Last month, Google announced the fourth version of its web analytics platform. It’s been eight years since the last major release (Universal Analytics) was rolled out, but Google Analytics 4 is here creating some noise and leaving marketers anxious to try out the new service.
While the tech giant could have probably sought for a little more inspiration in coming up with a name, Google Analytics 4 does bring a revamped interface and a host of new features that will surely make marketers smile.
The fact is that Google Analytics 4 is not completely new, but rather a rebranding or a name change for their recent beta graduate: Analytics App + Web. One thing is clear however – Google wants us all to migrate to this latest iteration. Evidently, so much so, that when creating a new analytics account and property, GA4 seems to be the only choice, leaving the legacy UA capabilities discreetly tucked away and hidden under the advanced options section of the setup process.
So, why the change and sudden push for Google Analytics 4 when Universal Analytics was just fine? Well, according to Google, the new platform is capable of providing:
“Smarter insights to improve your marketing decisions and get better ROI”.Google
“By applying Google’s advanced machine learning models, the new Analytics can automatically alert you to significant trends in your data … It even helps you anticipate future actions your customers may take. “
To achieve this, Google replaced their outdated approach which was heavily focused on the session in favor of a more user-centric model revolving around events. As such, this process much more meaningfully describes how users behave and engage with content, resulting in a bunch of new advantages. To name a few:
Enhanced Measurement & Plug and Play Event Tracking
Cross-device and Visitor/User Shared Views
For those using a separate User view in Universal Analytics, the data was often siloed and could not provide a meaningful comparison with other views that detailed visitors. Google Analytics 4 fixes this by accommodating both your users and visitors in a single view. Furthermore, it enables marketers to track performance for users who interact across devices as well.
Customer Lifecycle First
While machine learning isn’t new to Google Analytics, in GA4 it has stepped up its game here. In the new interface reports are designed to help marketers drill down into particular aspects of the customer journey spanning from acquisition to retention. All the while, the platform is capable of predicting various outcomes such as churn, potential revenue loss and more.
The “Analysis Hub”, once limited to GA360 users, offers a powerful mechanism to explore countless data and analyze individual users, custom funnels, segments and much much more. There’s even a template gallery to help you get started with your first explorations.
BigQuery has now been opened up to everyone, fiving marketers and analysts access to the complete unsampled GA data. You will even be able to query your call tracking events and the associated parameters.
Despite the many new Google Analytics 4 benefits, marketers and analysts familiar with the legacy analytics will have a learning curve in front of them to overcome. Unlike the migration from Classic to Universal back in 2013, GA4 introduces fundamental changes to:
- Many of the default reports we heavily rely on and have grown accustomed to.
- Dimensions and metrics such as the bounce rate which has been replaced with engagement rate.
- Setting up an implementing tags and custom tracking
Sooner or later Google will sunset and retire Universal Analytics. It’s not a matter of if, but when – albeit it could be years. Nevertheless, data is power, and data drives the decision making for most modern businesses.
Thankfully you can set up and use both Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 in parallel. This is a great opportunity to start collecting data today while mitigating the risk of a full migration until you’ve become familiar with the new platform and all it has to offer. As a plus, when you do decide to make the switch, you will be in a much better place having historical data and a reference period for your comparisons.
If you do decide to take the plunge, we’ve got some good news. Our recently released Google Analytics 4 integration can help you send inbound call events to your Google Analytics 4 properties helping you better understand which activities and actions drive more calls to your business.