Google Analytics 4: What is it and Why it Matters

Maddox Marketing Co March 19, 2023

Web analytic software has been around since the internet’s earliest days. Does anyone remember when web page counters were a popular feature on many websites?!  These counters were a simple script that ticked the counter whenever someone opened the web page! Back then, the server log was one of the only ways to dig deep into web analytics. But today, things are much better, thanks to Google. If you have a website, then you can use Google Analytics to track numerous metrics from your site. (Note: other software packages do web analytics; however, they are substantially more expensive. Google Analytics is free to everyone.)

A Recent Change: Welcome Google Analytics 4

Technology advances quickly in the digital world, so within the past few years Google has been developing better technology for web analytics. Welcome Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the latest update. According to Google, GA4 is replacing their previously used Google Universal Analytics, technically GA3, or the third version of Google Analytics.

What’s New in GA4?

GA4 has some new features that help make it a powerful marketing tool. First, there are updated connections between Google Maps, Google Business, and local web searchers. This interconnectivity can help provide better insight between consumer data on the various Google apps. Second, there are different information streams that present the data in a more simplistic user dashboard. GA4 allows users to view how many visitors visited the website and how long they stayed. These are just two of the several metrics GA4 monitors.

New and updated metrics reporting tools and insights include:

  • Social media stream reporting
  • Goals / Conversion
  • Real-time data
  • Custom reports
  • More intuitive debugging
  • Mobile device and app tracking
  • Audience building / advanced segments
  • Flow visualization
  • Time
  • Video performance measurement tools
  • Data export and tracking API

This is just a small sample of the new and improved GA4. True integration with powerful web advertising tools helps business owners drill down their sales funnels to targeted audiences. GA4 works with AdWords, AdSense, Search Console, and DoubleClick AdExchange.

How Is GA4 Different From Universal Analytics?

Both the backend (how data is collected) and the front end (how someone sees the data) are both being changed in GA4, which is why this might be the most dramatic upgrade Google has made to date. The primary difference between the old and new Google Analytics is how it handles data across several channels. Some might say that there is too much data in Universal Analytics, making it almost overwhelming for businesses. With that said, marketers alike expect GA4 data to be somewhat more insightful and relevant. The entire model of data collection has changed along with the tracking code required for data collection.

New Features In GA4

In one way, GA4’s features are all new because of Google changed how they will handle the incoming data. For instance, when looking at conversions, UA has you define a specific goal. In GA4, users define events that lead to conversion. This makes GA4 almost entirely different because it wants metrics about “behavior” not “action.” The logic states the behavior as the action and Google helps business owners understand user behavior.

How to Upgrade to Google Analytics 4

Google is sunsetting Universal Analytics in June 2023, forcing those who still need to upgrade to GA4 to decide. (Note: the data from UA will still be available til 2024; that analytics will no longer track new data coming in.) If you already have Universal Analytics set up on your site, an upgrade to GA4 is handled through your Google Analytics dashboard. Here’s Google’s documentation on that. For new Google Analytics accounts, the default experience is now GA4. While there is a migration assistant within the platform, it is worth working with your web developer and/or marketing team to be sure that GA4 is set-up properly, collecting data as needed, and the correct tracking code is installed (and working) on your site.

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