Google recently announced the release of GA4, a new version of Google Analytics that is available now for you to implement and use. GA4 has been causing quite the stir as it is now being pushed as the primary option for your web analytics, and is the default option when creating a new analytics property. However, despite Google’s great reputation for providing insightful and in-depth support articles, they truly dropped the ball with GA4, leaving many marketers struggling to figure out how to do things they have done for years.
Even though marketers have flagged some early concerns, it is essential to stay ahead of the game to be working at your best and providing the best results for your clients. Our team has been working hard to incorporate it into our every day, and better yet, to help you start integrating GA4 into yours.
What is GA4 & why should I use it?
GA4 is Google’s answer to the ever-growing issue that is data security. As the future of marketing data becomes more and more uncertain with big companies being forced to take data security seriously, Google has created GA4 to change the way we understand data. The GA4 platform will contain a mixture of real account data and Google’s predictive data based on industry insights, encouraging us to trust in their AI; something Google has been encouraging for the past few years.
While the shift in focus for Google Analytics might seem foreign, the truth is that GA4 is not entirely brand new, but is actually a slightly more polished and rebranded version of the App + Web Property. This property was still rather new so you may not be too familiar with it, but it does have some clear benefits when compared to a regular UA property.
Regardless of your familiarity, it is important for you to start putting the time into getting used to the platform and the new way to do things you’ve been doing for years, as you’ll risk being left behind.
How is GA4 different from the legacy GA?
GA4 differs in a few ways from the legacy GA, many of which change the way we are used to doing things.
Firstly, the most obvious change is the layout and visuals. The platform has become much cleaner and simpler, offering more bite-sized information that focuses on answering common queries quickly.
The sections within GA4 are structured based on the customer life-cycle, helping marketers hone in on certain stages to understand & enhance performance. Within these categories, you’ll notice two distinct sub-sections, one that offers the easily accessible, bite-sized information mentioned earlier, and the other that provides you with the ability to dig a little deeper for more rich insights like you are used to.
Majority of the features you have built into your analysis habits are still present, they may just be under a different name. However, just like legacy GA, when in doubt pop it in the GA search bar and it’ll point you in the right direction.
The most dramatic change that has caused a fair bit of confusion and frustration amongst the marketing community is tracking. In GA4 we say goodbye to our regular category, action, label and value-based tracking, and welcome event-based tracking.
Truthfully, event-based tracking is easier in many ways, but shifting from the known to the unknown paired with the lack of google support, makes the teething period quite painful for those running blind. If you’re having trouble setting up your usual basic tracking, check out our blog that runs you through the process here.
The other major change to keep an eye out for is the Analysis Hub, housed under the Analysis section. In this juicy section you will find some reports you are already familiar with such as the path analysis, but you will also find some other options to assist in sourcing deeper insights. You can explore the template gallery for already created reports or create your own to scratch the specific itch you are looking for. This reporting functionality was previously only available in the paid Google Analytics 360, but luckily GA4 brings it to the masses.
Things to do before you start
So now you have been given the rundown, there are a few things we suggest you factor in before you make the leap.
Firstly, it has been noted that GA4 does not migrate your previous analytics data from your legacy analytics. For this reason we suggest that when creating a GA4 property, you ensure you keep your UA property as well, or you ensure you create a UA property alongside the GA4 creation. If you need some help when doing this, check out our short blog running you through the why and how here.
We also suggest that you create a naming convention for your tracking names, as the new setup is more reliant on event names; if your naming is chaotic, your transition to GA4 is surely to be equally as chaotic. Don’t forget that you can’t use spaces to separate information in GA4 either, instead you are able to use underscores, so start practicing.
Finally, familiarise yourself with the recommended event names, these can be found here, with more listed in articles in the right sidebar. These event names are recognised by Google and will therefore allow you to do more in-depth reporting. Custom events that you create will not be recognised unless registered in BigQuery, a paid platform that feeds into GA4. Recommended event names are best practice, but are limiting, so do your best to pick one as priority but custom events will suffice until there are further updates.
Now you’re ready to get started. Learning something new when the more comfortable, familiar version still exists can be tricky, but it’ll be worth it in the long run for you and your clients. We think the potential of GA4 is massive, and we’re excited to see new updates as they are rolled out.