June 2022

Here's what you need to know about Google Analytics 4

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Joran Huisman
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Whether you like it or not: next July, every Google Analytics user will switch to GA-4 (Google Analytics 4). Below you can read what you can expect, what advantages and disadvantages are associated with this and what we conclude. In addition, several options were not possible in the unpaid version of Google Analytics Universal, such as mapping the customer journey. With the arrival of GA-4, that will change.

Why does Google think this update is necessary?

First, let's start with the why question. Why is Google Universal Analytics making way for the new GA-4? There are several reasons for this.

1. Nowadays there are single-page websites or apps where you can find all information on one page, to be able to measure the journey or actions in this properly, the current Analytics is not sufficiently set up. It is then difficult to get a good picture of your visitors. With the new GA-4, this is possible thanks to the shift to event-based Analytics.
2. Last January, an Austrian privacy regulator concluded that Google Analytics shares data with America. And according to the GDPR legislation, that is not allowed! Google has also included this conclusion in the new GA-4. But what exactly is different? To meet the strict GDPR requirements, no IP addresses will be collected in GA-4, the number of cookies will reduce or even disappear and events such as hits, page views, transactions, and the time on a page are now placed under an event.
3. In the current Analytics, it is not possible to follow the customer journey, while there are many advantages to this. By knowing at what stage your visitor is at, you can respond smartly with (re)marketing or other smart actions.
4. In addition, it will be possible for GA-4 to predict certain results. GA-4 will be able to estimate future statistics as the data emerges over a given period.

What's different in Google Analytics 4?

The biggest change lies in shifting the focus. Previously, heavy weighting was done on measuring a session. At GA-4, the focus will be on various events. Everything a visitor does on your website is linked to an event. Each event is linked to a parameter that is translated into more useful information in Analytics. An example of this is when the visitor clicks on a telephone number or visits a specific page. Based on User-ID, you will soon be able to see in one overview how all the different campaigns are performing. For example, compare the performance of optimized landing pages with the conversion that takes place on them. This way you have a good idea of campaigns that work well and campaigns that may still need attention.

We list the disadvantages, but especially the advantages for you
The cons:

1. The data that you have built up with your own Universal Analytics account or with that of your customer (s) in recent years, can unfortunately not be moved to GA-4. So you have lost this. So we are already setting up GA-4 for us and our customers, in addition to Universal continuing to run. In this way, we gradually build up the data again, before Google Analytics Universal is completely gone.
2. Not so much a disadvantage in the long term, but in the beginning, the new interface will take some getting used to for many. Many aspects you will have to relearn or recognize.
3. You will have to reset goals, settings, conversions, reports, dashboards and other settings. Unfortunately, these settings will also not be included in the new GA-

The benefits

1. With a view to GDPRA, Google recognized that the landscape regarding privacy is changing and tracking users is becoming increasingly difficult. With the update of GA-4, this has been taken into account. For example, IP addresses are anonymized by default and it is possible to delete individual data manually.
2. The customer journey is of paramount importance. There has been a shift from quantitative actions such as the number of visitors to a page, to what a user actually does. The commitment is now much more important.
3. With the event-based model it is very easy to view various actions in one clear place. For example, many events such as filling your shopping cart, contacting us via a form or clicking on the play button of a video are now set as default and are immediately visible. Setting this is therefore no longer necessary!
4. Creating specific target group segmentation or grouping content is made much easier. For example, group all pages that contain products.
5. Once you get used to GA-4, you notice that it is clearer than Google Analytics Universal. And as with many other things, you won't know any better after a while!

The conclusion

It will take some getting used to in the beginning, and it is certainly disadvantageous that old data cannot be moved with it. But GA-4 is event-based, where it is mainly about qualitative data. Unlike the session-based data which was quantitative information. For every marketer and his or her customers, this will be an advantage.

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