Hackernoon logoGetting to Know Google Analytics 4: Four Smart Features You Don’t Know About by@dmytro-spilka

Getting to Know Google Analytics 4: Four Smart Features You Don’t Know About

Dmytro Spilka Hacker Noon profile picture

@dmytro-spilkaDmytro Spilka

Dmytro is the founder of Solvid and Pridicto. Featured in Hackernoon, TechRadar and Entreprepreneur.

Late 2020 saw the release of Google Analytics 4, a platform that ramps up the search engine giant’s use of machine learning and predictive data. 

Google Analytics 4, or GA4 as it’s also known, has been billed as the future of analytics. The release has seen a significant overhaul of many features that website and business owners alike have become accustomed to within Analytics and the platform appears to have taken strides in better accommodating mobile traffic into its metrics. 

(Image: Forbes)

Data and analytics have become a key driver for change in many business practices across a range of industries - particularly when it comes to sales and marketing, where significant changes are taking place across the board. 

Arriving at a time where much of the world is still struggling to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, GA4 represents a greater opportunity for businesses to understand their customers in a market that’s becoming increasingly remote due to lockdown measures. 

But how is Google Analytics 4 different from its predecessor? And is it really worth shifting to for business owners this close to its initial release? Let’s take a deeper look into GA4 and explore some of its key features that you might not yet know about:

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 is a new form of Google Analytics property that was known as App + Web in the beta phase of its development. 

In late 2020, GA4 became the default property type in Google Analytics, meaning that if you were to create a new property today, it would be an Analytics 4 property. 

The Google Analytics 4 platform will be where Google’s developments will take place from here on in. The previous version of Google Analytics, now better known as Universal Analytics, will no longer be supported. This means that new features like predictive reports generated by machine learning and privacy-oriented features will only be released on GA4. 

What Are GA4’s Flagship Features?

Google Analytics 4 has arrived containing a selection of intuitive features that will undoubtedly leave marketers excited about what the future holds for actionable metrics. 

One of the most notable additions comes in the form of event-based tracking, which offers a consistent data structure across apps and web-based reports. In the past, we’ve become accustomed to page views, sessions, and users. But now, the onus is on us to learn the language of events and parameters. Although this could take some getting used to, it comes with a greater opportunity to customize rigid data structures that its predecessor never allowed. 

The combined App + Web view has been further optimized from the beta into the full release of Analytics 4. The feature will appeal to advertisers who are looking to report web and app performance in one place. Prior to this, users would have been required to pull their reports from different places - a time-consuming issue. 

Google Analytics 4 can apply advanced machine learning models to your data to calculate churn probability, conversion probability, and revenue prediction within its predictive reports feature. Users can also export these audiences to Google Ads and Google Marketing Platform to target users who are likely to be of higher value or to re-engage users who could be about to churn. 

(Image: Search Engine Land)

The platform has ramped up its privacy features, too. GA4’s optimized privacy offers users granular control over the data that you collect, and the ability to turn these metrics into targeted advertising campaigns that are compliant with your privacy policies. It’s likely that even more modelling capabilities will be introduced in the future to fill some of the gaps in data caused by GDPR and other browsing privacy measures. 

Google Analytics 4 also supports a free BigQuery export - a feature that was only previously available in Google Analytics 360. This feature enables free users to export unsampled data into BigQuery to allow more granular reporting and in-depth analysis. 

Now we’ve covered the key features that are drawing users into Google Analytics 4, let’s take a look at four functions of the platform that you may have missed when looking into GA4:

Preparing For a Future Without Cookies

Google Analytics 4 has been specifically developed to counter a future without cookies or identifiers. As third-party cookies begin to be phased out and privacy measures brought in by GDPR continue to make it more difficult for visitors to be tracked, Google anticipates that the sparsity of data will become a more regular occurrence in analytics. 

Google has worked closely with machine learning technology to fill the gaps when data available is incomplete, and one of the key reasons for this move is to develop a platform that can continue to thrive even without cookies guiding the way. Google’s machine learning capabilities have been developed to help users gain a better level of understanding when it comes to the impact of multi-device and offline conversions. 

Google’s approach to navigating a world without cookies has been signified by the search engine giants moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach with Analytics 4. This has been further reinforced by the introduction of Analysis Hub. The tool was previously only a premium feature for Google Analytics 360 users and it allows you to explore data, analyze individual users, and create customized conversion funnels. It also allows users to compare segments and conduct path analysis. 

Rather than opting to rely on a standard set of reports, Google Analytics 4 is more akin to the custom reports of Universal Analytics where it’s possible to build your reports based on the data that’s most important to your business. 

Metrics to Capture High-Volume Interactions

One of Google’s leading new features that perhaps hasn’t got the coverage it deserves comes in the form of enhanced measurement, a new feature that’s designed to help marketers to track common user actions (also known as ‘events’) without having to go to the effort of updating website tags. The typical actions that can be measured include: 

  • Downloadable Files
  • Watching Videos
  • Page Scrolling
  • Searches On-Site
  • Outbound Clicks
  • Page Views

The benefit here is that it makes the tracking of common events a more straightforward task for business owners and marketers of all skillsets. In particular, this feature could be extremely useful for small-to-medium-sized businesses that have small digital teams that generally have to outsource their tag management. 

That said, it can be quite overwhelming to set up custom GA4 events, so instead, we tend to use Finteza for setting up events - they offer a pretty seamless integration where you are simply required to add a code to the element you’d like to regard as an ‘event’. 

Comprehensive Google Ads Integration

With full Google Ads integration, users of Analytics 4 can easily create and adapt their "Audiences" insights. This will help them to cover all their bases when compared to the limitations of Universal Analytics. 

Notably, GA4 has made it more straightforward to set up Audiences on the platform. This is down to Audiences being merged with the Segments section from Universal Analytics, paving the way for a wholly streamlined service with fewer clicks and less typing required in the process. 

Time-based conditions have also been set up in sequential audiences in order to aid the relevance of information that users can access. This can particularly be useful for marketers who are looking to review the success of recurring seasonal promotions and campaigns and get to the bottom of what works and what doesn’t. In addition to this, multiple audience templates can be set up to assess the success of campaigns for different forms of traffic

(Image: IIH Nordic)

Above, we can see an example of the various Audiences templates available on Google Analytics 4, offering a much easier in-depth analysis of on-site behavior for business owners and marketers. 

These developments in GA4 tap into the quality of sales funnel analysis that’s been developed in analytical platforms across the world of marketing and web development and apply it to primary data surrounding traffic. 

Measurements Based on Customer Life Cycles

Google Analytics 4 offers marketers a more comprehensive understanding of their customers’ full life cycle. Instead of using measurements that are fragmented by devices or platforms, GA4 provides a complete view of customer-centric measurements and interactions. 

By utilizing various identity spaces like marketer-provided user IDs and Google signals from users who opted into ad personalization, Google can illuminate how customers interact with businesses and websites throughout their journey towards conversions. For instance, it’s possible to see if a visitor initially discovered your website on an organic search before later clicking on a Facebook ad to make a conversion. 

Analytics 4 also features updated engagement and retention reports that can help users to understand whether customers stay on-site following a conversion - and what actions they took to help them decide to stay. 

Google Analytics 4 has provided users with a holistic view of audience data in a world where GDPR has made the tracking of traffic more difficult. Although some features from Universal Analytics are still missing, GA4 is experiencing updates on a regular basis and it’s reasonable to expect more to be added as time goes on. 

If you haven’t already, it may be worth putting plans in place to migrate your processes to Analytics 4. While it’s still a work in progress, it’s also setting the standard for the future of intelligent analytics.

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