If you’re here, I’m sure you’ve heard of Google Analytics 4 (GA4). But maybe you're not entirely sure what it offers and whether you and your business should upgrade to the new set of features. Afterall, it seems like Google comes out with a new product ever 3-5 years. So, what could this upgrade really entail? Well, congratulations! You’ve come to the right place.
In this post we’ll take a deep dive into GA4 and why you should (or shouldn’t) upgrade this year.
Starting with the basics, Google Analytics is a software used to collect user interactions and pageviews on websites. While paid versions are offered, most of the key features within Google Analytics are available at the free level.
GA4 was released in October of 2020. This is important for business owners to note as enough time has gone by for Google and beta users to work out the issues in the software. That, and more than enough time has gone by since the launch of the most popular Google Analytics platform, which is Universal Analytics in 2012.
Think about that, at the time of writing this article, it’s 2022. That’s 10 full years of Universal Analytics being in the market. Would you, as a consumer owner, keep the same phone or laptop for 10 consecutive years? As a business owner, would you keep the same website for 10 years?
The answer, probably not. So why would we treat our analytics software any differently?
One of the most important reasons and core competencies of GA4, is a new and improved data model that is future proof.
Now that’s a lot to unpack there... So, let’s take a step back. You’ve probably heard of cookies, both first-party and third-party cookies. Historically, cookies have been some of the most used avenues for developers to store information about a user when they come to a website. However, with new privacy laws entering the digital landscape, cookies are getting blocked by both browsers and users.
So, to combat this, Google has created a new clean and concise data model that is not dependent on cookies, but more dependent on the user telling us who they are through their actions and through the devices they use. The new data model gives a less built-in, out-of-box, day-1 functionality to users. That being said, it gives more long-term flexibility when designing analytics tracking strategies.
This means, no more straight-forward pageviews in GA4. But don’t worry...you can still tell how many pageviews through another method - event based tracking. There is now a “pageview” event, but no dedicated “pageview” metric. As analysts, we can customize and configure these events however we’d like in the form of metrics, dimensions, conversions, audience types, etc.
GA4 is packed full of premium features with a $0 price tag. The 2 main benefits are:
Businesses should consider upgrading to GA4 this year as new software kinks have been worked out by beta testers simultaneously with the tightening of new cookie privacy laws around the globe. Considering that your historical UA data does not get migrated over to GA4, the sooner you implement GA4, the more historical data you will have when the new privacy laws go into effect. As an example - think about your audiences - the sooner the GA4 tracking code is properly configured, the sooner the audiences can grow in GA4 and become viable to support your future advertising efforts.
Analysts and business users alike may have slight learning curves with the implementation and configuration of GA4, especially if they are used to Universal Analytics. However, the long-term advantages far outweigh the potential shortcomings.