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Understanding Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4(GA4)

Overview

Launched in Mid-October 2020, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the newest version of Analytics. With the planned retirement of Universal Analytics (UA) in July 2023, GA4 will become the only property of choice on the platform. Therefore, to keep relying on data for strategic insight and a better understanding of your customers, you’ll need to upgrade to GA4.

If you have set up analytics in 2022, the default property is GA4, so you will not need to worry about migrating over from UA.

Google Analytics 360 (GA360), the paid version of analytics, will retire on July 1st, 2024.

After July 2023: You will no longer be able to process data using UA. Therefore, we highly recommend migrating from UA over to GA4 as soon as possible to avoid starting from the beginning when UA ceases to exist. The main advantage of migrating over now is that you can set up GA4 to co-exist alongside UA (up until July 23rd, 2023). This allows you to start collecting data in the background of GA4 while using UA in the forefront. In addition, installing GA4 now delivers value in a second way: you can familiarise yourself with the new interface, features, and reporting capabilities.

Benefits of GA4

With the release of Google Analytics 4, we want to help you quickly leverage all available technologies to increase the success of your business online. Here are the top benefits of the GA4 property.

Cross-platform tracking

GA4 cross-tracks web and app activity on one platform. Cross-tracking helps you enrich, customise and add value to your customer touchpoints by integrating multiple data sources from the web and mobile apps.

Predictive analytics

Advanced machine learning on GA4 allows you to use predictive analytics to forecast a suggested audience’s probability (from 7 up to 28 days) or predict a data anomaly (from 2 weeks up to 32 weeks). Predictive analytics can help optimise your digital operations, get a competitive advantage, and understand customer journeys more accurately.

BigQuery

BigQuery is free on GA4, unlike its predecessor UA making it possible to export data easily. BigQuery reduces your storage costs for data with the free tier offering up to store 1 TB of processed query data each month.

Privacy

From IP anonymisation to first-party data collection to data retention, GA4 has it all. As the Internet becomes more privacy-centric, GA4 has improved privacy and security features and is evolving to become compliant with the newest data protection laws.

Insights and recommendations

Tailored suggestions automated by Google help you make the most out of GA4. While insights and recommendations are optional, it is good to listen to them as they often reveal strategic insights you can use to your advantage on the platform.

Customisable reporting

In comparison to previous versions of analytics, GA4 reports are much more customisable and actionable. An additional feature includes the exploration tab that allows you to create custom reports and view data differently.

Understanding the new interface

As the GA4 interface has changed, the new metrics will help you offer greater relevancy to your customer by simplifying the platform so that you can understand better how users interact with your website.

Google Analytics 4(GA4)

Home: View a snapshot of all your important data, automatically personalised with recently viewed activity, insights, and recommendations.

Reports: View standard reports in real-time. App developer (if applicable), gaming (if applicable), lifecycle, and user details reports can all be found in this tab.

Explore: Create custom reports that allow you to base data on your specific goals.

Advertising: Understand your customer purchase journey and the relationship between marketing channels.

Configure: View statistics on events, conversions, and audiences. Debug view is also available here.

Admin: Edit your account and property settings.

The view column is not available on GA4.

User interface (GA4)

According to Google, the shift in metrics was due to UA focusing too much on how traffic comes to your site, whereas the event model concentrates on how users interact with your website and app.

GA4 newest features

1. Anomaly detection

Security features are positioned at the forefront of the GA4 platform. GA4 uses machine learning anomaly detection to detect “unusual behaviour” within the data being processed on the platform. Anomaly detection aims to drive decisions to audit, investigate or block anomalies.

As online transactions become more common, criminal activity and malicious attempts can arise. Anomaly detection is an excellent security feature on GA4, significantly reducing the risk of false transitions and fraud. As a result, your time can be spent more effectively, fraud can be detected more easily, and losses can be reduced.

Anomaly detection offers value in a second way; it can be used to forecast future occurrences. To avail of the machine learning capabilities, you will need historical data in your GA4 account to “train” Google to predict unusual data behaviour.

To detect anomalies, GA4 will need a training period of:

  • Up to 2 weeks (to predict hourly anomalies)
  • Up to 90 days (to predict daily anomalies)
  • Up to 32 weeks to learn to predict (to predict weekly anomalies)

Once you adjust the anomaly detection settings, hover over the data in the exploration report; anomaly data is highlighted by an empty circle. The anomaly information will show if you hover your cursor over the empty circle.

GA4

2. BigQuery connection

GA4 provides a free connection to BigQuery, a cloud data storage and management system, where you can export all your data from GA4 property to BigQuery. Unfortunately, you cannot directly transfer data from UA to GA4. (If you have GA360, you can transfer directly over to GA4.) Therefore, you will need to manually upload to BigQuery before importing the data into GA4. Once exported from GA4, an analytic table is generated to include important data such as the event date, timestamp, event name, and event parameters. GA4 BigQuery’s free tier usage limit is up to 10 GB of active storage and 1 TB of processed data each month. If you need to store or process more data, you must upgrade your tier.

