Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the newest iteration of Google’s flagship tracking and reporting software, Google Analytics. It replaces Universal Analytics (Google Analytics 3), which launched in 2012.
Over the last decade, the digital landscape has changed considerably. No longer tied to a desktop, today’s consumers interact with web content through several devices on multiple platforms, changing the way businesses measure and collect data.
Google built GA4 from the ground up to help businesses thrive in this new digital marketing era. But, like any major update, GA4 presents a learning curve to newcomers.
Since Google Analytics is an essential tool for growing your business, we want to make sure you’re up to speed on what’s new in GA4.
In this article, we’ll explain:
- The most significant changes in GA4
- How GA4 impacts your business
- Why you should start using GA4 ASAP
Want to Understand GA4 Better?
Contact Rocket Media to chat with one of our Google-certified digital marketing experts. We’ll explain the ins and outs of GA4 and show you how it can help you grow your business. We currently have GA4 installed for all of our clients, including goal conversions and other integration tools like Schedule Engine. Rest assured we’re ahead of the curve, and we’d love to help you take advantage of all the new features of GA4 too!
The 3 Most Important Changes in Google Analytics 4
Google Analytics 4 isn’t just a minor update to Universal Analytics—it’s a total rehaul. Google changed many fundamental aspects of the software, ranging from privacy compliance to how it captures and measures data.
Let’s look at the most significant changes to GA4 to help you get a better understanding of the new platform.
1. Event-Based Data Tracking
One of the biggest limitations of Universal Analytics is that it only tracks independent web sessions. In Universal Analytics, a session consists of all the user interactions with your website that occur within a specific time frame.
For example, let’s say a customer likes your company’s Facebook post, visits your website, then continues scrolling through their Facebook feed. They check their email, do some work, and then visit your website a couple of hours later to schedule an appointment. Both of these interactions would be measured as two separate sessions in Universal Analytics.
Google Analytics 4, however, measures each user interaction as an event. In the example above, both user actions would be considered individual events combined into one overall session. This shift to event-based tracking allows you to see a user’s journey across all platforms, giving you the necessary data to optimize each step of the customer journey for better conversions.
In GA4, you can create custom parameters to track the events that matter most to your business. Using this personalized reporting approach, you can easily detect gaps or find areas for improvement to streamline conversions.
2. Less Reliance on Cookies
Data privacy has been a hot topic around the globe over the past decade. High-profile data privacy policies like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) show that governments expect companies to safeguard personal information and explicitly ask for user consent before collecting data.
It’s clear that the old way of collecting user data via cookies—small pieces of information that web servers use to track browsing information—is quickly becoming obsolete. As a result, Google built GA4 with a new emphasis on data privacy, reducing how much it relies on first- and third-party cookies to retrieve consumer data.
Another way Google complies with new privacy regulations is that it no longer stores user IP addresses in GA4. Although an IP-masking feature exists in Universal Analytics, it’s only optional; in GA4, it’s mandatory.
For users who opt out of any data tracking, GA4 uses machine learning to predict the likelihood of a user completing an event or action, which brings us to the next change.
3. Advanced Machine Learning
Google Analytics 4 relies heavily on intelligent machine learning to predict user actions and behaviors. More specifically, GA4’s automated projection tools focus on three core metrics:
- Purchase/conversion probability: The likelihood that a user will complete a conversion event within a specific time.
- Churn probability: The probability that a user will not be active on your site within a specified time.
- Predicted revenue: How much revenue a user is expected to generate within a given time.
Note: Learn more about these metrics on Google’s GA4 predictive metrics page.
Armed with these insights, you can make more informed marketing decisions and accurately forecast business growth.
How GA4 Impacts Your Business
Each change we outlined above directly impacts your company’s marketing efforts—for the better.
By switching to GA4, you’ll gain:
- A deeper understanding of how customers interact with your site. Because GA4 offers event-based data tracking, you can understand every step of the customer journey, enabling you to fine-tune your marketing efforts and strategy.
- More relevant data. With predictive machine learning and in-depth customer insights, you’ll have the information you need to make financially savvy business decisions.
- Better privacy compliance. Since GA4 is designed to comply with the latest data policy regulations, you’ll set your company up for compliance now and in the foreseeable future.
Ultimately, using Google Analytics 4 will make your marketing efforts smarter and more refined. And as your marketing efforts improve, you’ll see the payoff in the form of increased revenue and overall business growth.
Why You Should Transition to GA4 ASAP
Still using Universal Analytics? We recommend setting up your GA4 account sooner than later.
Here’s why: Google announced that it will sunset Universal Analytics in July 2023. At that point, Universal Analytics will no longer process new data, making Google Analytics 4 the only option for analytics tracking from that time forward.
Instead of waiting until the last minute to set up a GA4 account, we recommend you start using it now. That way, you can start collecting data immediately and slowly ease away from Universal Analytics. By the time July 2023 arrives, you’ll have months of data in GA4, which will keep your marketing goals on track and set you up for future success.
Need help getting started with GA4?
Contact Rocket Media to chat with our Google-certified experts. For nearly 20 years, we’ve used Google tools to help small and mid-sized businesses get qualified leads and grow their business. Learn more about the paid search services we offer.