In October 2020 a beta release of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) was launched, followed by a series of updates in 2021, marking the biggest change to Analytics in almost 10 years.

Previously (in Universal Analytics) everything was based on sessions, grouping user interactions within a given timeframe but GA4 is an events-based model, with each interaction being processed as a standalone event.   

So what does this mean?

Google says that the main goal of GA4 is to give marketers a “more complete understanding of the customer journey across devices” so the focus is on the end-to-end journey (from first visit to final conversion) rather than individual metrics on devices, pages, segments etc.

Overall, this provides a better understanding of website traffic in terms of how users behave on your site. Here’s an overview of some of the key features and benefits:

  • Tracking for websites, mobile and app data was always measured separately but with GA4 it’s combined so you have a view of your total engagement across all platforms and devices 
  • Due to ever-increasing privacy laws and cookie blocking, it’s difficult to rely on cookies to track users so GA4 aims to “adapt to a future with or without cookies or identifiers” - by using a flexible approach to measurement which will include modelling to fill in the gaps where the data may be incomplete
  • Machine learning identifies trends in data, such as an increase in demand for a certain product or emerging customer needs
  • There’s a move away from negative data on bounce rates and the number of users that leave a page without an interaction and more of a focus on engagement ie. scroll, search, downloads, video views etc.
  • More advanced analysis and reporting is available generally including heat maps, path analysis (lets you know the most common paths that users take) and user explorer which allows you to take a closer look at specific user segments
  • Improved integration with Google Ads means that high value audiences can easily be identified and targeted with paid and organic campaigns

It is important to note that GA4 is not an evolution of Universal Analytics but is a completely different operating platform.  Because GA4 operates on a different data model, historical data from Universal Analytics won’t be carried over but it is possible to switch on GA4 now and run the two in parallel so that you can start getting acquainted with the new platform.  

To find out more check out our detailed guide which includes more information on the differences and what needs to be considered before implementing GA4 on your site.

If you’re interested in switching on GA4 now, contact your Account Manager. It’s a fairly straight-forward process which involves a few changes to your Google Analytics account. All you need to do is send us your Google Analytics 4 Measurement ID and we take care of the rest. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any queries too.

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