You will need to set up a Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and enable Big Query APIs to be able to link GA4 and export data.

3. Combined app & web view

GA4 no longer requires separate platforms to collect app and web property data. GA4 simplifies your data collection efforts by allowing you to view data from your website and app on one platform. With this feature, you can understand your user journey and touchpoints across devices, giving you the information needed to build better user journeys and experiences. Combined app and web view can help you recognise your customer’s intent, preference, and rationale for their behaviour.

When you add an app data stream, GA4 splits the stream for iOS and Android, helping you get more specific data per device type.

Combined app and web table (GA4)

If you are tracking an app on GA4, you will have to set up two data streams separately, one for iOS and one for Android.

4. DebugView

The DebugView in GA4 provides a more advanced look at the platform. You can see incoming data as GA4 collects it. In DebugView, you can view events at different time intervals. You can also see the minutes stream, top events, current user properties, and a device selector.

You can view events at different time intervals

  • Events are logged from 60 seconds.

  • Top events are logged from the last 30 mins.

When you add an app data stream, GA4 splits the stream for iOS and Android, helping you get more specific data per device type.

Debug view

5. Event Based Model

GA4 has shifted from a session-based model that tracked ‘hits’ to an event model that tracks ‘events’. The difference is that hits such as page views, events, social, and screen views will now be tracked as events. The event-based model focuses heavily on how people interact with your site, so keep this in mind when setting up events.

Event based model (GA4)

In GA4, an event is a specific user interaction on a website or app. The reason behind the change in the model is to better understand the customer journey, including how customers interact with your website or app, and what is important to them.

 

GA4 offers four types of events:

a. Automatically collected events (prebuilt dimensions and metrics)

b. Enhanced events (prebuilt dimensions and metrics)

c. Recommended events (prebuilt dimensions and metrics)

d. Custom events (custom dimensions and metrics)

a. Automatically collected events 

These are automatically populated on GA4 for common interactions that happen on your app and/or website:

Automatically collected events list (GA4)
Automatically collected events list (GA4)
b. Enhanced measurement

Enhanced measurement is enabled by default on GA4. You may disable this if you wish. We recommend you leave it enabled to save time instead of creating the events listed below manually. Enhanced measurement allows you to track important actions people take on your website such as:

  • Page views
  • Scrolls
  • Outbound clicks
  • Site search
  • Video engagement
  • File downloads
  • Form interactions
Enhanced measurement
c. Recommended events

GA4’s recommended events allow you to see additional features and behaviours of your users to generate more useful reports. Below is a list of the types of recommendations, depending on what you need to track.

GA4
Recommended events GA4
d. Custom events

Custom events allow you to collect data specific to your business. We advise you to check if a specific event is already prebuilt by checking automatically collected events, enhanced measurements and recommended events listed above before you spend time and effort creating a custom event. You must register custom dimensions and metrics and manually configure its tags on GTM. With custom events, you can set the track type, the tracking parameters, the action, and the trigger for each event you create.

Custom events

Once you have set up your desired events, you can view event data in five ways in GA4:

  • Realtime report

  • Explorations

  • BigQuery

  • Data API

  • Looker Studio (formerly known as Data Studio)

Recommended and custom events require Google Tag Manager to be set up.

GA4 Guide - Download today - Image

Anticipate the future actions of your users, provide a better user experience and increase the ROI of your marketing efforts with Google Analytics 4. 

    6. Google Tag Manager

    GTM allows you to create custom tags specific to your goals on GA4, aiding you in tracking any additional activity not prebuilt on GA4. GTM is more advanced and may require working with a developer to install tags (types of code) onto your website and GA4.

    For example:

    • Click ID
    • Form ID

    Once you set up the Google Tag Manager code snippet on your website, GA4 will begin to collect these tags, which you can review in the DebugView report.

    It is also recommended at this stage that you link your Google Ads to GA4 (if applicable).

    7. Google signals

    In GA4, Google signals are session data that measure users across devices. Google signals are for users who have turned on Ads personalisation within their Google account. This feature allows you to create highly relevant ads based on user preferences.

    If you enable Google signals and don’t change the reported identity to the device, GA4 will start applying thresholds to dimensions will low user count.

    Google Signals Ga4

    Google signals are not supported on Apple devices with any version after iOS 14+ update.

    8. Predictive machine learning

    GA4 employs today’s most advanced analytics, running largely on machine learning technologies. Just like anomaly detection, GA4 uses predictive analytics for building suggested audiences and predicting future buying behaviour. With predictive analytics, you can efficiently invest in retaining customers as the machine learning algorithm is capable of forecast patterns.

