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New Google Analytics 4 (GA4): the future of web analytics

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Google Analytics 4

On the air since July 2019, Google Analytics App + Web properties have finally moved out of the beta version and gained a new name: Google Analytics 4. The name has changed to reflect the fact that this type of property can be used by all companies and not just those that have an app and a website.

I have already written about some characteristics of this type of property (still in beta) but in this article I will bring a more comprehensive view and the benefits of the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

What is Google Analytics 4?

For 15 years, Google Analytics has undergone improvements but I would say that none as significant as those introduced with GA4. GA data modeling has hitherto always focused on the visitor's session, leaving much to be desired in more predictive analysis, cross-device tracking and data control.

Until the emergence of Google Analytics 4, there were two types of properties: Universal Analytics (for sites) and Google Analytics for Firebase (for applications). The intersection of the information collected in these two properties was never possible since their data modeling was different.

GA4 is designed for all Analytics users: those who only have one website, those who only have one app and those who have both and want to combine all the data in one place.

Benefits of Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 is the next generation of analytics tools. It was designed to allow scalability of the business and to be able to measure through devices and platforms.

Google Analytics 4
With GA4 it is possible to track the user across devices and platforms.

Making use of machine learning, aims to provide forecasts and help improve companies' marketing efforts. For example, this technology can be used to predict results such as churn (turnover rate) and potential revenue for a given segment.

In addition, it is in line with privacy criteria that no analytics tool has demonstrated so far. In view of the end of the use of cookies planned for 2022, the scarcity of data will be increasing. The use of machine learning in Analytics it arrives to fill any data gaps left by the absence of cookies.

Check out some benefits of using GA4 properties:

  • It allows you to measure, unify and deduplicate the interactions that users have with your company across different devices and platforms. This provides a more complete and relevant understanding of the visitor's journey;
  • Offers more durable monitoring, meeting users' expectations for privacy, providing long-term results;
  • Facilitates the discovery of insights through learning from the Google machine.

Getting started with Google Analytics 4

Regardless of the size and degree of digital maturity your company is in, it is important to adopt an analytics tool that can monitor the growth of your business.

By creating a GA4 property you will:

  • Start building historical data that will make future analysis and reporting more meaningful, understanding trends and insights over a longer period of time;
  • Allow you to take advantage of all the new features in terms of web analytics that will contribute to new insights from your data.

Advanced features

Google Analytics 4 properties have powerful features. They include:

  • Analyze: greater freedom to interpret the collected data. You can use a variety of techniques like funnel analysis, visitor flow, retention, and more.
  • Export to BigQuery: previously this feature was exclusive to GA360 subscribers but is now available to everyone. You will be able to export your analytics data to BigQuery, either for storage or future use by integrating with other data sources.

How does Google Analytics 4 collect and process data?

As I mentioned in another article on App + Web properties (current GA4), data modeling of this type of property is quite different from what we are used to seeing with Google Universal Analytics.

Rather than using a session-based model, which groups user interactions within a given period of time, Google Analytics 4 uses an event-based model, which processes each user interaction as a stand-alone event.

Modelagem de dados do Google Analytics Universal
GA Universal: session-based model.
Modelagem de dados do Google Analytics 4
GA4: event-based model.

Benefits of the event-based model

Event-based data collection allows GA to be more flexible, scalable and able to perform more personalized and faster calculations.

If your business makes use of a website and an application, it is important to track a variety of interactions to understand people's behavior with your company. You could measure, for example:

  • clicks and pageviews on the sites;
  • installation and opening of your application;
  • engagement and conversion on any of the platforms.

The event-based model constantly measures interactions between devices and platforms and provides an enhanced view of the data received.

Heads up: the measurement protocol has also been updated and improved. If your business has points of sale, machines or kiosks connected you will need to update these integrations. Oh, and if this is new, yes, you can connect other devices to GA other than websites or apps.

Events in Google Analytics 4

Unlike previous versions of Google Analytics, GA4 tracks basic interactions with your site in an automated way, without the need for additional configurations. For example, a users first visit to the site will record an event like first_visit.

During setup you can also (and should) enable the enhanced metering feature, which allows you to automatically collect more events without having to touch a single line of code on the site. The improved metering allows you to track pageviews, scrolls, external links, search, downloads and video views.

Medição aprimorada de eventos do Google Analytics 4
Improved measurement of Google Analytics events 4.

Read too: "How to install Google Analytics using Google Tag Manager

More reliable data

With Google Analytics 4 it is possible to identify users through different devices and platforms. With GA Universal this identification was restricted to the identification of the device.

