What I Think of the New Google Analytics 4

by | Nov 25, 2020

What I Think of the New Google Analytics 4
9 min read

A few weeks ago, Google released a new version of Google Analytics which they called Google Analytics 4 or GA4 for short. It’s basically the solution for web + app. It’s been years (and trust me when I say years) of waiting for this to happen. In this post, I’ll walk you through what I think of the new Google Analytics 4 as Head of Analytics at In Marketing We Trust.

What is Google Analytics 4?

Essentially, GA4 makes analytics implementation for Apps and Web much easier. So the idea is you have one single analytics property where you have both your web and app data. So we’ll be able to see within one property, what the user has done on the website and the app. For example, if a user came from a campaign on the website and then registers, downloads and purchases on the app, we’ll have all of those events tracked and assigned to that particular user. We can now easily see the whole lifecycle of each user.

Google Analytics 4Google Analytics 4 vs Firebase

Essentially, Google Analytics 4 is very similar to Firebase, so if you’re used to working with Firebase you’ll have no issue understanding Google Analytics 4. But, instead of just seeing what’s going on within your app, you’ll also be able to see what’s happening with your website.

Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics

Top 10 Changes

  1. Cross-platform data unification
  2. Enhanced multi-touch attribution from measuring events that matter
  3. Simplified data collection and implementation
  4. New AI-powered insights and predictions
  5. Deeper integration with Google Ads
  6. Customer lifecycle-framed reporting
  7. Basic codeless event tracking
  8. More granular user data controls
  9. Preparation for analytics in a cookie-less future
  10. Access to a BigQuery streaming export (pay for queries and data storage)

For me, the most important change here is the fact that the tool unifies web and app analytics. Just the fact that we can now have both in one analytics property (and quite easily compared to before) is a good reason to pick Google Analytics 4 over other platforms.

Google Analytics 4 Because it’s 4 Times Faster

At the moment I am working on an analytics implementation and setup similar to one I did a couple of years ago. I spent 4 times as long working on that implementation than I will for the new implementation in Google Analytics 4. And to be frank, it also wasn’t as good in the end, compared to what we can have now. Stay tuned for a case study.

They made it so simple to integrate both web and app. We’ve been speaking to clients about lifetime value and then with predictive analytics you can know the potential churn. Let’s say a user hasn’t used your app in a long time. You can retarget them and push them to reuse the app. 

There’s also better integration with Google Ads and then you also have access to BigQuery, which means you have access to all your raw data, meaning you can do more advanced data work, including merging datasets. It seems normal to have access to your raw data, but trust me, it’s not! It used to only be a feature for Google Analytics 360 users, paying $150,000 per year. So this is a huge plus. BigQuery isn’t completely free but it opens so many doors for what you can do with your data.

Google Analytics 4 ReportingIf you haven’t dug in yet, this is what the new Google Analytics 4 looks like. If you’ve been in Firebase you’ll see it’s quite similar. One thing I really like about GA4 compared to the basic Google Analytics and Universal Analytics is that it enables you to better explore the data using great visualisations, and ultimately better understand your users.

What Kind of Setup Do You Need?

Google Analytics 4 SetupIn terms of what kind of setup you’ll need, this will be determined by whether you need what we call a basic measurement or advanced measurement. If you’re simply looking to update your reporting for web and app and you already have Firebase installed, then you’ll already be tracking a lot of events, like screen views and in-app purchases. If you’re looking to go further and use custom and recommended events, you’ll need an advanced measurement setup.

Basic Measurement

  • Does not require modifying code (on web or app)
  • Automatically-collected events
  • Enhanced Measurement events
    • Enable via GA property UI
    • Sent automatically with associated parameters

Advanced Measurement

  • Requires modifying code (on web and app)
  • Recommended events (AKA suggested events)
    • Events sent follow a predefined schema
    • Provides forward compatibility with upcoming features
  • Custom events
    • Events and relevant parameters that you define

In Google Analytics 4 you have recommended events, which are for common measurement scenarios. Google has defined events for generic web and apps, for retail and eCommerce, jobs, education, local deals, real estate, travel and games. What we suggest to clients is to map out what we want to track with potentially already existing recommended events within Google Analytics 4. In the case where they don’t already exist, we can still create our own custom events.

To go further and track something like a register, login or purchase, for example, we can use recommended events and then anything beyond will be custom events. However, the more you can use recommended events, the easier your implementation will be as well as essentially your upkeep. 

So just to summarise, the whole idea here is that Google Analytics 4 is the solution for web and app measurement. For our clients, the way we implement tracking on your website and on your app will be very similar because we’ll have to list all the events needed independently of where it happens. Then, through data collection for each data stream (via Firebase for Apps and via Google Tag Manager or native implementation for websites), we’ll send the information to Google Analytics 4 but you’ll have the one place where you’ll be reporting on all your performance and see how users are using your website and app in just one place.

What I Think of the New Google Analytics 4

In terms of timing, we’ve never been in a better position to analyse our client’s web and app data. In mid-October Google Analytics 4 was officially released but I’ve been waiting for many years for a solution like this. 

Currently, I don’t recommend Google Analytics 4 to everyone unless they have a mobile app or web app, accessible via login.

Ready to get started? Contact us for a free consultation for a Google Analytics 4 implementation today.

Benoit Weber

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