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Things to Know Before You Switch to GA4

A Google Analytics 4 account provides a wealth of marketing insights that enable you to optimize your marketing strategy. Here are some things you need to know about GA4.

Google Analytics 4 was announced in October, marking the most significant change in the history of Google Analytics.

There is a lot to learn whenever there are major updates, and there is a natural desire to learn how these changes will affect your job or business.

Even though we haven’t heard anything indicating traditional GA will be changing anytime soon, properties now come with GA4 by default. The fact that Google Analytics 4 is worth learning is strong proof that it should be prioritized.

Learn everything you need to know about Google Analytics 4 in this complete guide.

What is GA4?

The Google Analytics 4 platform is a new, more intelligent service that will be future-proof. Universal Analytics (UA) properties do not provide improved tracking, reporting, or insights.

In addition to its versatility, Google Analytics 4 offers many features. Data can be collected from websites, mobile applications, or both. However, Universal Analytics properties can only be used with websites.

Google Analytics 4 also captures useful insights as part of its machine learning capabilities. You can now analyze users’ engagement across devices, platforms, and domains using this new approach. Using these insights, you can make better business and marketing decisions. Therefore, you will get a better return on investment!

How is GA 4 different from Universal Analytics?

Google Analytics 4Universal Analytics
InterfaceA fewer number of reports appear in the sidebar. Analytical reports for users and events can also be found separately.More information about this Google Analytics property is available on the sidebar. The property does not separate user analytics from event analytics.
TrackingIn the GA4 property, tracking will be based on event numbers. Events are what constitute an interaction. An administrator can specify which metrics to track, such as Page Views, Session Start, Form Submission and First VisitHit-based tracking is used by Universal Tracking Property. It includes: Social Media Hits, Page Hits, Event Hits, E-commerce Hits
EventsWith Google Analytics 4, you’re free from values, labels, categories, and actions. Among the events is the Automated event collection, Parameters that need to be added to enhanced measurements, Login, Share, and Sign Up are recommended events, Customized EventsThe Universal Analytics Property tracks events, but not all hits are considered events. Examples include: Category, Action, Label , and Value
ObjectivesThere is no measurement system in Google Analytics 4. The admin can, however, label some events and set their values. It allows the user to create a custom event and track the necessary insights.For Universal Analytics Property, you can track conversions and goals as well as events.
Views on the pageFour page views are tracked by Google Analytics through the page_view event.Pageviews differ in Universal Analytics based on their attributes: Page_path Page_attributes Page_title
SessionsA session is referred to as an event in Google Analytics 4. It measures the duration by measuring how long visitors spend between the first and last event.The whole time a user spends on your website is a session in Universal Analytics. Sessions can have the following components: Page Views, Interactions and Conversions. A user’s session will still be counted if they act while inactive.
E-CommerceGA4 setup is more robust when it comes to e-commerce tracking compared to UA. There are more robust and compatible parameters.The Universal Analytics tag must be configured properly to provide data related to e-commerce into the analysis phase.

7 Things to Know Before You Upgrade to GA4

Install GA4 along with your existing analytics software.

In Google Analytics 4, they recommend creating a new property alongside your existing one (previously called an App + Web property).

It is necessary to begin with, since, as we’ll see, GA4 is very different from previous versions, with entirely new reports. Ensure you retain access to the previous version if you need to track performance, such as month-to-month or year-to-year comparisons continually.

Although Google makes this recommendation in their Getting Started guide, it wasn’t part of the general Google announcements.

On Average, Session Length on Average

GA4 will have entirely different metrics from Universal Analytics, particularly regarding the average session length.

We get two entirely different results when we run the same query twice using the two connectors. There is a discrepancy between the two data models. Using Universal Analytics, you can see that the average session length seen in GA4 is almost twice as long as that of Universal Analytics.