    Predictive machine learning analytics can be located when building in the suggested audience or the exploration tab. Predictive analytics delivers value in a second way, by helping you focus your resources and efforts on the most valuable and promising set of users.

    GA4 can forecast future predictions such as;

    • Purchase probability (forecasts next 7 days) (currently only applicable for in-app purchases and eCommerce purchases)

    • Churn probability (forecasts next 7 days)

    • Predictive revenue (forecasts next 28 days)

    Predictive audience

    Google has an eligibility status of each prediction. You may be denied access to the predictive analysis if your account does not meet the eligibility requirements for the volume of relevant data and model quality.

    9. Improved privacy controls

    As the Internet becomes more privacy-centric, Google wants to offer users control over sharing their activity with Google Analytics. In addition, the introduction of data protection laws such as GDPR and CCPA has further impacted how websites handle personal information.

    GA4 sets out several improvements in its privacy controls:

    • IP anonymisation: Under GDPR and CCPA, an IP address is considered a personal information identifier. GA4 has a built-in Inonymisation feature that hides user IP addresses. This feature is set by default on GA4, and you cannot disable it.

    • First-party data: As we head into a cookie-less future, GA4 is working on complying with data protection laws by using first-party data. First-party data is where users intentionally ‘opt-in’ to share their data with you. GA4’s first-party cookies will separate unique users and unique sessions from a single user to protect users’ sensitive data.

     

    • Data retention: You can choose how long GA4 can hold user-specific data, from a minimum of 2 months to a maximum of 14 months before Google automatically deletes it, making it easier to compile with EU GDPR. You can schedule a data deletion request. For all other event data, you can choose the length of retention from 2 months to 14 months. 

    Data Rentention GA4

    The two-month retention period is always applied to age, gender, and interest data regardless of your settings, whereas user-level data, including conversions, can be set to a maximum of 14 months.

    10. Insights & recommendations

    GA4 offers tailored insights and recommendations to help you get the most out of analytics. You can choose whether to accept or dismiss recommendations as you wish. Recommendations come and go depending on whether it has been applied already, dismissed, or if the recommendation is no longer significant. An additional benefit is that you can create and manage your insights, set conditions, and get notified by email when a custom insight is triggered.

    To view the insight in more detail, click on the card.

    • IP anonymisation: Under GDPR and CCPA, an IP address is considered a personal information identifier. GA4 has a built-in Inonymisation feature that hides user IP addresses. This feature is set by default on GA4, and you cannot disable it.

    • First-party data: As we head into a cookie-less future, GA4 is working on complying with data protection laws by using first-party data. First-party data is where users intentionally ‘opt-in’ to share their data with you. GA4’s first-party cookies will separate unique users and unique sessions from a single user to protect users’ sensitive data.
    • Data retention: You can choose how long GA4 can hold user-specific data, from a minimum of 2 months to a maximum of 14 months before Google automatically deletes it, making it easier to compile with EU GDPR. You can schedule a data deletion request. For all other event data, you can choose the length of retention from 2 months to 14 months. 
    Insights GA4

    You need the Analyst or Editor role to create, edit, and share insights.

    11. Reporting data

    GA4 reports are more customisable, improved, and actionable than previous analytic versions. In addition, you may see different tabs available depending on your GA4 account type. For example, eCommerce or gaming accounts may see other tabs available.

    Reporting snapshot

    Contains a general overview of your most important data. You can modify what appears on the snapshot page to your liking.

    Report snapshot

    12. Explore

    Explore allows you to create your own custom report and interpret the data in your own way. In comparison to GA4 predecessors, exploration reports offer more flexibility. You have the choice of pre-made template techniques to help generate the report. Once you choose the technique, your custom report is split into variables, tab settings, and the custom report. Once you input the data you want to appear in the report, you can change the report’s visualisation type from the standard table to scatter plot, geo map, and many more.

    You can select the type of exploration technique you want:

    GA4
    GA4
    GA4
    Ga4

    Google is continuously updating and adding new features to GA4. We recommend you check your account regularly for these changes, especially the explore tab.

    Google Analytics 4 property

    The new integrations from the GA4 property will help you adapt to an evolving market that focuses on understanding the customer journey. You’ll be able to anticipate the future actions of your users, giving you the data needed to improve your customer journey, improve the ROI of your marketing and provide a better user experience.

    If you need help in any aspect of setting up GA4, contact our Google specialists at Madcraft.

    Google Analytics 4 Guide download

    The must-have GA4 Guide is now available

    Anticipate the future actions of your users, provide a better user experience and increase the ROI of your marketing efforts with Google Analytics 4. 

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