GA4 FAQs: The features, key differences to Universal Analytics and what these means for marketers.
The following questions are those that have often been presented to us by clients seeking greater clarity on the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) platform. Primarily, they focus on the features of GA4 and how they compare to the previous Google Analytics platform, and the impact of these differences on present and future marketing strategies and business outcomes
Q: What are the key benefits of GA4 for digital marketing teams, and how does GA4 differ from Universal Analytics?
One of the key benefits of GA4 is its privacy-focus enhanced machine learning capabilities, alongside the simplified User Interface and combined web and app tracking.
Privacy is the #1 concern for CMOs over the next 12 months. Fortunately, GA4 has been rearchitected from the ground up to be privacy-centric by design.
Following the recent massive data breach at Optus that compromised the personal data of up to 10 million customers, Australia proposed a complete overhaul of consumer privacy rules, to help facilitate data sharing between telecommunication firms and banks.
Similarly, Medibank suffered a recent cyber-attack and had 200 gigabytes of health insurance data stolen. Most health data stored by corporate Australia is covered by the Privacy Act which has civil penalties limited to $2.2 million for failing to secure data, a fine that is rarely enforced.
The Albanese government also responded with significant fines for serious privacy breaches, believing that existing safeguards maintained by corporations are not good enough.
The three key ways through which businesses can control privacy and how their data is used in Google Analytics are
|Adjusting controls in Data settings||Controlling ads personalisation||By removing data from analytics|
|Whether you accept the data processing terms or not||For your entire analytics property||By requesting data to be deleted|
|Anonymised IP addresses for your web property||By geography||By deleting data for individual users|
|Disabling some or all data protection||By event type or user-property||By deleting a property|
|Setting the data retention period||For an individual event or session|
|Selecting what data you share with your support team and Google|
|Reviewing your Google Signal settings|
Machine Learning (ML) capabilities
- ML is used to predict and forecast future outcomes, such as purchase and churn probability and revenue prediction based on historical data. Therefore, marketers need to switch to GA4 now to ensure a sufficient look-back period when Universal Analytics (free) stops collecting data on June 30, 2023.
- Data-Driven Attribution gives credit for conversions based on how people engage with your ads. By using data from your account, it measures the impact of your ads, keywords and campaigns and how each contributes to your business goals. By assessing the value of each ad intersection across the conversion path, patterns are identified, leading to efficient and accurate marketing predictions.
- GA4 offers a free connection to BigQuery, the fully managed enterprise data warehouse that helps businesses process and leverage massive and complex data with built-in features like ML, geospatial analysis and business intelligence.
User Interface (UI)
GA4 has a simplified User Interface (UI), however, teams will need time to upskill as there are many differences to the previous version of analytics. The good news is that a lot of the information that teams use is still there just is viewed in a different way.
Combined Web + App Tracking
It’s been several years since mobile app usage overtook the web and mobile web as the primary vertical. Being able to tie app and web together out of the box is a big improvement over the previous approach which required specialists to separately deploy app tracking using Google’s Firebase software development kit.
Q: Following the switch, will the way brands approach digital marketing strategies need to change? If so, how?
No, digital marketing strategies won’t need to change. However, some tactical initiatives will need to be taken, e.g., dual tagging.
Dual tagging is the process by which you can keep your Universal Analytics implementation in place while you build out your Google Analytics 4 implementation. This way you can build a historical record in GA4 while continuing to depend on Universal Analytics until you’re ready to switch over completely.
Therefore, it’s imperative to transition as quickly as possible. Data can’t be ‘migrated over’ from Universal Analytics. They need to run concurrently. By implementing GA4 now, there are opportunities to leverage the new features mentioned above and enhance existing marketing strategies.
Q: Will the switch deliver an improved Return on Investment (ROI) for brands? If so, how?
Yes. The cross-device measurement capability lets you see the entire user journey across mobile and web. This offers improved audience building, which should improve performance and ROI.
If brands don’t already have a Data-Driven Attribution Model, they can make use of the data-driven attribution in GA4 to increase ROI.
The advanced ML predictive metrics, such as purchase probability, churn probability and revenue prediction will predict future trends, enabling you to target your audience accordingly. For example, you can predict users who are likely to buy in the next seven days or users that are likely to spend over $500 in one go, which will improve your ROI.
Q: What are the most essential elements for businesses to focus on to ensure they are prepared for and will experience a smooth transition when making the switch to GA4?
The most essential element to consider when making the switch is how complex the process is, therefore, implementation can take between 4 – 12 weeks from kickoff to deployment into the production environment.
GA4 is more than an upgrade, it’s a new way of capturing and measuring customer behaviours on your website and app. A client will need a solid measurement framework and data layer (the code that captures user interactions and attributes on site) to transition from UA to GA4 to ensure that the new platform captures everything the business needs.
Q: Will flexible data tracking methodologies help brands to overcome increasing restrictions around data tracking and usage?
Yes, the data controls offer greater granular control. For example, the option to:
- Accept data processing terms related to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
- Anonymise IP addresses (enabled by default).
- Disable data collection using granular location and device data on a per-region basis – e.g., disable data collection for a particular city.
- Set data retention periods.
- Control over Google Signals - signals is the feature that aggregates Google user level data to provide enhanced insights, such as cross-device reports.
Q: How can brands leverage GA4 to better understand their customers and their journeys?
The two most important ways to do this in GA4 are through Data-Driven Attribution, and Google signals, as outlined above.
Q: What are the other main ways in which the greater quantity of data collected will help brands to make more informed decisions and maximise digital marketing efforts?