Apples and oranges are not the same things. Report on the same number consistently and based on a single source of information. You should start reporting on GA4 as soon as possible since this note of caution is probably the most reliable of the two sources.

Read Also: 11 Useful SEO Plugins for WordPress Websites

Ga4 Was Initially Developed for Mobile Apps as a Tracking and Reporting System.

In the new version, businesses will have access to what was previously known as App and Web properties, which may sound familiar to businesses that already have mobile apps. Still, they may not sound familiar to companies that only have websites.

After understanding how GA4’s data collection works and its strengths and weaknesses, you can make sense of its provenance.

Anonymization of Ip Addresses in GA4

Many of you know you had to manually configure Google Analytics to anonymize IP addresses to comply with EU law for Universal Analytics. For most people, the easiest – and most recommended – way to do this is through Google Tag Manager, which gives you much more flexibility over what data measurement can be extracted from your website.

IP addresses can now be anonymous without having to go through endless steps. Because all GA4 properties are enabled by default with IP anonymization.

Using an Event-based Data Collection Model, A4 Changes the Goal Setup

You might expect this because mobile apps do not service page views the same way as web servers. Cookies were used to determine the time between sessions and repeat visits in previous versions of Google Analytics.

Previously, Google Analytics reported on page views, giving reports such as landing pages and top pages and showing conversion rates when certain pages were loaded (for example, the ‘thank you’ page)

GA4 now records all site interactions as events, including Pageview, Scroll, Click, Video, File Download, and Search. The main events are Pageview, Scroll, Click on External Links, Video Play, and file downloads.

Conversion events can be selected easily from these events. Still, they are more generic than you want, so you must specify a custom event as a conversion event to replicate your goals in the previous Google Analytics platform.

Read Also: Tips to Create High-Quality Landing Pages for Google Ads

GA4 Is Not a Cookieless Solution

It has been announced that third-party browser cookies, which are currently being used for tracking digital advertising, will no longer be supported by Apple and Google in the near future due to privacy concerns.

Identifying alternatives to third-party cookies has been a challenge due to their importance in providing personalized digital advertising and demonstrating their value.

Considering these backgrounds, it’s no surprise that people associate GA4 with our cookie-free future and might assume that GA4 itself is cookie-free. However, FloC hasn’t been implemented yet in GA, and it’s meant for cross-site tracking that uses third-party cookies.

At this time, GA4 uses first-party cookies for user identification across sessions. However, as with previous versions, users can switch-off first-party cookies by disabling Google Analytics to ensure their privacy.

Retention of Data

Although Universal Analytics is set up to store your data indefinitely, and Google Analytics 4 does not store your data in the past 14 months.

A business that experiences seasonal fluctuations in website traffic or digital sales needs to take note of this at all times. As far as your business is concerned, you’re better off comparing December 2021 to December 2020 instead of December 2021 with November 2021, for example.

The new 14-month data retention policy still allows you to compare year-over-year. Still, you might want to move your GA4 data to BigQuery now so you don’t miss out on analyzing historical data from previous years.

When you set up your property, ensure that you adjust the setting in GA4 immediately, as it’s set to two months by default

Final Takeaway

Your most powerful marketing weapon is an analytics tool. Understanding what type of traffic is coming to a website and how users behave can help improve the site.

A better understanding of analytics leads to better marketing decisions. Analytics GA4 is the upgrade we have all been waiting for. While respecting user privacy, this approach offers marketers more flexibility and predicting user behavior.

The flexibility of GA4 API and intuitive insights will make up for the learning curve more than make up.

About Author
Preeti Malik
Preeti Malik
Marketing is something that is running through my veins. I am a person who has free spirit when it comes to designing and flexible mind when it comes to understanding the requirements of the business. Creating innovative, adaptive and data-driven digital marketing plans is my strength. Helping brands to connect and engage with their audience in the most compelling voice. Handling paid and organic search, social, content, retargeting, performance display, email marketing campaigns for more than 9 years.
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