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Google Analytics 4

Updated: Apr 30, 2023


What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google Analytics, released in October 2020. This new version has a very different look and feel to previous versions and works in a slightly different way.

If you have got an existing Google Analytics account you can run the two side by side to get use to the difference. However, if you are setting up a new account it will default to Google Analytics 4. The official change over date is the 1st of July, on this date the old Universal analytics will no longer collect data.

Over the years data privacy restrictions have grown with things like GDPR and cookie notifications and this has caused gaps in data that Google Analytics can collect and the trends that you can see.

Google says that this new version has machine learning at its core to help eliminate this. This should give you a more complete understanding of the customer journey across devices and focuses on measuring end to end journeys.

What is the difference between Google Analytics and GA4?

The biggest difference you will first spot between the two versions is the user interface.

The first thing you will notice is when you go to select the website you want to view it has changed from a three-tier data organisation to two-tiers. Before you had account > property > view and you now have account > property.

The reports have been reorganised so you can find marketing insights based on different parts of the customer journey you are interested in. For example, you have the acquisition report to see what channels are driving these new users and then engagement and retention reports to understand actions they take and if users stay after they have converted.

GA4 events

The events section shows user interactions with your website or app like page views, button clicks or certain actions. This area has definitely change for the better! Before you would have to rely on a developer to create custom code on your site which is a pain for marketers. However several of the events are already setup in GA4 and measured as default.

The events are broken down into different areas – automatically collected events, enhanced measurement, recommended events and custom events. Automatically collected events are on as default and measure actions such as new users, page views, engagement, link clicks and videos views. Enhanced measurement needs to be switched on in the admin area and lets you enable/disable certain events and customise some of these.

Recommended events are ones that you add yourself but have a Google predefined name and parameter. These are events that Google commonly sees such as add to cart or wish list on an ecommerce site. If you’ve checked all these predefined events and you still can’t find what you are looking for you can still create custom events to add to the site as you would of done previously.

GA4 data privacy

Another significant change is the use of machine learning to provide more meaningful insights into user behaviour. GA4's AI-powered features allow website owners to identify patterns and trends in user behavior, making it easier to understand user journeys and optimise the website accordingly.

GA4 also introduces new privacy features designed to provide users with more control over their data. It includes a new consent mode that allows website owners to adjust data collection based on the user's consent level. Additionally, GA4 offers a data deletion feature that allows users to delete their data from the analytics tool.

Switching to GA4

Google has started the process of setting up the new property automatically for websites. However if your site hasn't been done yet you can quite simply do this yourself. Click here to visit the Google Analytics help section which talks you through the process of each option.

It was recommended to have the two properties (universal and GA4) running side by side for a year so you can see the differences between the two styles of reporting. this isnt always possible so I would just recommend to get this setup as quickly as possible and start getting use to the platform and changes in reporting.

The future of analytics

In summary, Google Analytics 4 is a significant upgrade from the previous version, offering more detailed data tracking, improved insights, and better privacy features.

Companies are investing more in their digital marketing as technology continues to rapidly evolve and Google are staying way ahead of this with GA4.

While it may take some time for website owners to adjust to the new event-based tracking model, the benefits of using GA4 are clear, providing website owners with the data they need to make informed decisions and optimise their website for their audience.


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