Google Analytics 4 is the new version of Google Analytics. It replaces Universal Analytics, which served websites well for 11 years. But a variety of factors, from the increase in mobile devices to cookies and growing privacy expectations have led us to a new chapter in digital marketing and how we process data to serve our audience.
Cue the western music, a horse and our friend Universal Analytics riding off in a sunset. It’s done, as of July 1, 2023. The bigger question: are you ready for GA4?
Google Analytics 4: Our Likes and the Not-So-Much
We’ve used GA4 for just over six months. And truth be told, we’ve barely scratched the surface for what it can do. Still, we have a few thoughts. This is what we like and don’t like about Google Analytics 4:
What We Like:
- Events-based reporting illustrates we had more visitors than anticipated (hooray!)
- AI-driven Insights feature creates very nuanced site recommendations
- Events-tracking better illustrates which actions visitors take on the site
What We Don’t Like:
- Some actions are way too cumbersome (there’s nothing simple about setting up an internal filter in GA4)
- Can’t import Universal Analytics data into GA4
- High time threshold to aggregate data
It wouldn’t surprise us if Google eventually works these kinks out and gets the new platform working like a smooth German engine. It has a lot of potential to truly dial webmasters in and identify opportunities for revenue and to grow your business. Here’s to hoping Google works these kinks out – and creates an internal filter set-up process in one-step rather than three.
How Google Analytics 4 Works
Google Analytics 4 measures events rather than with sessions. With Universal Analytics, if a visitor came to your site, that was a session. GA4 gets rid of sessions and looks at the actions (events) visitors take on your site instead.
This has several advantages. It breaks down the visitor journey, for example, and better illustrates how people engage with your site. There are automatically collected events, like a URL click, enhanced measurement clicks, like file downloads, recommended events and custom events.
It’s important to understand events with Google Analytics 4 and how they may help you establish goals for metrics that matter for your business. You can learn more about events on Google Analytics 4 with the link below.
Resource (Events in GA4):
GA4 For Beginners
GA4 changes how Google Analytics measures the data from your site. While Universal Analytics categorized websites by Views, Google Analytics 4 replaces this with Properties and Data Streams. Here’s how it works:
Property – A GA4 Property is a container account for a website or app owner to measure data with Google Analytics. Each property should have a unique user base. For example, if you have an app and a website that sell the same product, the property is the account that owns the app and the website.
Data Stream – A GA4 Data Stream is a touch-point where users interact with your product or company. In the example above, the app and the website are both Data Streams, as they belong to the same company, sell the same product, and the user base is the same.
Events – We’ve briefly touched on this. Events are actions that users complete on your site. The moment someone visits your site, that’s an event (Session Start). If it’s their first visit, that’s an event (First Visit). If they scroll down and read your blog post – you get the idea (that’s a Page Scroll, by the way).
Why You Should Switch to GA4 Now
Remember that beautiful sunset we described at the beginning of this article? That spells the end of Universal Analytics. As of July 1, 2023, it’s no more – replaced by its events-based and slightly intimidating but oh-so-powerful successor, Google Analytics 4.
Unfortunately, you can’t import your Universal Analytics data into Google Analytics 4 because the sessions vs. events data structure model won’t allow it – although you can import your Universal Analytics data to BigQuery. You can, however, run Universal Analytics and Google Analytics side-by-side until the former fades to black in five months.
The sooner you open your Google Analytics 4 account, the more time you have to experiment with and learn the basics of it. And this will also give GA4 more time to aggregate enough data to help you better understand your audience and how to best serve it.
How to Install Google Analytics 4
There are several ways you can install Google Analytics 4. Our preferred method here at Fairwind Creative is to do it through Google Tag Manager. The quick version is this:
- Create a Google Analytics 4 Configuration Tag
- Create a Trigger (So the GA4 tag will load when someone visits your site)
- Verify Your Tag Works
You’ll find detailed instructions on how to set up Google Analytics 4 from this link:
Resource (How to Set Up Google Analytics 4):
Does that list look intimidating? No worries. Contact us and we can set it up for you.
You’ve Installed GA4. Now What?
Congratulations, you’ve configured Google Analytics 4 on your app or website. So, what happens now?
Our two cents: let it run. In our experience, GA4 takes at least 30 days to gather enough data to begin reporting insights about your audience, like age, gender and interests (and note you’ll need to enable Google Signals and/or if you want to use audiences in Google Ads for PPC Marketing).
Also, use this time to learn the basics of Google Analytics 4. Experiment – get used to the new interface, reports, how they’re organized, and if you’re up to it, try to create a custom event you want to track and set it as a conversion.
We can’t dress up the fact there is a big learning curve with GA4. Still, there is a lot of potential here. This is a very dialed-in tool that can help you understand your audience, what resonates with it, and how to best serve the people that visit your site.
Welcome, dear friend, to Google Analytics 4!