As a business owner, tracking the effectiveness of your online efforts is essential to make informed decisions about how to grow your business. Google Analytics is a powerful tool that allows you to measure your success online by tracking user behavior on your website. With the recent introduction of Google Analytics 4, or GA4, you may be wondering what changes are in store and how to make the most of this new feature.
Whether you made the switch already or you’re still receiving emails about it, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is here to stay and you should be excited. KWSM has been helping business owners understand their web analytics for more than 13 years, and as a Digital Account Manager, I have seen firsthand how important it is to know how your website is performing. In this GA4 getting started guide we will provide a comprehensive overview of GA4, explore its key features, and provide tips for transitioning to this latest version of Google Analytics.
What is GA4?
Google Analytics 4, or GA4 for short, is the next version of Google Analytics. It was released in October 2020 and provides an updated and more comprehensive view of user behavior on your website.
Rewind to October 2020, when GA4 was introduced as a significant upgrade over Universal Analytics (UA), the foundation of Google Analytics since 2005. Before we explore what GA4 can do for your business, let’s take a moment to understand why there was an update in the first place.
Is GA4 Replacing Google Universal Analytics?
If you are already using Universal Analytics, you can continue using it through June 30, 2023, but it is recommended that you transition to GA4 to take advantage of its advanced tracking capabilities as soon as possible.
UA is an excellent tool for marketers because it is free and it offers a robust set of data points, such as user engagement, acquisition channel, and conversion information. We quickly adopted UA at KWSM because the numbers tell a story about website visitor behaviors: where did they come from and what did they do once they were on the website? We add it to every website we build or manage. However, Universal Analytics has its share of limitations:
- The extra steps required to track user interactions with the website
- The inability to track users across devices
- A rise in privacy concerns with CCPA, GDPR, and other data protection regulations
Luckily, GA4 has a more user-focused approach for our marketing metrics.
Why is KWSM Embracing the Shift to GA4?
We wrote this GA4 getting started guide because GA4 has an entirely different data model as compared to UA. Instead of being based on web server hits like in Universal Analytics, the GA4 measurement model is based exclusively on events. In UA, the data from a website visitor will be available the next day; however, in GA4, marketers can make use of that data once that person leaves your site.
Since the data is collected and processed differently, some once-familiar metrics are now gone, such as sessions and pageviews. But that’s a good thing. Instead, GA4 is a data stream that allows me to track user behavior, across devices, and with privacy mandates intact.
GA4 Makes it Easier to Track User Behavior
In GA4, everything is an “event,” whether it’s page scrolling or watching a video. This offers a more simplified and unified data collection approach, making it easier to assess user behavior. An event allows you to measure a specific interaction on your website or app. For example, you can use an event to measure when someone loads a page, clicks a link, or completes a purchase, or to measure system behavior, such as when an app crashes or an impression is served. GA4 means we don’t need to take the extra steps to track the marketing activities that matter to our clients.
GA4 Tracks Users Across Devices
Before GA4, tracking user journeys across the internet was a headache for marketers. GA4 unites web analytics into a single measurement model. It means a 360° view of user interaction across devices, providing targeted marketing opportunities. The User-ID feature in GA4 lets you connect user behavior across different sessions and on various devices and platforms. This translates to more accurate user counts and a more holistic story about a user’s relationship with your business.
GA4 is Privacy-Friendly Analytics
To remain compliant with the evolving privacy data landscape, like GDPR and CCPA, Google doesn’t allow users to collect personally identifiable information in GA4. There are several privacy features and consent mechanisms built into the platform, including default IP anonymization, shorter data storage duration, location of servers and restricted data transfer, consent mode, and users’ ability to delete their personal data.
Tips for Transitioning to GA4: A Getting Started Guide
Any client who is contracted for ongoing work with KWSM is already set up and ready for the transition to GA4; for those still using Universal Analytics, it’s time to embrace the shift. Here are some useful first steps we’ve taken at KWSM. But don’t put off the transition, UA is sunsetting on July 1, 2023!
1. Setting up a Google Analytics Account
The first step in using GA4 is setting up a Google Analytics account. You can either create a new account or upgrade your existing Universal Analytics account to GA4. If you are new to Google Analytics, you can simply sign up with your Google account, add your website or app details, and set up the tracking code on your site. Once you have done that, you can start collecting data on your website or app. There is a helpful Setup Assistant that can assist you with set-up beyond this point.
2. Creating an Analytics Property
After setting up your account, the next step is to create an analytics property. In GA4, an analytics property is a destination for data collection, where you can set up different tracking options for your website or app. To create an analytics property, log in to your Google Analytics account, go to the Admin section, click on the Create Property button, and fill in the details for your website or app.
3. Adding the GA4 Tag to Your Site
Once you have set up your Google Analytics account and created an analytics property, you can add the GA4 tag to your website or app. The GA4 tag is a small piece of code that enables Google Analytics to track user behavior and collect data. To add the tag to your site, you can use Google Tag Manager, a tool that lets you manage all your tags and tracking codes in one place. Alternatively, you can add the GA4 tag directly to your website or app code.
4. Analyzing Data and Creating Reports
One of the most important aspects of GA4 is data analysis and reporting. GA4 provides a range of report options that let you analyze user behavior and track conversions. You can create custom reports, view user flows, set up conversion tracking, and more. Use these reports to track your website or app performance, understand what your audience wants, and improve your user experience.
Looking for help transitioning over to GA4?
As the flagship analytics product from Google, GA4 is the future of marketing analytics. The transition from Universal Analytics to GA4 is going to be a challenge for many business owners. If you log into your GA4 dashboard and feel overwhelmed, you are not alone. Fill out the form below and let KWSM help you embrace the shift to GA4!