Understanding Google Analytics 4: the guide

Google Analytics 4, the new version of Google Analytics, is a powerful marketing tool for obtaining information that will naturally help companies make better marketing decisions.

In the rest of this article, we will talk about all the new features and everything you need to know about what data analytics specialists call “GA4”.

This change, the biggest ever to Google Analytics, was made official in October 2021.

Many companies and their data analytics teams are affected by this major update and are legitimately wondering how the evolution of Google Analytics will affect their work and performance.

While the traditional version of Google Analytics is still available and usable, the new properties are now well and truly present by default on GA4.

This is a strong signal that learning Google Analytics 4 should now be a priority for your business.

In the rest of this article, written in the form of a short, but comprehensive guide, we will give an overview of everything you need to know to get started with Google Analytics 4.

Everything that changes with GA4
There are many changes in the new version of Google Analytics compared to the old one.

GA4 uses a significantly different data structure and data collection logic compared to the previous version.

Now everything is built around users and events, not sessions, as it was before.

It’s an event-based data model that treats each user interaction as an autonomous event.

This change is important because historically, Google Analytics operated via a session-based model that aggregated user interactions in a given time frame.

This strategic shift from sessions to events offers major benefits to marketers, such as cross-platform analytics and enhanced capabilities around user journey analytics.

On the downside, however, valuable features such as custom channel groups and filters have been lost.

By switching to an event-based model, GA4 nevertheless becomes a more flexible and reliable tool for predicting user behavior.

Should your company adopt Google Analytics 4?
This is the question that matters most: is it necessary to move to Google Analytics 4 now?

The answer is definitely “yes”.

You will need to set up a GA4 property to run alongside the Google Universal Analytics version, which will quickly become obsolete.

Even if you don’t plan to use it right away, collecting data and strengthening your Machine Learning models will make your future analytics much more meaningful.

And as I’m sure you know, it’s the quality of the data collected that produces marketing strategies that work.

How to configure GA4
Setting up GA4 is very simple. The analytics properties you are used to will remain unchanged, and GA will continue to collect data, while Universal Analytics will remain accessible via the admin screen.

So here’s how to connect a new GA4 data feed to your current Universal Analytics in a few steps (If you’re setting up a brand new property, you’ll need to go through Google Tag Manager):

Log in to your Google Analytics account
Click on “Administrator
Confirm that the desired account is selected
Confirm that the desired property is selected
Click on “GA4 Configuration Wizard
Once in the configuration wizard, click on the blue button, “Start”.

All you have to do is click on “create a property” and you’re done.

The GA4 configuration wizard works automatically with gtag.js.

If you are using a website creation tool such as WordPress, Wix, etc., you will have to add the Analytics tag yourself.

After creating your property, the setup wizard will automatically enable an Enhanced Measurement process in your Google Analytics 4 property.

Custom code is still required to track third-party elements, but the most basic forms of event tracking are automatic and ready to use.

How can GA4 help you with its analytics reports?
A relevant data collection strategy is as important as the information you’re going to get from it.

How will the move to GA4 make reporting easier?
With the current pressure to respect user privacy, it is becoming increasingly difficult to track users as they move from one website or platform to another, using multiple devices.

GA4 is a forward-thinking solution, as it uses machine learning techniques to help fill any data gaps.

This allows GA4 to create a unique user journey by leveraging all data related to the same identity.

Finally, GA4 has simplified the reporting interface, making it very easy for your marketing teams to spot key trends and possible irregularities in your data.

Instead of a long list of predefined reports that try to cover all use cases, GA4 provides reports in the form of summaries. If you want to know more, just click on the point(s) of interest.

How to use Google Analytics 4 reports in the best way
In this final part, we’ll reveal the best ways to use GA4 reports.

When you first log in, you’ll see that the homepage shows a summary of overall traffic, conversions, and results.

It’s useful for quickly checking that everything is going as planned.

Your landing page report allows you to get brief answers to the following questions:
Where are new users coming from?
What are your best performing campaigns?
Which pages are getting the most views?
In the navigation panel on the left side of the screen, you can access the real-time report. It shows the events that have occurred in the last 30 minutes.

This real-time report is useful for confirming that your tracking code is working, for observing the effects of a video you just posted on YouTube, for example, or for viewing the launch of a new product in real time.

Among the most interesting features of the real-time report is this one: “View User Snapshot”.

Click on it and you will get a snapshot of a single user, which provides information about the type of device used, location, real-time engagement rate of the user with a website or mobile application via triggered events.

Let’s move on to another type of report: life cycle reporting.

They give an accurate reflection of your acquisition funnel, user engagement, monetization and retention rates.

They are perfect for analyzing how users enter your conversion funnel and how they behave once inside.

GA4 also includes reports on user demographics, as well as every event and conversion about them.

Next, among the most notable changes in GA4, which should please marketing teams, is the presence of an Analysis Hub.

While the default reports help you monitor key performance indicators, the GA4 Analysis Hub gives you access to several advanced techniques and a gallery of templates.

Here’s how to create a new analysis with this Hub:
Log in to your Google Analytics account
Click on Analytics
Select the technique you want to use to analyze your data (cohort analysis, segment overlap, conversion tunnel analysis, path analysis, etc.)

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