Maria Thorpe, Head of Data Science at MSQ’s digital specialists 26, dives deep into Universal Analytics replacement GA4, understanding some of the key new features and benefits and identifying what businesses need to do to be ready for a new data era...
For non-360 customers there’s less than 100 days to the sunset of Universal Analytics on July 1st, 2023. But this shouldn’t be a cause for alarm, in fact at 26 and MSQ we’re really excited about it; because whilst UA’s replacement GA4 isn’t perfect, it is a huge improvement and should hopefully help us all better understand site users for years to come.
What are some of the benefits of GA4?
Better tracking of user behaviour
GA4 allows you to track user behaviour across multiple devices and platforms, providing a more holistic view of the customer journey. As journeys get more complex this becomes ever more essential in making data-driven decisions to optimize your complete user journey.
More advanced insights
GA4 incorporates machine learning technology straight out of the box to provide deeper insights into user behaviour, such as predicting which users are likely to convert or churn. This can help you identify high-value users and tailor your marketing efforts to target them more effectively, such as creating personalised content or offers for specific user segments.
Improved data privacy
GA4 is designed with privacy in mind and uses a privacy-centric data model that doesn’t rely on personally identifiable information (PII) or third-party cookies. This can help build trust with your customers and ensure compliance with privacy regulations.
Greater flexibility and customisation
GA4 allows you to create custom reports and dashboards, enabling you to tailor your analytics to your business’ specific needs and goals.
Better integration with other Google products
GA4 integrates seamlessly with a wider range of Google products than UA does, making it easier to track and analyse your digital marketing efforts. Best of all integration with Google BigQuery is available for non-360 users, as is integration with Display and Video 360.
Overall, GA4 provides a more comprehensive and privacy-focused approach to web analytics, with more advanced features and insights to help you improve your digital marketing strategy.
What are some of the new features in GA4?
GA4 is still under development, with new features announced each month, but there are lots of new capabilities and it does seem Google are listening and responding to the feedback so far (such as adding customisable channel groupings). So, here are just some of the things I’m excited about:
Data driven attribution as standard
The choice on how to measure value across the funnel is now in your hands. GA4 includes data-driven attribution (as well as rules-based models and Ads preferred attribution) which uses machine learning algorithms to evaluate both converting and non-converting paths and estimate the effect of each touch point on the conversion path.
Once you’ve collected enough data GA4 automatically starts predicting the future behaviour of your users. You may quickly start to see purchase and churn probabilities and predicted revenue. These metrics can then be used to create audiences for use in advertising, remarketing or re-engagement, helping you maximise the ROI of your campaigns.
It’s great having lots of traffic but what most sites want are engaged users who are developing a long-lasting relationship with the brand. That’s now much easier to understand through the engaged user metrics. When used in audiences this now gives you a powerful way of reaching some of your potentially most valuable users.
Even more e-commerce events
Both add_to_wishlist and view_cart are new additions to the e-commerce journey which will help in both understanding how users engage with sites and in tailoring promotions around wish lists.
What do you need to do to be ready for GA4?
Hopefully you’ve already added GA4 tracking to your site to run alongside your UA tracking. If you haven’t then there’s no need to panic as Google has advice and walkthroughs of the process. Plus, if you need support, you can always reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help.
There are still a few things you might want to do to make the most of GA4:
Customise your reports and create explorations
Everyone has the reports in UA that they regularly use, but when you open GA4 for the first time you may find that your favourite report isn’t visible. That because GA4 needs a bit of customisation to make it specific to your needs. Google offers lots of examples of how to customise your reporting to get the most out of the wealth of information available.
Set up a Google Cloud Platform Account
With the new integration between GA4 and BigQuery it’s the perfect opportunity to set up a Google Cloud Platform Account so that you can store your analytics data in a warehouse you control. This also opens up more opportunities to generate valuable insight into your customers and conversion journey through the machine learning and AI capabilities of Google Cloud. As Google Cloud partners we’re here to help you with any aspect of this.
Warehouse your Universal Analytics data
Universal Analytics data is being deleted 6 months after the sunset date. For any sites who have less than a year of robust GA4 data, this creates a real cliff edge in reporting on marketing impact and user behaviour. However, the good news is that the data is exportable. In most cases this will mean moving your UA data to a data warehouse, as it’s too large for Excel files. That might sound intimidating, but don’t worry – we’ll have another blog out soon which will tell you the best way to undertake this task.
Review your KPI measurements
GA4 is in some ways confusingly similar to UA. You can still measure sessions, users and bounce rate, but the numbers might not look the same because they are measured differently. It’s definitely worth revisiting your KPIs and considering whether there are new and improved metrics that might better capture the behaviour you’re trying to measure and whether you need to adjust any KPI goals in order to account for changes in measurement.
So there you have it – you’re now all set to make the most of GA4! We’re looking forward to helping clients reap the benefits of leaning into its privacy and user centric approach to analytics to maximise marketing performance.