Working with clients on migrations has brought the value of digital analytics to the forefront. Clients are taking their measurement frameworks more seriously and analysing how what they track on-site (or app) directly impacts the business.
Q: Are there any other insights of relevance?
Web analytics is one of the richest sources of First Party data clients have access to, but only 8% of businesses in Australia are regarded as leaders in digital analytics. This statistic has been exacerbated by Covid and a lack of international talent coming into the market, but it’s mainly because of a lack of both in-house skills and clear analytics strategies.
This year, we are committed to closing the gap in this space by providing analytics training seminars, like the Advanced Analytics Insights Training course held in October. We are running an additional course on 7th March, for teams to upskill and learn how to leverage the features and tools of GA4. Regular analytics audits are another way we help clients to build solid analytics strategies.
What marketers need to know
On 1 July 2023, Universal Analytics will stop collecting new data, and the paid Universal Analytics 360 will stop on 1 July 2024 will stop on 1 July, 2024. Data in UA will be available to extract in the platform for at least 6 months after this, but no new data will be collected.
You also can't import your old UA data into GA4 – Data collection in GA4 must be started from scratch. Start the implementation now, primarily to start capturing data in GA4 so that there is Year over Year (YOY) data across the fiscal year for business reporting.
The key is to maintain UA in place for a few key reasons:
- Implement dual tagging to minimise business disruption.
- Implementation takes a considerable time.
- There is a learning curve. It‘s a new platform with a new measurement model and new features to be leveraged. Therefore, it’s the perfect time to train or refresh your team on how to maximise this tool.
Marketer's Guide to GA4
We created the Marketers Guide to GA4 to help marketers get buy-in from leadership and sign off on the most suitable business case, now. Especially, to collect GA4 data to leverage the new predictive and ML capabilities.
We’ve developed an implementation checklist for in-house teams to manage the deployment of GA4.
GA4 Training Prospectus
We have just wrapped up our October Advanced Analytics Insights Training course for both public and in-house teams, with our second one launching in 7 March 2023.
GA4 Advanced Analytics Course
Join our GA4 Advanced Analytics live training course and learn how to set up properties, when to use them, and how to use the reports
GA4 status of our clients
All our enterprise and top-tier clients have either already implemented or are in the process of implementing now. On average, 70-80% of businesses that are serious about analytics are already running GA4 with Universal Analytics. Google has been proactive in updating the industry so most large players will have implemented GA4 by the July 23 milestone, to stay ahead of the competition.
How does GA4 fit with the broader AdTech?
The MarTech space is a maelstrom, and businesses can become complacent about the terminology that has become vernacular language, like 'analytics’. However, it’s important to remember that website and app analytics are critical if you want to understand how your current and potential customers interact with your websites, apps, or devices.
Businesses without a clear MarTech strategy are vulnerable to what’s trending, new or popular, rather than strengthening and maintaining critical infrastructure. Think of it as akin to building a house without construction plans.
All businesses use first-party data in some way, but for more than 88% of businesses, first-party data is a critical board-level business priority.
How is GA4 different to Universal Analytics?
Google Analytics is the most popular website analytics platform in the world. The latest version, GA4, is more of a revolution than an evolution. Globally, we are at a point of change regarding privacy and regulation and GA4 has been built from the ground up with that in mind.
There are major changes:
- The Interface options are different.
- GA4 is built around the user journey from acquisition to engagement, purchase and retention.
- The default reporting options - GA4 offers a lot more flexibility to customise and build bespoke reports.
- GA4 integrates website and app tracking.
- ‘Data privacy by design.’ GA4 has additional features to make it easier for marketers to maximise data tracking while still complying with data privacy laws. Things like managing consent and anonymising IP addresses.
- The measurement model – this is a key feature for people using analytics daily. GA4 uses a more flexible event model based on specific actions that are tracked (add to cart), while UA uses a session and hit-based model.
The implication of this is that:
In Universal Analytics, multiple separate sessions would be recorded if a user revisited a website after more than 30 minutes. In GA4, the number of reported sessions might drop. Universal Analytics had different types of ‘events’ for example, page views or eCommerce. In GA4, this categorisation doesn’t exist.
It’s better to rethink your data collection in terms of the GA4 model rather than porting your existing event structure to Google Analytics 4.
- Access to new capabilities, especially Machine Learning, Data-Driven Attribution and BigQuery.
- Google is also improving the GA360 tiers that offer a variety of competitive entry points for businesses to leverage the capability of GA360.
Resolution Digital – Fully integrated, end-to-end capability
Our mission is to deliver remarkable results for clients.
We’ve been implementing and using Google Analytics (GA) for clients since 2007 and were one of the first GA Premium (now GA360) reseller partners in Australia in 2013.
We offer a full end-to-end analytics partnership from strategy through implementation to enablement, including:
• Analytics strategy using Google’s maturity frameworks, as well as our own broader Digital Marketing Approach
• In-house development teams to implement across web, app, or IoT devices
• Training – fully refreshed for GA4 – on an individual and an in-house team basis
• As a Google Cloud Partner, we can integrate CRM, offline sales data, or bespoke machine learning models
We were thrilled to have our Annalect in-house analytics, data, technology, and measurement division recognised for our Google partnership and the most awarded Google Analytics agency in 2021 winning:
Most connected: The partner with the highest number of clients enabled on Google Technology. We onboarded over 160 clients onto Google’s cleanroom solution Ads Data Hub.
Maturity Megastar: The best customer use case for Google’s Consulting framework. We move clients up from Nascent, to Emerging, to Connected up to Multi-Moment – all geared around client ROI.
Our GA4 teams are here to help with any questions you may have about GA4, so contact us today.