Everything you need to know about Google Analytics 4

Hurrah, Google Analytics 4 is out! But what does that mean for marketers exactly?

Google happens to be billing this launch as the future of analytics… which sounds like a pretty big deal! Here’s everything you need to know:

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a brand new type of Google Analytics property, which used to be called App + Web while in beta. Personally speaking, I prefer this new name, as you definitely don’t need an app to make use of all of its great features (though it is excellent if you do have an app too!).

GA4 is now the default property type in Google Analytics, meaning that if you were to create a new property today, it would be a GA4 property. 

The GA4 platform is where Google will be investing its development energy from here on. The previous version of GA (Universal Analytics) is no longer being supported. That means that new features such as predictive reports built on machine learning and privacy-first features will only be released to GA4.

Which new Google Analytics 4 features should I be excited about?

There are lots of new exciting features with GA4, and we can definitley expect more to follow. 

To start, I should mention the event-based tracking, which provides a consistent data structure across both app and web reporting. In the past, we have been used to pageviews, sessions, and users. Now, we’re going to have to learn the language of events and parameters. This may take some getting used to, but it provides the opportunity for extra customization that the previous rigid data structure didn’t allow. 

Combined App + Web view – this one is really exciting for advertisers who want to report on web and app performance in one place. Previously, you would have to pull these reports from different places, adding much more time and complexity into reports.

Predictive reports – GA4 can apply machine learning models to your data to calculate churn probability, conversion probability, and revenue prediction. You can then export these audiences to Google Ads and Google Marketing Platform to target users who are more likely to be higher value, or re-engage users who may be about to churn.

Privacy – Google Analytics 4 has more privacy controls right out of the box. This gives you granular control on which users you collect data on, and the ability to use that data in targeted advertising campaigns, ensuring that you’re compliant with your business’ privacy policies. We can also expect more modelling capability to be introduced in future to fill some of the gaps in data when we can no longer track users due to privacy measures.

Free BigQuery export (even in free version) – This feature was previously only available in Google Analytics 360. Now even free users can export unsampled data into BigQuery to allow for granular reporting and detailed, customized analysis.

What do I need to do to get started?

Crucially, you cannot upgrade an existing property to Google Analytics 4. It requires a new property to be set up, which will mean adding new tags to your website in addition to your existing Google Analytics tags. Thankfully, if you’re using Google Tag Manager this process has been made straightforward using GTM’s new enhanced measurement features.

For users already using Firebase in your apps, you can simply link this to Google Analytics 4 to also bring in app data.

You won’t be able to port your old data over to the new property, so acting now will give you a strong base of historical data when you do eventually make the switch to using GA4 for your reports. The setup doesn’t have to be too comprehensive from day 1, and you can always build on this over time.

Once you’ve set up the new property, start testing out the new reports. These will take some getting used to, and we expect Google to continually add new features over the next few months. 

Once you’re comfortable with it, then GA4 should become your primary source of analytics data. We can anticipate that there will come a time when Google eventually deprecates the existing universal analytics, and you want to be prepared for using the new property long before this happens. Not only that, but the new features listed above should add plenty of benefits!!

Closing thoughts

We strongly encourage you to set up this new property now! This is a very exciting development not just for keen analysts, but all digital marketing trailblazers out there.