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This may come as a shock to many, but it would be better for marketers to shake off the dust and get ready to embrace Google Analytics 4.
It has been going on for quite some time and now it is officially going to happen. Google will be wrapping up Universal Analytics in approximately a year. On July 1, 2023, Google will launch Google Analytics 4, the next generation of its analytics platform. Also, On October 1, 2023, Universal Analytics 260’s properties will stop processing hits accordingly.
Data previously processed in Universal Analytics will be stored for at least six months after the launch of Analytics 4. Let us now read about it in detail.
For which reasons is Google making the switch?
According to Russell Ketchum, Director of product management at Google:
“Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in desktop web, independent sessions and more easily observable data from cookies. This measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete.”
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is different from its predecessor. It not only operates across platforms, does not rely on cookies and uses an event-based data model for measurement. It also does not store any IP addresses, hence helping brands stay on the right track in terms of privacy regulations.
A bit of history of Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
A brief history of Google Analytics 4. GA4 was released in October 2020 to provide deeper integration with Google Ads, the prospect of predictive insights and cross-device measurement capabilities. Since then, the tech giant has made the following updates to it:
- It has updates, like data driven attribution, machine learning models to fill in measurement gaps and bring in search console integration.
- Google search console and Google Analytics 4 can be easily linked to each other.
- A new home page has been launched for Google Analytics 4.
- Google Analytics 4 can also be integrated with Search Ads 360.
More Details about Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
What is Google Analytics 4? Google self-describes it as a new approach to tracking using ‘privacy first’ rule, multi-channel measurement, and predictive data based on AI, all in one package. Through application of Google’s advanced models on Machine learning, the new Analytics can fill out data for web traffic and user behavior without relying on hits coming from each page.
Google Analytics 4 is created on the same platform for the Web and App system the tech giant released in 2019. This version of Analytics was focusing mainly on cross-channel data. This gave marketers a way to track users across software, apps and a website.
What this means is that the analytics won’t rely on third-party cookies and data, it will focus mainly on the user journey from the initial visit to the final conversion. Plus, these analytics are all about events. They are the main way data is presented in Google Analytics 4.
The Machine learning processing capabilities present in Google Analytics 4 makes it even more interesting. When users opt out of cookie usage and data collection, GA4 can help fill those gaps.
A lot of browsers and internet users are becoming skeptical of analytics tracking sessions or returning users by using cookies. One such instance is the Mozilla Firefox moving to block analytics. A lot of websites have thus started using visitor consent to define analytics tracking.
The need for Google Analytics 4 came from new privacy protection laws (GDPR and CCPA) along with the diminished stability of traditional analytics. Businesses using the traditional universal Google Analytics are running into issues with wrong and missing data due to cookie consent options set forth as a requirement by the aforementioned laws.
Top three benefits of Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
Here are some worthwhile benefits of Google Analytics 4:
United scopes in metrics and dimensions
One of the biggest advantages of GA4 is the unified view between apps and the web. Collection methodology is unified to events with traditional page views on a much more leveled scope in line with behavioral events.
Previous versions of Google Analytics needed separate tagging and separate properties, with inconsistent metrics and dimensions by default.
It should be however kept in mind that there won’t be any historical or beyond 24 hours data when users first enter GA4. Later on however, they will see data get collected with the passage of time.
Updates to the user interface
Google Analytics 4 has brought in several new reporting tools, with the change in scope of methodology for marketers and web analysts. The existing web and app reports have also been reorganized in the platform’s User interface (UI).
The biggest benefit of GA4 is the unified user view between the app and websites. Google also revamped their custom reporting tool into an analysis hub. It offers more flexibility with ad hoc and custom reporting.
Embracing the future of Data Collection and Analysis
Unified user journey and reporting across various platforms has been difficult since the advent of app and web development. Google has answered the call for something new, and understood that these needs will continue to rise, especially in terms of data collection and the challenges in this manner.
Advocates of data privacy and consumer privacy are against third-party data collection (certain platforms putting in restrictions has been observed too). Google is now ready to shift towards using first-party data in an anonymized manner along with consent based tracking.
Through unification of properties, collection scopes and announcing a lot of server-side capabilities, Google is now moving away from client-end dependencies.
Would it be beneficial to migrate to a Google Analytics 4 profile before it is launched?
Here are some reasons why it would be really beneficial to migrate to Google Analytics 4 right now:
- Data is front facing from the date of installation. The sooner GA4 is installed, the more historical data marketers will work with.
- Universal Analytics will be retired within a year.
- Marketers can keep their existing Google Analytics profile.
- Marketers will have more time to familiarize themselves with insights available and how they can be used in the initiatives for performance marketing.
Those who have not set up their GA4 properties yet, now is the time to do so. Though it is coming in a year, configuring it now will enable digital marketers to start tracking the metrics they care about the most. That will help them reference historical data whenever needed.
This can also be considered as something of a wake-up call. A lot of search marketers are a bit skeptical and unsure about adopting Google Analytics 4. But in a year, it will no longer be an option. The more familiar digital marketers are with the capabilities and interface of GA4, the better they will be equipped to handle this transition for themselves, their brands, their clientele and their organizations alike.