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15th January 2021
The benefits of upgrading to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
If you follow SEO news feeds or regularly use Google Analytics to monitor your website performance, it is likely that you’ve heard of the new GA property, ‘Google Analytics 4’ (‘GA4’). In this blog, we’re going to take a look at some of the benefits of setting up a GA4 property, so that you can decide whether or not to upgrade and discover what you can gain from using the new features available.
The key advantages of GA4
Whilst Universal Analytics has proven to be extremely useful since its launch back in 2005, this next generation of GA has some unique benefits of its own, some of which can be found below:
Apps – Rather than just tracking website performance like Universal Analytics (UA), GA4 allows you to track a website, an app or even both a website and an app together. Collating data from both a website and an app in the same GA property has the potential to make statistical analysis much more straightforward, saving time and therefore money.
No more cookies! – If you are familiar with modern tracking methods, you’ll know that the web is moving ever closer to a cookie-less world. In recent years with the introduction of GDPR laws and privacy enhancements, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to track users using your site (and as they travel across multiple platforms) with cookies. The new GA4 actually helps fill the gap left by the removal of cookies, using AI and machine learning. This could prove to be increasingly helpful, as more browsers start to block third-party cookies (such as Mozilla Firefox back in 2019).
User journey insight – GA4 places an increased emphasis on users and user interactions rather than sessions. As sessions are inherently potentially faulty as they can be influenced by device or platform type, this change will help more accurately track user journeys throughout a website or app. With the additional implementation of User ID tracking, GA4 makes it much easier to track users as they move between devices and platforms when interacting with your content.
ROI – With the advanced user tracking across devices and platforms as mentioned above, you can see much more reliable data in terms of ROI on ad spend. GA4 automatically joins website and app journeys together when carried out by the same user, rather than recording them as multiple, separate visits. This will help obviate the collection of misleading information, allowing you to make better marketing decisions and avoid wasting ad spend.
Additional new predictive metrics are also already in the works, to help further improve the results seen when optimising ad audiences using the data provided by GA4.
Easier tracking – GA4 pre-creates a number of actions and events out of the box, negating the need to manually set up a variety of tracking elements that you needed to create for Universal Analytics. This means that you can track multiple events and conversions without the knowledge and assets required to create and edit code. It also means you no longer need to set up custom goals, cross domain measurement code and more. Whilst you will still need custom code set up to track third-party elements, some e-commerce measures, form submissions and the like, it really can make things much less complicated for some of the more basic forms of tracking.
No need to lose UA – Whilst Google Analytics 4 is arguably an improvement on Universal Analytics, there is no need to lose your existing UA profile. In fact, we strongly recommend you keep it. At the moment, it’s impossible to track historical data within GA4 and so the statistics being gathered will be rather limited. Having both UA and GA4 running means that you can continue to gather website data as you have been doing, whilst allowing GA4 to run in the background, without conflict. Also, by setting up GA4 as soon as possible, you are much more likely to have a larger volume of collected data stored for analysis and comparison by the time Google Analytics 4 is in full swing (or if UA is deprecated or even removed in the future).
The downsides to using Google Analytics 4
The more time we spend using the new GA4 property, the more likely we are to discover additional benefits. However, there are a number of factors to take into consideration when creating a new GA4 profile. Firstly, GA4 is going to take a lot of getting used to. Many of their standard reports and a number of popular metrics have been removed and elements have been renamed or restructured. Also, if you’ve spent a lot of effort and finances on tracking or tagging within your site for UA, you are likely to require a reasonable amount of reimplementation. A lot has changed within this new upgrade to Google Analytics, but fret not, Varn are here to help make the transition easier. Check back soon for new instalments coming in this series – including instructions on how to create a GA4 profile, how to understand the new terminology used within the platform, how to understand the main differences between UA and GA4, and much, much more.
If you’re still not sure about upgrading to GA4 or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the friendly team at Varn. We would love to hear from you.