Google Analytics 4 is the latest significant iteration of the product and will eventually replace Google’s current version of Universal Analytics. No need to make a wholesale change yet. GA4 is currently available to Universal Analytics users and Google recommends setting up a GA4 property to run in parallel with your current setup. However, it appears that new websites will be required to jump straight to GA4.
So what’s different?
- AI-Powered Machine Learning – Google brings predictive power to GA. For example, predicting churn rate for different audiences, and therefore lifetime value estimates, so that you can focus your marketing dollars on better long-term audiences. GA4 will also enhance event tracking to send stronger signals back to Google Ads for higher-value audience building.
- Deeper Google Ads Integration – Feedback loops between site behavior and Google Ads audiences will escalate. YouTube advertising and engagements will now be part of the GA reporting and machine learning engines.
- New Reporting Interface – GA4 reports are now focused around the user lifecycle including Engagement, Retention and Monetization reports.
- Codeless Event Tracking – Manual setup of events like video views and scrolling through Google Tag Manager may be a thing of the past. GA4 will largely automate this process and capture data in real time, eliminating virtually all the latency in reporting.
- Cookie-less Analytics – Cookies are in the process of being phased out and audiences continue to increase their cross-device usage. Google intends to use machine learning to fill in the gaps of these mixed data sets.
- Consent Mode – New features are available to help site owners stay compliant with data regulators such as GDRP and CCPA. While seeming to be very much a work in progress, Consent Mode initially will offer site visitors separate opt-outs for ads and analytics.
It’s a lot to wrap your mind around as in many ways Google Analytics 4 will be a totally different way to think about and use your web analytics. No doubt many of the features touted at launch are in little more than a beta stage and will continue to evolve over time. A smart next step is to reach out to your web analytics team and setup a parallel GA4 property so you can start getting used to the new features, while keeping your familiar Universal Analytics reports close at hand.