Are you an enthusiast? Does the new version of the operating system make your heart tremble? I bet not like the next part of Star Wars or the season of your favorite series on Netflix 😉 And suddenly, in October last year, a new version of Google Analytics appeared. And it's COMPLETELY NEW. And there was trembling. Trembling of anxiety. Because what's going to happen now? What to do with this? Use? Or maybe it bites? Immediately after that, there were a lot of different questions about the way this tool works. First of all, it turned out that the work is in progress and its various functions are yet to be added.
The fifth month has passed since the release of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) into our hands and it is almost perfect. Various new options are still being added to it and the ones we got used to in Universal Analytics (UA) are complemented, so there is something new every week 😉 But I think it's a good time to summarise what GA4 is and what is not.
In this article, I will introduce you to the basics of GA4 and how it works. It is in the form of Q&A. If you are interested in a specific piece of information, just jump into it. You will also learn if it is worth setting up GA4 and why. And if you want to create your GA4, I will be happy to help you with the smooth implementation. Just contact me.
Are Universal Analytics and GA4 the same tool?
Yes and no 😉
They are two versions of the same analytical tool. Universal Analytics has been running since 2013, GA4 was introduced in October 2020 and this version is now in development. When you create a new property, GA4 is the default version. However, they differ in appearance, method and data sources.
What is GA4?
GA4 is Google's free website and app traffic measurement tool (and here's the difference!). You can collect data from a website (www.lovelycottagebythesea.com), an iOS app (for Apple) and an android app at the same time in the reports of one property.
In addition, the number of reports has been reduced, named more intuitively and arranged more conveniently. Some of the analysis is already done for you, but don't worry, Analytics still won't do anything without your input.
Should I move entirely to GA4?
Not yet. GA4 is already working, but not all options are fully operational yet, especially those related to e-commerce. Therefore, now it is best if you set up a new GA4 service for your website, implement it in your code and collect data AT THE SAME TIME in both Universal Analytics and GA4.
BUT if you are just creating an account and service for your brand new website / app, then yes, get started with GA4, because learning two separate interfaces and reporting methods is a bit too much to start with Analytics.
Why do I need data in two properties simultaneously?
Because everything counts well in Universal Analytics so far and you have historical data here, while in GA4 it is worth starting to collect data so that when you move to this version, you have a large amount of historical data.
Why historical data? Because GA4 has a built-in machine-learning algorithm that will help you analyse your data as soon as it has this information to use. It is really important to later make decisions about changes and development of the website / app based on reliable data and your experience, not only intuition 😊
What are the advantages of using GA4?
Let's start with the fact that you can use the legendary Nokia 3310 mobile phone or switch to a smartphone that has many other functions. It's actually not an option anymore, but a necessity in the digital world where you operate with your website or app.
Reports are simplified over Universal Analytics and are oriented towards the user lifecycle. In other words, it will be much easier for you to imagine how users are crawling around your pages and learn from it.
More effective data analysis with the use of machine-learning algorithms - they help to recognise trends in traffic on your website / app, which makes it easier for you to analyse and optimise. For example, when you start registering purchases (purchase or in_app_purchase), 1000 users will perform a certain action on your website / app within 7 days, and 1000 will not, you will be able to use forecast data to create audience lists.
Deeper integration with Google Ads, which helps advertisers using Google Ads better understand what traffic is triggered by their ads and how to optimise campaigns for better performance. Google Ads also relies on machine-learning algorithms, so now Analytics and Ads will go hand in hand.
The ability to create your own detailed reports. Do you analyse a purchase Path in Shopping Behavior with the Enhanced Ecommerce Reports in Universal Analytics? In GA4, you can create reports yourself, in which the data selected by you will be presented in a similar way (Analysis > Analysis Center> Path analysis). There are several types, including path analysis, segments overlap, user behavior explorer, and cohort analysis. You can read about each of them in Google's help articles, and I will write something about them soon 😉
In addition, GA4 automatically measures many events, including:
page views, page scrolling, clicks leading outside your site, search for words on the site (requires additional configuration), viewing videos, downloading files.
Mainly that you have to learn a lot 😉 And so far there are no plugins that will help you implement e-commerce reporting efficiently in fifteen minutes. But it's only a matter of time.
How is GA4 different from the previous version of Analytics?
Aside from the fact that automatically collected events make things easier, everything is based on events, not page views. Therefore, we say goodbye to the bounce rate - instead of it, there is user engagement (user_engagement). Also, when creating a conversion, we do not configure the target type of destination, page / screen for sessions, etc., we only select which event is to be counted as a conversion. (Creating your own events will be a separate post or video.)
There is also no division into views in GA4. There are data streams - a separate one for the web, a separate iOS app and a separate Android app.
You can set filters for the entire service. The internal traffic filter is preconfigured here - GA4 catches which traffic comes from your device and excludes it after some time.
Instead of segments, you have comparisons at your disposal. The same thing is that you can use up to 4 comparisons at once. Segments can be created and used in the Analysis Center in your personalised reports.
Will this change incur charges?
Nope. Google Analytics is and will remain free in the basic version. There is a paid version (GA 360) and it is available for sites with millions of pageviews.
Is GA4 optional or not recommended for someone?
No. GA4 is a new version of Analytics and is intended for everyone.
At the moment, some features are still in beta, so it is recommended to collect data simultaneously on both versions of the services. When full functionality goes live, it's going to be a rocket!
The new version of Google Analytics, GA4, is a really new tool. It collects data simultaneously from various sources such as websites and mobile applications, relying on events rather than page or screen views. Self-learning algorithms support your data analysis, helping you reach conclusions faster, and the new report layout arranges your data in a way that is easier to find and understand. With high site / app traffic, you can benefit from purchasing forecast data.
Regarding the use of GA4, the best practice at the moment (March 2021) is:
For people creating Analytics from scratch, creating GA4 and collecting data there (note: the implementation of the E-commerce code for now manually, because the plugins are not yet adapted to GA4).
For people who already have the Universal Analytics property, create and implement a separate GA4 service and collect data in parallel. In a few months it will be possible to move to GA4 itself, because the data will already allow the algorithms to work and draw correct conclusions, and GA4 will be in the form closer to perfection.
If you need help setting up a new property or mastering GA4 basics, write to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and schedule a consultation. We will handle it efficiently. If you prefer to do all by yourself then use the video tutorials below.
Additional articles (click to go):
Google: [GA4] Predictive metrics
Video tutorials (youtube.com, channel Owwwla - Google Analytics od podstaw):
If you have questions or topics that are not covered here, and you are particularly interested in, write to me, I will be happy to help.