Google has announced that Universal Analytics will no longer be processing data from 1st July, 2023. For a lot of people, especially marketers, this is a slightly frustrating situation as Universal Analytics has been the most used tool, and will have been storing imperative data for a number of years.

However, there are many key features with Google Analytics 4 that will help users analyse and optimise their marketing efforts in a more time and cost-efficient way. GA4 moves towards more data-driven attribution, looking at each individual touchpoint of the customer journey. It distributes credit throughout the whole conversion path, providing a more holistic view. Being able to see what is having a more significant impact on generating conversions, we can use this data to tailor marketing efforts for highly targeted leads.

Integration with other Google platforms will also help provide much clearer insights. Conversions will be easily tracked in Google Ads, helping with reporting on conversions. GA4 is also integrated with Search Console, so you can see exactly which queries and clicks lead to a conversion, and makes it easier to translate clicks to user behaviour.

What do I need to do?

The first thing to do is to get Google Analytics 4 set up. If this is set up by June 2022, then you will be able to retain your year-on-year data before Universal Analytics stops recording data. Both Analytics properties will run alongside each other before you make the changeover. 

When Google Analytics 4 was first released in October 2020, it didn’t seem that there were many promising features with the upgrade in relation to how Universal Analytics has been collecting data. However, as time has passed, we are starting to see some really promising features that will help change the way we collect data and use this in our marketing strategies. 

Below are some of the key features.

Predictive Analytics

One of the key features that comes with GA4 is the ability to use predictive metrics in relation to your conversion data. As Google is moving towards machine learning, this has enabled us to use artificial intelligence, and predict which users and their actions will lead to a sale.

The current metrics supported by GA4 are purchase probability, churn probability and revenue predictions which will change the way marketers can forecast the performance of the campaigns in the future!

Data Control

GA4 has introduced a more granular way of controlling data within the analytics to enable users to comply with certain data regulations a lot easier. For example, GDPR and CCPA. The platform will allow you to manage how you collect and use data, with the features of data deletion, consent mode and ad personalisation. 

This will make it easier to comply with data deletion requests, enable you to create an opt-in consent for your GA data and your ads, and choose when to use the data and when this use will be limited.

Create and Track up to 300 Events

One of the key features in GA4 is how they have simplified setting up event tracking and reduced the limits of how many conversions you can track. It allows you to mark any event on-site as a conversion, and you can do this quite easily in the interface, without being restricted to 20 conversion actions per reporting view.

GA4 will already have the basic events set up for you in the conversion tracking and they have the feature to modify these events or create new events using pre-configured tracked parameters. This can easily be done within the interface, reducing the need of contacting your web developer every time you need a new conversion event to be set up.

Create Custom Reports

One of the key features around the reporting in GA4, is the ability to create customised reports that are a lot more user-focused, and comprehensive, than Universal Analytics. Custom Reports have been replaced by ‘Exploration Reports’. For us marketers, there are some exciting new ways we can use this feature. The key ones being Cohort Exploration Reports and Funnel Exploration Reports.

The Cohort Exploration Report provides insight into the behaviour and performance of users that fit into certain groups based on similar attributes, which will be hugely beneficial when it comes to audiences and targeting.

The Funnel Exploration Reports will allow us to visualise the step by step journey a customer takes to complete an action on-site, and will be important when it comes to looking into abandoned cart and inefficient customer journeys. 

Other key reporting features in GA4 include Segment Overlap Reports, User Explorer Reports, Path Exploration Reports and User Lifetime Reports.

Anomaly Detection

GA4 has the ability to detect an anomaly in data. This is detected when Google assumes something will happen on the website, but it doesn’t and will help eliminate the need to manually figure out if something has a significant impact on your data or not. 

GA4 not only detects an anomaly through historical data and a single metric, it also provides anomaly detection simultaneously over several metrics and dimension values, at a point in time.

Customer Behaviour

Last but not least, the main focus on GA4 is around the customer journey and the level of data will allow marketers to see a clearer picture of areas that require our focus. Reporting on GA4 has been updated to align with the customer journey, which will provide key insights into behaviours and engagement on your website. 

It provides a holistic view of the customer journey and allows privacy-safe tracking and modelling in line with data governance policies being enforced, and as we move further into the loss of cookies. The future of advertising is changing rapidly, and GA4 is the future of analytics tracking.

Although on the surface, GA4 seems to be missing a lot of properties that we rely on heavily in Universal Analytics, and how we report, there is a drive towards a customer journey focus and this is integral for the future of marketing and audience targeting.

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