What is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4, also known as GA4, is the latest version of the popular web analytics tool offered by Google. It provides businesses and website owners with insights about their online audience, such as their behaviour, demographics, and interests. Google is always updating various online tools, and it can get overwhelming to understand why they make certain changes, so let’s take a look at what GA4 is and how to read it on a basic level.
What is Google Analytics 4?
GA4 is the newest version of Google’s web analytics tool that uses machine learning to provide insights into user behaviour across all devices and platforms. It is designed to help businesses and website owners gain a better understanding of their users, by tracking user engagement and behaviour on their website. It also looks at events such as button clicks, form submissions, and video plays.
One of the key features of GA4 is the ability to track users across multiple devices and platforms, including mobile apps, web browsers, and other digital platforms. This means that businesses can gain a more comprehensive view of their audience, and better understand their user journey across different channels.
How do you read Google Analytics 4?
Reading Google Analytics 4 can seem daunting at first, but once you understand the basics, it becomes much easier. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Once you’ve logged in, you’ll need to set up your website or app by creating a property. This is where you’ll enter information about your website or app, such as the URL and the name of the site.
After that you’ll need to install the tracking code. To start tracking user behaviour on your website or app, you’ll need to install the GA4 tracking code. This involves adding a piece of code to your website or app.
Next is learning to navigate the GA4 interface. Once you’ve set up your website or app and installed the tracking code, you’ll be able to navigate the GA4 interface. The interface is divided into three main sections: the left-hand navigation menu, the main content area, and the top menu bar.
The left-hand navigation menu contains all the different reports and settings available in GA4, including audience reports, acquisition reports, behaviour reports, and more. The main content area displays the data and insights for the report you’ve selected, while the top menu bar provides quick access to important features and settings.
Now you can explore the different reports. To get started with GA4, it’s a good idea to explore the different reports available. Some of the most useful reports for beginners include:
Audience overview: This report provides an overview of your website’s audience, including demographics, interests, and behaviours.
Acquisition overview: This report shows where your website’s traffic is coming from, including search engines, social media, and other websites.
Behaviour overview: This report shows how users are interacting with your website, including how long they stay on your site, which pages they visit, and more.
What makes GA4 different?
GA4 is a significant departure from previous versions of Google Analytics, such as Universal Analytics (UA), in several key ways. Here are some of the most significant differences:
Focus on user behaviour instead of sessions
One of the most significant differences between GA4 and UA is the way that they track user behaviour. In UA, user behaviour is tracked in sessions, which are a set of interactions that a user has with your website or app during a specific period. In GA4, user behaviour is tracked across multiple sessions, providing a more comprehensive view of a user’s behaviour over time.
Enhanced cross-device tracking
GA4 also offers enhanced cross-device tracking capabilities, allowing you to see how users interact with your website or app across multiple devices and platforms. This is particularly important as more and more users switch between different devices throughout the day, making it more challenging to track their behaviour accurately.
Improved event tracking
GA4 offers improved event tracking capabilities, making it easier to track specific user actions, such as button clicks, form submissions, and video plays. This is important for businesses and website owners looking to gain a more granular understanding of how users are interacting with their website or app.
Focus on machine learning
Another significant difference between GA4 and UA is the increased focus on machine learning. GA4 uses machine learning to analyse user behaviour and provide insights into how users are engaging with your website or app. This allows businesses to identify patterns and trends that they might not have otherwise noticed, enabling them to make data-driven decisions to improve their website or app.
Finally, GA4 includes several privacy improvements that help businesses and website owners comply with privacy regulations such as GDPR and CCPA. For example, GA4 offers more precise control over data collection, allowing businesses to collect only the data they need to gain insights into their users’ behaviour. Additionally, GA4 uses a new data model that is designed to protect user privacy while still providing valuable insights.
Following on from this, due to policy updates in data tracking there are a few things that GA4 will not be able to track that the versions that pre-dated versions could.
- Demographic and Interest data
In GA4, demographic and interest data is not available by default. In Universal Analytics (UA), businesses could access demographic and interest data by enabling this feature in the Google Analytics settings. However, in GA4, this feature is no longer available, making it harder for businesses to understand the demographics and interests of their website visitors.
- Third-party cookies
GA4 relies on first-party cookies for tracking, which can make it harder to track users who are using browsers that block third-party cookies. This can result in incomplete data and make it harder to get a complete picture of user behaviour.
- User-defined custom metrics
GA4 does not currently support user-defined custom metrics, which were available in UA. This means that businesses may not be able to track and analyse certain metrics that are unique to their website or business.
- Referral traffic
Referral traffic is also harder to track in GA4 compared to UA. In UA, businesses could see which websites were driving traffic to their website through referral traffic reports. However, in GA4, referral traffic is no longer tracked in the same way, making it harder to see where traffic is coming from and how users are finding a website.
- Advanced segmentation
Advanced segmentation is another feature that is harder to use in GA4 compared to UA. In UA, businesses could create advanced segments to analyse specific groups of users and gain insights into their behaviour. However, in GA4, creating advanced segments is more challenging, and the available options are more limited.
So while GA4 offers several new features and improvements over its previous versions, there are also some challenges that businesses may face when trying to track certain metrics and behaviours. Demographic and interest data is not available by default, tracking users who block third-party cookies can be more challenging, and certain user-defined custom metrics may not be trackable. Additionally, referral traffic and advanced segmentation are also harder to track in GA4 compared to UA. However, despite these challenges, GA4 remains a powerful tool for businesses to gain insights into their users’ behaviour and make data-driven decisions.
GA4 offers several key improvements over previous versions. With its enhanced cross-device tracking, improved event tracking capabilities, and increased focus on machine learning, GA4 provides businesses and website owners with valuable insights into their users’ behaviour. Additionally, its privacy improvements make it easier for businesses to comply with privacy regulations while still gaining the insights they need to make data-driven decisions.
Google Analytics 4 is a powerful tool for businesses and website owners looking to gain a better understanding of their online audience. While it can seem overwhelming at first, taking the time to learn the basics can provide valuable insights that can help you improve your website or app and better engage with your users. By following these tips and exploring the different reports available in GA4, you can start to gain a deeper understanding of your online audience and make data-driven decisions to improve your website or app.