Identificação do usuário no GA Universal
Universal GA: user identification restricted to the device.
Identificação do usuário no GA4
GA4: it is possible to identify the user through different devices and platforms.

User identification takes place in three ways (sequentially):

  1. User ID (if logged in to your site);
  2. Google signals (data from users who may be logged into Google and have agreed to share their information);
  3. Device ID.

With GA4 you will be able to answer the following questions:

  • How many unique users do you have, regardless of the platform they use?
  • How many conversions have occurred on your app or website in the past week?
  • Which platform is contributing the most to conversions?

You will also better understand the effectiveness of your campaigns across platforms. It is possible to know, for example, how many users started on your app and then visited your online store to make a purchase.

The next generation of reporting and analytics

Relatório e análises nas propriedades Google Analytics 4

Reports and analytics are for Google Analytics just as bread is for butter. Reports are designed to provide actionable insights on the website and app, at the right time.

Reporting on a Google Analytics 4 property is similar to GA Universal reports at first glance. There are some differences:

Universal Analytics reporting and analytics

Historically, GA has organized its data into predefined reports, designed to reveal valuable insights. As more resources were added more reports were created, until we arrived at the gigantic volume of reports that we have today.

If you have used GA (traditional) you may have realized that it is possible to customize these reports, but only to a certain extent. If the information you are looking for is not available you will have difficulties.

Simplified reporting on GA4 properties

In Google Analytics 4 properties, reporting is simplified. Instead of a dozen predefined reports, you have a simplified report with the most relevant information at your disposal.

If you want more details on any topic just identify the option on the card for more details.

Relatórios no Google Analytics 4
Simplified reporting in GA4.

Exploring data with Google Analytics 4

Let’s say you’re looking for insights that reports don’t cover, the analytics feature allows you to analyze your data in a more customizable way. In the analysis you can drag and drop dimensions and metrics that you are interested in. In addition, you can filter, segment, classify and refactor your data according to your interest.

Once you discover a set of data / analysis that is relevant to your business, you can export it as a segment or audience for Google Analytics. These segments can be used by different parts of the organization, in addition to being able to be exported to other tools (eg Google Ads).

You can also use the search box at the top of your GA account to find what you need. You can ask for insights, find reports and even go to other properties and accounts more quickly.

Read too: "Digital Marketing Metrics: Which Are Important?

Missing resources

Despite all the features of Google Analytics 4, you may miss some features (at least for now):

  • E-commerce reports (enhanced);
  • Internal research reports;
  • Filters (eg IP filtering);
  • Connector with Google Data Studio (although it can be done via BigQuery).

Google is working to provide additional features for GA4 and we will undoubtedly have more soon. Keep an eye on release notes.

When to set up a GA4 property?

While it is not possible to transfer data from GA Universal to GA4, as data modeling is quite different, é bastante conveniente começar a usar o GA4 já.

Usando o Google Analytics 4 você começará a construir um banco de dados que poderá servir para insights futuros. Não obstante, você estará se familiarizando com a ferramenta.

Se você usa atualmente uma propriedade Universal Analytics, configure uma propriedade GA4 paralelamente para aproveitar as novas funcionalidades à medida que elas forem surgindo.

Se você ainda não usa o GA, a propriedade Google Analytics 4 passou a ser a propriedade padrão do GA. Recomendo que comece a tirar proveito dela o quanto antes.

Concluding

As novas propriedades Google Analytics 4 (antigas App + Web) dão um passo enorme em direção ao futuro das ferramentas de analytics.

Making use of machine learning do Google, essas propriedades são capazes de prover insights e análises preditivas que prometem levar o seu negócio ao próximo nível.

O GA4 oferece muito mais integração com outras ferramentas e conhecimento maior das audiências e ciclo de vida do cliente. Tudo isso preservando a privacidade do usuário em nível nunca antes visto em uma ferramenta de analytics.

Ainda, a configuração e acompanhamento de eventos é praticamente toda automatizada, não havendo necessidade de manutenção de códigos instalados no site.

Os relatórios, mais simplificados, são objetivos mas também permitem sua exploração em detalhes caso necessário.

O hub de análises do GA4 é excelente e, se bem utilizado, trará insights impossíveis de se obter com o Universal Analytics e outras ferramentas de web analytics.

Eu já utilizo a propriedade GA4 para a maioria dos meus clientes. E você?

Se precisar de ajuda para usar esta poderosa ferramenta, conheça meus serviços de consultoria ou entre em contato!

Ah, neste link você encontra um treinamento gratuito do Google sobre o GA4. É rápido e dá uma boa visão sobre o tema.

Crédito das imagens: Google

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