Digital marketers everywhere will know the importance of analysing the results of campaigns and the role that Google Analytics plays in interpreting the data. Two and a half years ago, Google introduced Google Analytics 4 (GA4) – a milestone in the data collection and analysis world.
Analytics 3 has been a marketer’s best friend for over ten years, but Google recently announced that it will sunset Universal Analytics (UA) on 1st July 2023, or 1st October 2023 for 360 accounts. This means that these accounts will cease to collect new hits following these dates. But why has Google chosen to make the move to Analytics 4?
Google’s move to Analytics 4 is designed to help businesses succeed by evolving the measurement standards, so many different kinds of data can be measured. It will enable businesses to keep up with the changing ecosystem through:
We recommend getting Google Analytics 4 implemented a full year ahead (July 2022) to ensure year on year data is collected prior to the full migration in July 2023. In doing so, you will also be able to experiment with the platform and gain a better understanding of the data architecture.
Here’s our guide to help setting up Google Analytics 4 – let’s take a look.
The first stage of implementation requires you to create your Google Analytics 4 property. You will find that Universal Analytics differs from Google Analytics 4 in this step – GA4 does not use ‘views’, as everything is at the property level.
To create your account, simply click “Create Property” in the admin section of Google Analytics.
Once you have done this, you will then be prompted to provide some information, such as the name of your property. Submit the name and your new property will be created.
Now you’ve created your account, you also need to create a data stream, which determines how you send data into your Google Analytics 4 instance. Unlike Universal Analytics, you can now have multiple, separate measurement IDs sending data into one account.
You will notice that there are tabs for iOS, Android and Web – this will allow you to collect data from multiple sources and websites with a limit of up to 50 data streams or 30 app data streams.
The example below shows the prompt displayed when creating your web stream for your website.
You will be asked to provide the URL and the stream name, and you will also need to decide whether you would like to enable Enhanced Measurement. This feature will allow you to collect other interactions, such as outbound clicks, by default without any other implementation.
Following the creation of your stream, you now have to implement it. This is done using the Measurement ID, which can be found in the stream settings after creation.
Within this section, you will also be able to manage a range of other settings, including:
After copying your Measurement ID, you now need to create the relevant tag within Google Tag Manager (GTM). Conveniently, GTM has a native Google Analytics 4 tag type that can be used for this setup, as shown below. This should have an all page trigger, ensuring that you capture all areas of your website.
Now the tag has been created, it needs to be tested using the GTM preview mode to see if it has fired on all pages as expected:
The next tool in your arsenal is to use the GA4 DebugView. When in GTM preview mode, all interactions will feed into this view and will enable a thorough review of all interactions to ensure you are collecting the information you require.
Now that you know how to set up Google Analytics 4, it’s time to take a look at how GA4 differs from Universal Analytics.
Sessions are now obsolete with Google moving to an event-based model. Pageviews, Transaction, and other Universal Analytics hit types are no longer available – yes, even a pageview needs to be an event.
If your business owns a website and mobile app, you can now stream data to the same Google Analytics 4 instance.
Previously, only Google Analytics 360 users had the opportunity to stream data to BigQuery. In Google Analytics 4, that option is possible even for free accounts – there are some limits to be aware of.
By default, Google Analytics 4 is capable of tracking more than just pageviews with its default installation. This includes outbound link clicks, scroll depth, YouTube videos, and some others tracked automatically.
Google Analytics 4 introduced several additional reports/tools for analysis, such as custom funnels and path analysis. Previously, this was also a Google Analytics 360 feature, which is now free.
In Google Analytics 4, custom dimensions are now either hit based or user based. Session level custom dimensions are a thing of the past.
There are still some limitations with the Google Analytics 4 platform. We are still missing a range of reports in the platform, as well as base integrations that Universal Analytics used. We are expecting to see this change over the next year, but it is something to monitor.
More information on these variations can be found here.
We appreciate that this change may be daunting following an integration of Universal Analytics data and the potential impact to your wider data reporting requirements. If your business is in need of any Google Analytics 4 support, contact our experienced analytics team for a consultation. We can help ensure a smooth transition without data loss so you can continue to yield valuable results from data-driven insights. Get in touch with our team for more information.
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