In the immortal words of Nina Simone (and the likes of Muse and Michael Buble who have covered it since) “it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day”… Well, at least for Google Analytics it is. We have finally reached the day where GA4 is forced upon users, regardless of whether they want to use it or not. For the last 18 months or so, when Google made the announcement that they were to sunset Universal Analytics, GA4’s arrival has been on the minds of marketers all around the world. But what exactly is GA4, how do you implement it, what are its benefits are and the challenges marketers face both in its implementation and when using it long term.
What is Google Analytics and why GA4?
Google Analytics is an essential tool for all businesses with an online presence. It allows businesses to understand how users interact with their websites, what pages they visit, and how they convert into customers. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of the analytics tool, replacing the long-standing Universal Analytics, which has been around since 2012. GA4 has implemented new features to help businesses track user engagement on their websites, but it’s also received some criticism due to its perceived complexities. In this blog, we’ll explore how to implement GA4, its benefits compared to the previous versions and challenges involved in using it.
How to implement GA4.
To start implementing GA4, you first need to create a new GA4 property in your Google Analytics account. Once created, you need to add the GA4 tracking code to your website, similar to the Universal Analytics version. However, GA4 requires additional configuration settings, such as setting up data streams, events, and user properties. This configuration helps GA4 gather more detailed information on user interactions, such as storing user data for retargeting high-value customers and generating personalised metrics. Additionally, installing GA4 on your website ensures that your business data is compliant with customer privacy regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA.
Once we hit 1st July, your existing UA properties will be migrated to GA4 automatically.
What are the advantages of GA4?
One of the main advantages of GA4 is its enhanced tracking capabilities that provide deeper insights into user behaviour, such as funnel analysis, cross-device data, and customer lifetime value. GA4’s machine learning features enable businesses to identify hidden insights and patterns in customer behaviour that can be used to optimise website content and improve conversion rates. GA4 also has a more flexible and configurable tracking system that allows businesses to customise their data collection and analyse it according to their unique business needs.
What are the drawbacks of GA4?
Despite its enhanced features, some businesses have been reluctant to implement GA4 due to its perceived complexities and learning curves. For instance, GA4 breaks down user interactions into events, which can be overwhelming for digital marketing executives who are used to a pageview-based system. Additionally, some of the customization settings require technical knowledge and a comprehensive understanding of the businesses’ specific requirements. However, GA4 has simplified the data visualisation interface, which allows for easy and accessible data interpretation by businesses. With some of the drawbacks mentioned, GA4 has not been well received by the search marketing community. Many have described it as ‘awful’, ‘terrible’ and ‘counterintuitive’. Even earlier this year, a poll suggested that most marketers were not yet making use of GA4, despite it being available for some time. However, we know that no-one really likes change do they? Having said that, change is that much more difficult to accept when it has seemingly made the existing product or service that little bit worse or more difficult to use.
Google Analytics 4 is a valuable tool for businesses to track user behaviour online. GA4’s enhanced features offer a deeper understanding of customer behaviour and help businesses optimise their websites’ performance. However, implementing GA4 comes with its own set of challenges, especially for businesses newcomers to analytics. You need to invest time and energy into understanding GA4’s new systems and definitions. Nevertheless, once implemented, businesses can benefit from its extensive user engagement tracking capabilities, providing valuable insights to improve user experiences and increase conversion rates. So, take the time to learn about GA4 and its new features as it can lead to improved decision-making and a more efficient digital marketing strategy.
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