Google Analytics is the premier web analytics platform. There are close to 38 million websites using it and nearly the same number that have used it in the past.
Given its utility, it has transcended its role as a simple data reporting tool and become integral to the function of businesses globally. Companies rely on it for everything from understanding customer behavior to running targeted marketing campaigns, boosting SEO, and developing better products and services.
The platform’s latest iteration, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), launched in October 2020. If you haven’t gotten around to switching to GA4 yet, you should, because come July 1, 2023, it’s set to replace the current platform, Universal Analytics (UA), and websites will have to switch to GA4 by default.
GA4 introduces significant updates to the platform. In many ways, it’s a completely revamped tool that lets you marshall your data in unprecedented ways to glean actionable insights.
Read on to learn what’s new about Google Analytics 4, how to make the switch to it, and use the latest features on offer.
Table of Contents
What’s New With Google Analytics 4?
- Event-Based Measurement
Perhaps the biggest change with GA4 is the switch to event-based reporting from the session-based model that was the foundation of UA.
With GA4, everything can be considered an event. In practice, this means if you’d like to track the individual actions a user takes on a website, whether that’s a page view, a click, or any kind of system action, you can.
You can still view session-level reporting, but breaking it down into singular events is a great way to use Google Analytics 4 to access granular data and deeper insights.
- Cross-Platform Measurement
GA4 revolutionizes customer journey tracking for businesses by letting you collect user data not only from your website, but also from Android and iOS apps.
This is done through unique user IDs that get assigned when a user signs in on an app or website. A gtag.js script sends the user ID for each session from the respective platform to Google Analytics and logs their activity metrics.
Cross-platform tracking is a novel way to use GA4 to understand customer experience across all their touchpoints with your brand.
- Predictive Metrics
With GA4’s machine learning model, not only can you access recorded user activity, but also predict future user behavior, including the likelihood of a future purchase, churn, and revenue.
This lets you segment your users into groups based on their predicted behaviors. For instance, users who are likely to buy something during the next month, the number you’ll lose when you up your prices, or how many might splurge more than $200 in one purchase.
You can use these GA4 groups as target audiences to create pay-per-click campaigns on social media and Google Ads.
- Improved Control
Switching to GA4’s revamped interface also lets you dig deeper into your data to create more customized reports that give you the insights most important to you.
For instance, you can create custom exploration paths that let you analyze specific parts of a user’s journey or even that of a segmented group of users. You can set trigger events to ringfence these journeys and track relevant customer interactions, such as those on a specific date, platform, or location.
You can also use GA4 in combination with Google Looker Studio to create custom visualizations of your data sets.
Making the Switch to Google Analytics 4
If you’re still on the fence about upgrading to GA4, here’s one great reason to take the plunge right now:
GA4 does NOT pull any retrospective data from the previous iteration.
If you have been using Google Analytics (UA) for a while and have collected years worth of data about your website, that GA property is about to be deprecated and stop tracking on July 1st, 2023 (July 1, 2024 for Analytics 360 properties). Google has also confirmed that sometime in 2024 all of the old UA properties will become inaccessible to users.
The sooner you migrate to GA4, the more historical data you have to play with on the new platform.
There are a couple of ways to set up Google Analytics 4, depending on whether you’re new to analytics or an existing user.
Method 1: Google Tag Manager
If you want to use GA4 as a new user, this is how to go about it:
- Get started by visiting the Google Analytics home page. Log in using your Google Account and complete the Account Setup.
- Complete the Property Setup by entering in your business details and how you’d like to use Google Analytics 4.
- Accept the Terms of Agreement to finish the account setup.
- Next, create a data stream for your property. Navigate to the Admin tab on your dashboard and choose Data Streams under Property. Choose the platform you want to create a stream for and enter your website URL.
- Now that you’ve created a data stream, you need to:
- Open the Workspace for the respective property and create a new tag. Give the Tag a descriptive name
- Paste the Measurement ID that you copied from the GA 4 Web Stream and Check on Send a Page View Event When this Configuration Loads
- Click on the Tag Configuration and Under the Tag, Configuration select Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration, then follow the rest of the steps.
