Upgrading to Google Analytics 4: What You Need to Know
Google Analytics is a service used to track and report website traffic, allowing for better understanding of how people are finding your website as well as how it is used. In 2020, Google announced plans to release Google Analytics 4 — or GA4 — the latest version of Google Analytics. This update improves things such as reporting methods, conversion tracking and privacy controls.
In accordance with this update, Google’s Universal Analytics (UA) will stop collecting data on July 1st, 2023.With the new version comes big changes to the data and metrics that are available to measure user behavior and trends.
The shift to GA4 brings many benefits, including enhancing our capabilities to track and understand user behavior and measure conversions.
What’s Changing in GA4?
Put simply for our clients and peers, GA4 will wipe the slate clean, which means it’s critical for us to back up your UA data.
Note: UA data can’t be imported because the structure is not the same, plus there are different data collection methods and metrics that GA4 will utilize.
UA is powered by first- and third-party cookies, and collects data based on web sessions and hits, which are either pageviews or events, that we generate using a narrow set of descriptors.
GA4 features a new data collection model that aims to alleviate issues that hinder the current platform, while making cross-device tracking easy and the data points are more precise:
- A need for tracking that doesn’t discriminate by the device.
- Privacy concerns about third-party cookies.
- Make it easier to follow a visitor’s journey without having to implement Google Tag Manager
- GA4 uses first-party cookies and signals to enable cross-device data collection and reporting.
Changes to Key Metrics
Of course, incorporating a new different data collection model will mean that many of our favorite metrics will be changed. One example of a metric that’s changing is bounce rate, which is a percentage of sessions that end without any interaction on a page.
GA4 is replacing bounce rate with engagement rate, which is a percentage of “engaged sessions” that last longer than 10 seconds, have a conversion event or have at least two page views or screen views.
Engagement rate should offer a more well-rounded scope of information than what bounce rate provides, as the latter focuses on action and not duration.
Taking it a step further, you — the user currently reading this blog post — would be considered a bounce in the old model, if you leave without taking further action. Yet, you are engaged with the content. Adding a time element offers a window into readers’ behaviors and is a better gauge of the page’s value.
Better cross-device and cross-platform tracking
GA4 can measure website and application data together in one Google Analytics property. It allows us to see the entirety of someone’s customer journey across different devices and platforms. We can then use that data to better analyze the needs and habits of a specific subset of your customers or build reliable customer models.
Analyze landing page traffic
Analyzing traffic coming to a landing page allows us to identify the most effective ways to attract new customers to your website. For instance, it could help us figure out which pieces of content your site should incorporate to drive conversions. With GA4, we can do it quickly and easily using the landing page report.
Better integration with Google Ads
GA4 includes several enhanced integrations to strengthen Google Ads. For starters, we can link any GA4 property to Google Ads, before then having the option to import GA4 audiences to Google Ads and target each one during paid campaigns. These audiences include predictive audiences, which are based on the new predictive insights metrics.
GA4 can now generate reports on the entirety of the customer life cycle, including retention, monetization, and engagement, which allows us to understand the needs of an average customer with ease.
Understand user behavior
The user flow report in GA4 helps us realize how users interact with the entire website. We can now quickly see which pages are the most popular, versus those that have the most exits. This data helps us identify areas of your website that may need improvement, such as slow loading times or poor navigation.
How We Can Help with your Website’s GA4 Upgrade
Pro Tip: Let us help you start the move sooner so that you can start collecting year-over-year data now.
We’ll also ensure that any third-party tools our clients are using have been updated before we jump in. Or, if you don’t expect them to be updated in time, look for new tools.
At Premier Communications Group, we’re well-versed in digital marketing tools, SEO and analytics. We know the value of tracking user behavior and how to translate that into tangible business growth opportunities. We’re ready to help you set up your GA4 account, define business objectives, and supercharge your marketing strategies using Google’s metrics and predictive insights.
Another tool we recommend is Microsoft Clarity. Microsoft Clarity captures how real people actually use your site. Key features include Instant Heatmaps, Session Recordings and Power Insights. Combining these two tools allows for powerful insight on user experience, seeing what is working and where users may be getting frustrated and leaving your site.