We’ve already talked about GA4 and what an upgrade will mean. This month, Dr. Dave Chaffey provided his insight on what you need to know before making the switch.
Google Analytics has proven to be a great tool for data-driven marketers. With a major update only rolled out every few years, new versions are eagerly awaited to understand possible new techniques.
The ClickThrough Marketing team and I reviewed the new version, which most are referring to as GA4. Here’s my take on an article by Alan Rowe, Director of Web Strategy at ClickThrough, that shows how to hit your conversion rate with GA4.
My view is as “Need to know” shown for marketers in companies that have not yet installed GA4.
GA4 should be installed together with your existing analysis version
Google recommends “We recommend that you create a new Google Analytics 4 property (previously called the App + Web property) in addition to your existing properties”.
I’ll start with this warning because as we’ll see, GA4 is very different from previous versions of GA and completely different reports are available. Therefore, for ongoing performance tracking, e.g. B. Month-to-month or year-to-year comparisons, make sure you still have access to the previous version.
This is what Google recommends in its manual “First steps”but this was not an indication in the general Google announcements.
I mention this because a company I talked to about GA4 that had completed a GA4 compliant site migration installed the new version, but not alongside the old version. This was based on advice from their IT department who may not have seen how different the new reports are …
GA4 is based on an earlier tracking and reporting solution originally developed for mobile apps
The new version is based on the so-called app and web properties, which companies with a mobile app may be familiar with, but those in companies with only one website are far less likely to be.
The origin of GA4 is important as once you know it makes sense how the data collection works and what strengths and weaknesses it has.
GA4 uses an event-based data collection model that changes the goal setting
This is to be expected because mobile apps do not provide page views like web servers do. Earlier versions of Google Analytics were session-based and relied on cookies to identify sessions and repeat visits.
Pageviews were the main method used for reporting in the previous Google Analytics reports. They gave reports like landing pages, top pages and showed conversions when pages were loaded (e.g. a “Thank you” -Page).
In GA4, all site interactions are now recorded as events. The main events are page view, scrolling, external link click, website search, video playback, file downloads e.g. B. PDF documents.
It’s easy to select these events as conversion events. Usually, however, these events are too general. Therefore, you need to specify a custom event as a conversion event in order to replicate your goals in Google Analytics.
It was possible to measure some of these events like video games or PDF downloads, but these are now “out-of-the-box”which will be helpful for companies that have not evaluated them before.
Events were available as an option in the previous GA to customize events such as button clicks and could be linked to goals. All targets are now effectively event targets.
Google has provided an upgrade option to convert existing destinations whenever possible, as explained in this video.
There is a wizard that tries to transfer targets from previous properties. So make sure your conversion goals are broadcast correctly or reconfigured using the new events to match the previous version.
GA4 is not a boil-free solution
You will know that existing methods of tracking digital advertisements via third-party browser cookies are on the way out for privacy reasons and Apple and Google are announcing that they no longer support third-party cookies. Since third-party cookies are essential to deliver personalized digital advertising and prove their worth through tracking, a great deal of effort has been put into finding an alternative.
On January 25, 2021, Google announced Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) as a privacy-focused solution that enables relevant ads “by clustering large groups of people with similar interests” should be switched. Accounts are anonymized, grouped into interests, and user information is processed on the device and not transmitted over the Internet. This is part of the Privacy Sandbox feature that is part of Chrome. Google is aiming for wider adoption through the W3C’s Improving Web Advertising business group, which will be exploring other solutions.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that people associate GA4 with our cookless future and can assume that GA4 itself is cook-free. However, FloC has not yet been implemented in GA and is aimed at cross-location tracking using third-party cookies.
GA4 currently uses first party cookies to identify users across sessions. As in previous versions, however, it is possible to turn off first-party cookies in response to a privacy request from the user by disabling Google Analytics.
Many of the well-known reports from Google Analytics are not yet saved in GA 4
In training marketers to use Google Analytics, I used to recommend focusing on the ABC reports:
Acquisition – Reports on the performance of channels, including by conversion goals, as well as specific data from organic and paid search
behavior – Reports on landing pages, most popular pages and events
conversion – Reports on e-commerce transactions (if relevant) or standard targets and including attribution reports using multi-channel funnels.
If you compare this to the new menus shown below, you can see that many of the reports on the top pages have been completely changed. You can easily see how channels or different landing pages contribute to goals. Since this is one of my main use cases for GA, I plan to keep using the previous version for my analysis.
In my personal opinion, the new version would have been much more valuable if reports had been kept in a format similar to the previous version and new reports had been added. I wonder if the new version has been tested in companies by marketers who have experience with Google Analytics and are trying to improve their media spending and website. If that had been the case, these problems would certainly have been exposed.
GA4 introduces new reports based on machine learning
Google has announced automated advice as the main benefit of the new version. It is true that our time is limited and it is useful to be informed of changes that we may miss in the many reports. However, these must be useful warnings. Knowing that there are more scrolling events in a certain part of the country is unfeasible. Google has been adding smart alerts for several years. However, as a specialist, I have found no substitute for running month-to-month or year-to-year comparisons to assess changes in media, content, or travel effectiveness. This remains the case.
One example is a predictive calculation of the likelihood of churn, which is shown in Google’s starting post. However, I wouldn’t say this is actionable insight into how conversion is happening by channel.
GA4 introduces a new event-based data collection method that requires you to set up your conversion goals differently. We also saw a lot of the “Go to” – Reports for performance reviews are missing. A lot of the quotes from this Reddit thread, someone ENJOY the new GA4 ???! are in tune with my thoughts.
With this in mind, it is important that when you test the new version, you install it along with the previous version so that you can compare it to your previous reporting.
It is likely that you are thinking: “What could be useful for me in the new Google Analytics instead of taking a step back?””? Good question the answer is if i’m honest “not much”unless you are specifically interested in user engagement and monetization.
This is especially useful for software as a service company, especially for companies running on mobile apps.
This is a niche case, however, and for the majority of larger companies with a central team of digital specialists, it is best not to give their end users access. Instead, in order to support the future, when Google drops support for the previous version, it helps that Google familiarize itself with the reports, set appropriate goals and events to validate them against their current reports, and gain new insights from the features for win machine learning.
Contact us to speak to a specialist about Google Analytics 4 and learn how adoption will change your analytics process.