily, this is no longer the case! Google Analytics 4 has been stripped of sampling in standard reports. The data collecting is free and unlimited! This is important because unsampled data ensure all decisions are made based on reliable data, not a fraction. 

Even though sampling is practical with segments and secondary dimensions, there is a risk of losing information scope if you rely only on sampled data.

#2 Extended Segmentation Possibilities

GA3 conditioned marketers to split users and their interactions by device and platform type. Time was also a problematic factor to incorporate into reporting. 

But, now, Audiences in GA4 allow for a much more actual marketing approach: you can now create segments based on events and add the concept of time. You can analyze the time users take to progress through the sales funnel. 

No more unnecessary splitting of users in GA4! And, all the Audiences published in GA4 will automatically be added to Google Ads for the most precise reach yet.

#3 Complete User Journey

With the new section in GA4 called Life Cycle, it’s never been easier to focus on customer behavior and get insights about which part of your marketing strategy needs improving or whether you should change its focus. 

The new section reports are divided into Acquisition, Engagement, Monetization, and Retention – which all align with the customer/user journey paradigm.

Acquisition and Engagement give insight into awareness campaigns or paid ads. They put content under the magnifying glass and decide what works best for your users—or focus on users and make conclusions about them. 

Two more things are crucial parts of the user journey: How many revenue goals you’re hitting and if you’re doing enough to build customer loyalty. Monetization and Retention reports will give insight into how well you’re retaining customers and how much money campaigns bring.

GA4 switched its primary focus from goal-oriented to user-centric analytics and event-driven data model. It has been honed to track and give a holistic view of complex customer journeys – so if a customer uses multiple devices and converts on a different one that it first hit – GA4 has the tools to follow.

#4 More Intelligent Tracking

With new laws in place, cookies have become very difficult to track. So, naturally, Google has worked its way around not to rely on cookies so much. Instead, it relies on AI and machine learning that ensures even smarter tracking. The new generation of web analytics is here indeed.

Vidhya Srinivasan, the Vice President of Engineering at Google Ads, Google said: 

 “Because the technology landscape continues to evolve, the new Analytics is designed to adapt to a future with or without cookies or identifiers. It uses a flexible approach to measurement, and in the future, will include modeling to fill in the gaps where the data may be incomplete. This means that you can rely on Google Analytics to help you measure your marketing results and meet customer needs now as you navigate the recovery and as you face uncertainty in the future.”

#5 Predictive Metrics & Audiences

And speaking of machine learning, one of its most potent bearings is the ability to predict user behaviors. With Google Analytics 4, you can accurately predict which users are likely to buy within the next month and how much revenue from their purchase conversions. How?

There are three predictive metrics for e-commerce sites that can show you:

  • Purchase probability: the chances that an active user in the last 28 days will purchase within the next 7 days
  • Churn probability: the chances that a user active in the last 7 days will be inactive within the next 7 days
  • Revenue prediction: the expected revenue for the next 28 days from a user who’s been active in the past 28 days

#6 Better ROI

Are you ready for a whole new level of campaign planning with Google Analytics 4?

With these key benefits and using most of the GA4 reports, you’ll be able to craft more successful marketing campaigns that reach your business goals. 

This will lead directly to an increase in ROI on ad spend for your company’s overall efforts!

#7 Enhanced Measurement

One more essential benefit of GA4 is the Enhanced Measurement event that tracks data streams automatically without additional tags. In a new way, it measures things like:

  • page views
  • scroll
  • outbound clicks
  • site searches
  • YouTube Video engagement
  • file downloads

There is also the option to create custom events if they don’t already exist. 

#8 BigQuery Integration

BigQuery is Google’s data warehouse that processes SQL queries at very high speeds. This is important if you need to analyze and process terabytes of raw data and get insights quickly. BigQuery lets you use the advantages of machine-learning capabilities and even stream data directly to BigQuery.

This feature isn’t entirely new, but it was only available to GA360 users. And like then, there still are some limitations regarding storage and data size, but you can still do so much with the monthly accessible data allowance – you get 10GB free storage and 1TB worth of query data processing.

#9 Machine Learning

We have already pointed out that ML is one of the critical changes in GA4. Even though these artificially powered insights may not be instantly evident to analysts, they are real and concrete. GA4 has automatic alerts for trends in all your data and can explicitly show which products have a higher demand and your traffic anomalies and other comparisons. 

#10 Privacy-Centric Data

Yup, you’ve already been looped in the battle of privacy on the Internet. So is Google, which must follow user preferences. Hence, according to these regulations, they’ve built GA4 to adapt to the potential cookieless market. 

What is remarkable about GA4 is the option to control how data is collected and retained. IP anonymization is enabled by default, which is a step forward from GA3, where it was disabled by default. There is also granular control for ads which lets you choose when to use data for optimization or measurement. 

GA4 is planning to use modeling to fill in some of the gaps in the cookieless tracking.

Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics

We’ve gone through GA4 crucial benefits, and there are many new and exciting things. It can take some time until you get a full grasp of the significance of GA4. 

In a separate post, we’ve broken down the differences between the metrics in these two analytics platforms. But here are the most vital differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics to speed up the process. (and other previous versions)

Reporting Interface

At first glance, the GA4 reporting view may look scary. But we promise you it’s not that bad.

Yes, reports and metrics are not in the same place as before, and they have been either removed or replaced. 

Reports have changed; there aren’t as many because they’re generated only when you start tracking events.

If you used Firebase, you’d see that the reporting interface in the GA4 looks very similar to it, and it’s not by accident: GA4 is built on Firebase Analytics. 

