Google Analytics 4 is here, but does that mean you should switch? Not so fast. While these updates will change the future of analytics, the Universal version of Google Analytics is not going away anytime soon. The new version introduces many features formerly only available to Google Analytics 360 users and has combined Google Analytics for Firebase all into one new property type: Google analytics 4 (GA4). It was briefly known as the App + Web property in Universal Analytics. However, Google changed the name to emphasize this brand new property type is for all businesses, not just those with an app or a website. According to Google, GA4 features new benefits to scale your business by providing intelligent business insights to help reach your business goals. To start, let’s look at a brief comparison between Universal and GA4 properties.
New Account Structure
Tracking web and mobile app behavior is a cumbersome task. Integrating analytics app tracking is complicated. Mobile app analytics typically lives on its own, resulting in complex integrations and fragmented reporting. Google tried to simplify this with Google Analytics for Firebase, but users bounce back and forth between Firebase projects and Google Analytics to access specific reports. GA4 solves this by using data streams, which unifies both web and app reporting all under one property. Traffic data is in one reporting interface, allowing for easy cross-platform analysis. Simply follow the step-by-step instructions to add a data stream and accompanying SDK when applicable, and you’re all set!
Users switch devices when interacting with your business resulting in new sessions. This behavior skews out of the box reporting as a single user is duplicated. GA4 deduplicates a single user across devices using events instead of sessions.
If you have used Google Analytics, you are familiar with events. Events are a part of any measurement strategy. Unlike Universal, which uses page views, GA4 uses events. Every single action tracked across data streams will be treated as an event.
Moving to an event-based data model will make GA4 more intelligent. It also enables easier reporting with actionable insights.
Correctly implementing analytics can be challenging for a first time user. Thanks to GA4 this process became a lot easier. You can find a setup assistant in admin settings at the top of the property column. This assistant walks you through each step of the process to get the most out of GA4: data collection, property settings, account linking, audience definitions, conversion tracking, and user management. If you are a Universal user implementing GA4 or new to analytics, the new setup assistant makes the process easier for everyone.
Enhanced Measurement and Automatically Collected Events
The new enhanced measurement feature allows you to track events on your website with just one click and without any code requirements. All you need to do is turn it on, and the enhanced measurement feature will track page views, scrolls, outbound clicks, site searches, video engagement metrics, and file downloads. You will also have the capability to customize which events you are collecting altogether, but GA4 provides more robust out of the box functionality.
In addition, GA4 will automatically collect a list of events for both IOS and Android apps unless stated otherwise. Similarly, there is no additional code or work needed. You just need to make sure that you are using the SDK or gtag.js. There are also many different events you can add yourself that might be useful for your type of business. Here are some that Google recommends for all properties.
Should You Switch To Google Analytics 4?
Everything outlined can be quite exciting. There’s no need to completely switch over to GA4 just yet. Since its release in October 2020, feature rollout has been slow, and many others are under development. Like other new tools, it will take time for the platform to reach its true potential and be ready as your stand-alone tool for website and app analytics. A fundamental switch from page views to events will also take time to adapt to. With this said, we recommend setting up a GA4 property in parallel to an existing Universal property if you have one. Compare the functionality of both and see the differences. While Universal Analytics is not going away anytime soon, Google Analytics 4 is the future of analytics so the sooner you can start learning the functionality and features, the better.
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