One of 2023’s biggest changes in the world of digital marketing has been the shift to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the latest version of Google's web analytics platform. The GA4 migration deadline is coming at the end of June. CVR transitioned several of our clients from the old version (Universal Analytics) to the new GA4, especially when they had more complex behavior tracking that needed to be captured in the new version.
What have we learned about GA4 that we can pass along?
GA4 offers several improvements and new features compared to its predecessor, Universal Analytics (UA), particularly in terms of data collection, reporting and analysis. Key differences to keep in mind between the new GA4 and UA:
- Measurement in UA is session-based, while GA4 is event-based.
- Reporting in UA is limited when it comes to cross-device tracking and multiple web properties, while GA4 offers enhanced cross-device/browser and web/app property tracking.
- UA utilizes limited automation, while GA4 employs machine learning throughout.
GA4 introduced an event-based tracking model, which allows for more flexible and comprehensive tracking of user interactions across our clients’ websites and apps. Events can be defined for various actions such as page views, button clicks, video plays and more, providing a deeper understanding of user engagement. For all our clients, we have seen slight differences in the events reported between the old UA and new GA4, typically less than a 5% difference. This is something to keep in mind when comparing the new GA4 data to the old UA data.
Enhanced User Journey Data
Google touts that GA4 focuses on a user-centric approach, providing insights based on user behavior across multiple devices and platforms. It uses data sources called Identity Spaces for your marketing analytics:
- Google Signals are proprietary data points owned by Google, such as a user also using Gmail.
- Device IDs are identifiers associated with our mobile phones, laptops and gaming systems.
- User ID is an anonymous ID number assigned by a business, such as a login ID.
The combination of these three Identity Spaces allows marketers to anonymously track and analyze user interactions as they move across different touchpoints, giving clients a more holistic view of the user journey.
With this change, Google is upgrading their analytics platform to be more powerful. So that means GA4 incorporates machine learning and automated capabilities to deliver more insights, highlight important trends, anomalies and opportunities to help brands identify areas for optimization and growth. It includes a simplified setup for enhanced e-commerce tracking, allowing e-stores to track and measure various stages of the customer journey, including product views, add-to-cart actions and completed transactions.
Set Up Marketing Analytics for the Future
A major reason Google is rolling out GA4 is the state of U.S. and international privacy laws. While GA4 introduces more granular data control options, it is designed to align with evolving privacy regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It provides tools to manage data retention periods, customize data collection and comply with user consent requirements. Using GA4 means you are compliant with industry standards regarding privacy.
Our point of view is that GA4 represents a significant shift from Universal Analytics in terms of data collection, reporting and analysis. As brands make the transition to GA4, CVR’s media and interactive teams stand ready to offer expert guidance in unlocking valuable insights from the new advanced reporting and analysis capabilities of the platform. Discover the potential to enhance your marketing campaigns with GA4's powerful features and take your brand to new heights.