- Once the tag is connected, you’re ready to use Google Analytics 4.
Method 2: GA4 Setup Assistant
If you have an existing Universal Analytics property, you can switch to Google Analytics 4 by following these steps:
- Navigate to the Admin tab on your dashboard. Select the desired account and then the UA property you want to upgrade from the dropdown menu.
- In the Property menu, click on GA4 Setup Assistant.
- Under ‘Create a new Google Analytics 4 Property,’ select ‘Get Started.’
- If you’re using a gtag.js tag on your site, you can simply choose ‘Enable data collection using existing tags.’ If you don’t see that option, you’ll have to add the new tag to your site yourself.
- Click ‘Create Property.’ At this stage, you’ve finished switching to GA4 and you’re all set to use it.
Trying Out Google Analytics 4
The overwhelming majority of Google Analytics users are companies with 1-10 employees. As a result, with each new iteration, the platform has become more user-friendly for marketers and business owners to operate without technical help.
For instance, the new search bar on GA4 is much more intuitive and gets you quick answers for a number of specific queries. Try asking something like “how many Android visitors this month vs last month?”
Experiment with queries like “how to create an event” to get a better handle on how to use GA4, especially if you’re new to analytics. Here’s a deeper look at some of the new features in GA4.
Events are at the heart of the new GA4 platform. You’ll need to be an editor in the system to be able to do this.
- To create an event, go to Events under the Configure tab and click ‘Create Event.’
- Select the desired data stream and click ‘Create’ and name your report.
- Under Matching Conditions, you can specify the action this event will be based on, such as a click or a page view.
- You can customize it how you like, for instance by specifying subsequent actions following a click. You can also duplicate events for a new page by selecting ‘copy parameters from source event.’
There are four different kinds of events you can create. Here’s how to use event-tracking in GA4:
- Automatically Tracked Events
There are certain events that are automatically tracked by Google for both app and web. For instance, every time a user sees an ad or clicks on it, an event is registered.
- Enhanced Measurement Events
This feature is designed for marketers to help them get as many event reports as possible without having to rely on developers or configure them in Google Tag Manager.
It consists of many of the most basic events you’ll want to track for your website, including page views, scrolls, clicks, video progress, file download, and more.
- Recommended Events
These are a good way to use Google Analytics 4 to track activity across platforms using predefined parameters, such as online sales, share, on-site search, logins, and more. If you’d like to track an event, first check if it’s being automatically tracked or readily available under Enhanced Events.
If not, look through the list on Recommended Events to see if you can adapt an existing parameter for your new event. If none of that works, you can create a Custom Event.
- Custom Events
As the name suggests, you create a completely customized event to track a specific action, such as the number of people who proceeded from a landing page to a demo trial page and immediately signed up for one.
The Reports Dashboard is accessible on your left navigation bar on the main dashboard. Here, you can use GA4 to create custom reports. There are a few default reporting features available to you:
- Real-Time Report
This gives you a snapshot of the user activities on your data stream as they are happening, such as the number of visitors in the last 30 minutes, referral data, conversions, and so on.
- Life Cycle Reports
These break down the customer journey into four constituent steps — Acquisition, Engagement, Monetization, and Retention. You can use Life Cycle Reports on GA4 to get a detailed understanding of a user’s activity during each stage of the marketing funnel.
- User Collection Report
This gives you more information about your visitor personas under categories like demographics, interests, and devices.
Execute Data-Driven Marketing With Coalition
The Google Analytics ecosystem holds close to a 75% market share globally in the web analytics space. The platform is popular because of both its unrivaled reporting features and the dominant market presence of Google Search, giving you deeper integration with search data.
If you’re an SME looking for more data to support your growth, you can learn how to switch to and use Google Analytics 4 with our help. Reach out today for a free consultation.