Still, it’s very different from the GA3 reporting view, but you’ll get it in time. That’s the reason you’re reading the ebook anyway.

Measurement Model

If you’ve even scratched the surface of GA4, you may know this one.

The primary difference between GA4 and GA3 (or UA) is the data model, which is event-based. The earlier case was pageviews batched into sessions in UA. 

So, the main point is that GA4 gives users much more space and flexibility than previous GA versions because it has a unified tracking system for websites and apps, while it’s not bound entirely to URLs.

But, pageviews and sessions still exist, but they’re listed as separate events.

Set Up Tracking IDs

Measurement IDs enable any tracking in Google Analytics via GTM.

But in Universal, this was Tracking ID.

If you already have a GA4 property with a web data stream, your Measurement ID begins with G, for example, G-SV5AS78HKN.

But if you have set up a GA3 property, then it has a Tracking ID, and it begins with UA, for example, UA-5789025-9.

Event Tracking Set Up

UA has been an excellent tool for a long time, but everyone could see the limitations. With Universal, every event was trackable if it followed the schema of category-action-label-value, like this:

GA4, on the other hand, doesn’t impede this on users but has a much more flexible event tracking setup. There are more parameters beyond the four old ones, which you can use to assign any event type.

Event Tracking Automation

There was no automatic tracking in Universal Analytics / GA3. But now, the Enhanced Measurement feature is built in the GA4 property, and it allows automatic tracking for events like:

  • Scroll tracking
  • Video tracking
  • Exit tracking
  • Site search tracking and more.

Automatically tracked events require no additional coding or tagging.

User and Event Data Retention

With previous versions of Google Analytics, there were more User and event data retention options. Basically, this feature lets you set the time for which GA retains user-specific data for inactive website users like cookies, and user and advertising identifiers, before deleting it automatically. 

In GA3, you can set time to 14 months, 26 months, 38 months, 50 months, or Don’t automatically expire.

In GA4, there are either 2 months or 14 months, and no other options are available.

Cross-device & Cross-platform Tracking

One of the most noteworthy changes from GA3 to GA4 is including web and app data into the same schema. This feature wasn’t available with Google Analytics 3, but with GA4 is.

The feature gives more confidence in tracking because there is more robust and reliable data than in GA3. 

Custom Dimensions

Custom dimensions are different in GA4 than in GA3. You can create a new custom dimension by creating a new custom event parameter in GA4.

In GA3, there is the option to set or change the scope of the custom dimension to Hit, Session, User or Product. But GA4 has only the Hit dimension, while Session doesn’t exist anymore. 

There are some loopholes for creating custom dimensions with User or Product scope:

  • If you want to create a custom dimension with the User scope, create User properties in GA4.
  • If you want to create a custom dimension with the Product scope in GA4, make use of item parameters like: item_category, item_category_2, item_category_3 and so on.

Custom Metrics

These are created differently in GA4 than in previous versions, so what you need to do in GA4 is create a new custom event parameter that has specified the unit of measurement. 

In GA3, the scope can be changed to Hit or Product, like custom dimensions. And like with custom dimensions, in GA4, there isn’t the possibility to change or set the scope of your custom metric, but only the Hit scope.

Debugging with DebugView

Reporting in GA4 provides you a DebugView report used for validating analytics configuration from the reporting interface. It wasn’t possible to view this in GA3.

IP Anonymization

Google Analytics records the identity of your website users via IP addresses and stores it for future use but does not display this information in reports.

Because of local privacy laws taking action and GDPR, IP anonymization in GA4 masks website visitors’ IPs.

*Under GDPR, your IP address is considered personal data.

The last three digits of your visitor’s IP will be automatically deleted when you anonymize IP addresses. In a more technical sense, this feature sets the last octet of IPv4 user IP addresses and the last 80 bits of IPv6 addresses to zeros, and GA4 will mask the IP automatically.

In GA3, on the other hand, IP anonymization is disabled by default, something that new privacy policies around the world don’t allow anymore!

If you’re still using GA3, it’s possible to enable/disable this feature.

In GA4 properties, anonymization is enabled by default without the option of disabling it.

Reporting Views

With the new version of Google Analytics, you can only have one reporting view. In GA3, there were 25 reporting views per property. You can’t really add more views in GA4 at this time.

But there is a bypass! You can also create new Audiences or Data streams and use them in place of filtered views.

Advanced Analysis Reports/Custom Reports

GA4 includes advanced analysis tools that let you create impromptu funnels. This is new in Google Analytics, at least in the free version, and GA360 had this feature available before.

Advanced analysis reports let you do a few specific but highly beneficial things.

  1. You can customize your funnel in a specific with many new options. 
  2. The option of Path Analysis helps identify users’ most common paths, like visiting a page and then subscribing.
  3. Heat maps, which help to disseminate data-driven information innovatively quickly.
  4. With the segment overlap report, you can see correlations between targeted segments.
  5. Last but not least, the user explorer report gives a closer look into the user segments you choose to be most fitting to your analysis.

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t already migrated to Google Analytics 4, we suggest that you do so as soon as possible. The deadline for the migration is July 1st, 2023, and after that date, the old version will be discontinued. 

In this post, we’ve highlighted some of the features of GA4 that are especially beneficial for mobile app data and website usage metrics.

Be sure to follow our blog and resources for more detailed posts about GA4 and all of its components – and other new updates coming to Google Analytics in the near future.

Follow us on —> https://diligent.biz/ for more!

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