Google has not made major changes to its analytics platform in 10 years, which means the transition to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a big deal. For many marketers, Google’s current version, known as Universal Analytics (UA), is all they know. In fact, you have heard about some of the GA4 changes, and you may be dreading the work ahead and putting off your efforts to get started. While there is definitely a learning curve and work to be done, there are a lot of cool things in store.
In the latest edition of the Industrial Marketer Podcast, co-hosts Joey and Nels discuss what you need to know about this important transition with Nate Griffin, INDUSTRIAL’s Director of Analytics.
How Google Analytics 4 Is Different from the Current Platform
GA4 has an entirely different data model than UA. The GA4 measurement model is based on events; UA was based on sessions and page views. An event allows you to measure a distinct user interaction on a website or app, such as loading a page, scrolling, clicking a link, or completing a purchase. The result is that more behavior-based data is collected.
GA4 has a robust set of six event defaults:
- Outbound link
- On-site search
- YouTube video engagement
The good news is many users will not have to customize their reporting; these events are captured for you. In some cases, such as downloads, this is almost the equivalent of lead scoring — prior to the lead being identified through a form fill. It’s a big improvement from the previous lens of page visits, which don’t equate with loyalty or engagement.
The key difference is that Google Analytics 4 is designed to track what Google refers to as “Engaged Sessions.” This metric is based on the number of sessions that lasted longer than 10 seconds, or had an engagement event, or had two or more page views. This will allow you to understand how users are interacting with the content on your website.
What You May Not Like About Google Analytics 4
Google has reduced its reliance on cookies for tracking, which will create short-term gaps in data for many marketers. GA4 is not cookie-less just yet, but it sets the table for it, driven by privacy issues and growing government regulations around the world. For now, it’s a mixture of first-party cookies and cookie-less tracking.
One of the early criticisms of Google Analytics 4 is that it does not track Bounce Rate. This illustrates the fundamental switch from UA to GA4. Bounce Rate tells you about pages that do not perform. GA4, on the other hand, is all what works. For those of you who rely on Bounce Rate, you will have to sort out other ways to determine what landing pages or product pages perform well for you.
Another common complaint is that you will need to create more dashboards. This falls under the general learning curve for the new platform. You might have to create a dashboard for a metric that was provided “out of the box” with Universal Analytics. But once you set up your property and get used to the new reporting, you may realize one of the event defaults is giving you similar data in a slightly different way.
What You Should Be Excited About with GA4
As we become more comfortable with Google Analytics 4, we realize its potential. Here are two primary benefits, though there are many more that you will see as you dig into the implementation.
- GA4 will unify and sync your website and app data. You will be able to see how users behave at across these media, which should make it easier to plan a marketing strategy. For example, if you notice that most of your desktop purchases include a mobile coupon mainly shared on social media apps, you can adjust accordingly.
- GA4 leverages machine learning and statistical modeling to predict behaviors to offset the dependence on cookies. As trends emerge in your data, you can receive automatic alerts, which should help you become a more agile marketer.
Ultimately, GA4 will help you create models that calculate the potential revenue of a group of customers. It will help you create more effective campaigns. GA4 will also be able to predict the churn probability of different user segments. It will help you play offense and defense at the same time.
Listen to the Podcast for More Insights into GA4
For more insights into how to transition to Google Analytics 4, tune into Episode 36 of the Industrial Marketer podcast.
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