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Written by Sam Yadegar on Dec 18 , 2020

Get the lowdown on the new and improved Google Analytics.

Here you’ll learn:

  • What Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is all about
  • New GA4 features
  • What this update means for digital marketers
  • How to start exploring the new analytics platform today (and why you should)

Are you one of the many digital marketers who feels like they practically live in Google Analytics? Then you may have jumped for joy when you heard the search engine giant was rolling out a new and improved version, dubbed Google Analytics 4 (GA4). 

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 is the newly launched version of the popular web analytics tool. Announced in October 2020, GA4 promises smarter insights, cross-platform analytics, a new approach to data control, and much more. Machine learning lies at the core of the new tool, providing an impressively wide functionality.

Below, we take a closer look at what this new and improved GA version is all about and how it can streamline your marketing efforts.

google analytics 4

With Google Analytics 4, marketers gain access to more sophisticated data controls to manage and retain information. (Image via Google)

1. Cross-platform analytics

Marketers are already working hard to track user behavior across social media accounts, domains, sessions, and devices. Google Analytics 4 allows you to do it across platforms.

Today, the consumer’s journey lies throughout websites and apps. GA4 gives you an opportunity to learn how the customer moves across multiple platforms while interacting with your brand.

For example, let’s say a customer browses your website today and then signs up for your services from your app tomorrow. With regular Google Analytics, you could only analyze each stage of this journey separately. Now, you can bring them together to get a clearer picture of how your customers behave.

If this process sounds familiar, that’s because GA4 is a new name for Google’s App+Web property. The former property was nicely polished and adjusted to become Google’s new and improved tool.

With high-quality cross-platform analytics, you can understand which customers’ actions precede the conversion, which can help you better adjust your strategies moving forward.

2. Advanced data control

With Google Analytics 4, marketers gain access to more sophisticated data controls to manage and retain information. You can choose when to implement customer data into ad optimization or when to limit the data use to pure measurements.

The new data control approach allows marketers to start adapting to the cookie-less scenario brought about by data privacy prioritization. In the future, it will include conversion modeling to help measure the customer’s journey without cookies (trackers that were used to monitor and analyze site visitor behavior) and identifiers.

With advanced data control, you can rely on GA4 to measure marketing results even when third-party cookies are completely phased out.

3. More insights from machine learning

As Google continues to integrate more machine learning (ML) into its analytics tools, marketers are able to see additional insights into future customer behavior. The program analyzes trends in the collected data to provide a comprehensive predictive analysis. ML predicts consumer behavior based on things like past purchasing actions, browsing habits, ad-clicking activity, and more.

In the future, when Google adds new predictive metrics, you’ll get an opportunity to predict revenue for certain customer segments as well. These insights can help you analyze different customer groups to understand why some spend more than others, so you can better optimize campaigns. 

explore the new google analytics

It’s a good idea to go ahead and start exploring GA4 when you get a chance. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Benefits for Google Ads

Google Analytics 4 also provides deeper integration with Google Ads. By using data collected and analyzed by GA4, you can create more specific custom audiences and segments to enhance your paid search marketing efforts.

As a bonus, with GA4 you can track conversions that came from YouTube. (According to Google, this is something advertisers have been requesting for a long time.)

Need more help with Google Ads? You’ve come to the right place.

5. New Google Analytics 4 features

Here are a few additional features offered by GA4:

  • Free BigQuery Integration – before GA4 came around, only Google Analytics 360 for enterprises had this option available. The BigQuery integration helps you send raw data directly to the cloud data warehouse to generate ML-driven insights.
  • Funnel feature – previously available only on GA360, the funnel feature is now accessible to all GA4 users. You can use it to build segmentable custom funnels.
  • Event tracking – with GA4, you don’t need to add custom code or use Google Tag Manager for core events. The new tool includes automatic event tracking with an Enhanced Management feature for scroll, outbound clicks, site search, video engagement, and file downloads.

GA4 has a brand new layout that could take some getting used to for loyal Universal Analytics users. The navigation structure is drastically different, and some sections have been renamed.

This is why it’s a good idea to go ahead and start exploring GA4 when you get a chance. By the time the entire functionality becomes available, you’ll know your way around the tool. To try out GA4, Google suggests setting up your website or app on a GA4 property. 

The future of Google Analytics 4

Of course, the current GA4 version is only the beginning. But the changes Google has made to its analytics program will already prove particularly useful for companies that have apps, employ a SaaS business model, and practice advanced remarketing, among others.

In the future, Google promises to add new functionality to the tool to make it highly efficient for other companies (like the new predictive metrics described above).

Current Google Analytics phase-out

For now, you can use the regular Google Analytics program alongside GA4 until you’re ready to switch to the new version permanently. 

It also doesn’t look like switching to GA4 will become mandatory any time soon. However, any new accounts will default to the new version, so it’s worth noting that the collected data and reports won’t look the same on both platforms since their concepts are quite different.

The takeaway

Google Analytics 4 is a highly efficient analytics tool with impressive potential for future improvements. With Google being one of the leading ad platforms in the world, GA4 is an excellent opportunity to take full advantage of the existing features and improvements available.

As a bonus, by implementing GA4 into your marketing efforts today, you can gain an advantage over competitors who may not yet be on the bandwagon. 

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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