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First Party Data: Marketing in a Cookieless World

Everything You Need to Know About GA4

Evan Burns
July 10, 2023

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If you haven't shifted from the old Google Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), prepare for a data blackout this year. As of July 1, 2023, UA (Universal Analytics) has ceased data processing. If you are part of the marketers playing catch-up, heres everything you need to know about GA4.

GA4 is an entirely new beast, revolutionizing data collection and offering a comprehensive way to measure. It's a reset button, bringing a fresh learning curve to tackle.

The switch might have seemed daunting, but there's a silver lining: the ease of automatic event tracking provides a more thorough capture of user behavior, and features that have migrated from GA360 to GA4 are set to delight analysts.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Google Analytics 4:

What Is GA4?

You probably already know that Google Analytics is a tool that monitors and evaluates traffic and overall performance on your website. It works by embedding a script into your website that tracks visitor interactions, which are then reported in the Google Analytics dashboard. What you may not know is how GA4 is different from Universal Analytics. GA4 brings a multitude of new advancements, including AI-powered reporting. But the biggest difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 lies in the realm of event tracking.

In GA3, events are mostly seen as clicks. But in the upgraded GA4, an event can encapsulate a page view, a social interaction, or a variety of other user behaviors. Moreover, GA4 lets you set up multiple parameters for each event, offering more granular information such as the location of the event's inception.

The concept of 'sessions' also transforms between GA3 and GA4. For GA3, a session is understood as a set of user activities within a certain time window. However, GA4 interprets sessions as a collection of events enacted by a user. This could include diverse actions like completing a purchase or clicking a button.


What You Can Expect From GA4

Google Analytics has always been a great tool for digging into the 5 essential marketing metrics to track. But to really understand how GA4 is going to change things, let’s take a look at these five features:

Refined Data Collection

Google Analytics 4 introduces a reimagined approach to data gathering. In contrast to Universal Analytics, which adopts a session-based data model and accrues data as hits within these sessions (including page hits and event hits), GA4 employs a user-centric model and amasses data as events.

Every event is distinguished by a unique name, supplemented with additional parameters that provide further context to the event. These events can range from page views and transactions to social interactions, and beyond. This should enable you to acquire highly granular metrics while still respecting privacy norms.

AI-Driven Forecasts and Insights

GA4 can significantly improve the strategic planning of marketing campaigns for businesses. This is made possible through its AI-generated insights that can spot emerging trends like increased demand for a specific product. The embedded machine learning technology can also forecast possible outcomes, such as churn rates and probable conversions and sales. Leveraging these insights, marketers can strategically promote appropriate products and focus on pertinent audiences.

Holistic Understanding of the Customer Journey

One of the standout features of Google Analytics 4 is its focus on the customer lifecycle for reporting purposes. The structure of reports now revolves around the trajectory of the customer's journey.

For instance, you can identify which channels are steering customers to your website (Acquisition), comprehend the activities they undertake (Engagement), and ascertain if they stay on your webpage post-conversion (Retention). This approach offers a more inclusive perspective of user interaction with your website, spanning various devices and channels.

Enhanced User Data Management

In the evolving digital landscape, Google is transitioning away from third-party cookies, causing analytics tools to shift their focus to first-party data. GA4 addresses this change by providing nuanced data controls. These are tailored to assist advertisers in complying with stringent data regulations.

For example, GA4 introduces a new consent mode, aiding website owners in securing user consent for analytics and advertisements. It simplifies the process of responding to user data removal requests, underscoring its commitment to respecting user privacy.

Mitigating Spam Interference

Google Analytics users are probably well aware of the nuisance of spam referrals. Previously, spammers could flood Google Analytics accounts with fabricated data using the Measurement Protocol. These may have presented themselves as sudden traffic surges or a large influx of visits from questionable sources. This sort of spammy traffic can disrupt your marketing efforts, making precise data collection a difficult task.

With the advent of GA4, only hits associated with a confidential key can transmit data to a GA4 property. This key can be retrieved from your GA4 data stream settings and is not publicly accessible, thereby adding an extra layer of protection against spam interference.


What Does That Mean For Marketers?

You're probably thinking, that's nice, but what does that all mean?

It means that if you leverage the information you get from GA4 right, you will gain more relevant audiences for your marketing campaigns.

The beefed-up measurements that come with the new analytics properties can help businesses connect with the right crowd for their ad campaigns. It's cool to remember that when you pull data from a mix of platforms, you get a 360-view of the customer journey. This usually means a big thumbs-up for results, especially when we talk about a company's return on investment.

On another note, GA4 can give you a heads-up on the potential sales you could be making from a specific customer group, thanks to predictive metrics. So you can fine-tune your game plan for that group and get ready to celebrate better results.

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