What is Google Analytics 4 and Why is it Important?

Digital Web
Women working on laptop

What is GA4?

In October 2022, Google made a big announcement – the newest version of Google Analytics, GA4, would become the default platform for analysing website data.

GA4 combines analytical data from both apps and websites. With the ever-growing concerns over data protection, Google has decided to make some considerable changes to its analytics platform which is used widely across the world. With the recent introduction of GDPR, websites now require users to consent to cookies to track website performance. GA4 will start reducing this reliance on cookies to record certain events across platforms/devices by using machine learning to fill in the gaps where user consent is not given for tracking.


How is GA4 different from Universal Analytics?

GA4 is significantly different to Universal Analytics with many new valuable features to use. Although GA4 has been around since 2020, many companies have not rushed to change over to using it until recently. Here are some of the key reasons why we would suggest making the switch.


A new look

One of the key changes to GA4 is the way the data is presented. If you are familiar with Google Analytics, you will notice that GA4 has a completely different display. Originally, Google Analytics split data into multiple tabs per reporting section, displaying data in topic-specific tables. GA4 however, has combined all of this data into one overview section, using widgets to display each piece of information. 


More accurate data

GA4 properties use a more flexible, event-based model, which allows for more accurate reporting and for additional information to be passed into GA4 each time. Currently, Google Analytics has a limit to the number of parameters you can set to help filter data. In GA4, you can set up to 500 events to help filter the data you want, helping you get a much wider insight into the traffic coming to your website.


All interactions are now counted as an event

In Google Analytics, interactions were captured in various different hit types, such as page view, transactions and social interactions. In GA4 however, every interaction is captured as an event. GA4 works with event parameters, which are additional pieces of information about the action a user took.


Cross-device analytics

With people often now owning multiple devices such as a tablet and mobile, marketers have struggled to track users across these different platforms. In GA4, however, Google has enabled companies to track the same user across multiple devices, helping them to retarget their ads correctly. 


Clarity with business objectives

One of the key features brought into GA4 is the ability to set your own targets. One client may want to focus on driving more traffic to their website whilst another may wish for greater product sales. With GA4, you can now set these objectives as individual events to track across the year.


How will Google Tag Manager change with GA4?

If you have been using the more basic functionality of Google Analytics so far, you may have gotten away with not using Google Tag Manager. With GA4, however, this will no longer be possible. With all goals in GA4 being event based, it’s important that you know your way around Google Tag Manager and are able to set up events if you are working in digital marketing or e-commerce. 

Google Tag Manager can be used to set and track new events for your website or app. The more events you track on Google Tag Manager, the more advanced data you can pull into GA4 for the future. 


How is the layout different in GA4?

The Homepage – This is now customisable and replaces the ‘Dashboard’ feature used in Google Analytics, creating a much cleaner picture of the overall traffic to the website.

GA4 Identity Spaces – If you create your own User IDs for signed-in users, you can import this data into GA4 and use it to enhance cross-device reporting.

Audiences – User data in GA4 can be used to create audience lists, which can then be linked to your Google Ads or Search Ads 360 to help personalise each ad.


What are the risks of not setting up GA4?

Not setting up GA4 in time will be a great disadvantage to any business who rely on Universal Analytics, as this version of GA is being discontinued in July 2023. By setting it up before the date, you can begin to gather data on GA4 whilst still using Universal Analytics. 

Having it already set up will allow your marketing teams to learn the new platform in plenty of time and ensure that the data is pulling in correctly to match the company’s objectives.


When will I need to change over to GA4?

As mentioned, Google Analytics will be discontinued in July 2023. Companies will still be able to access previous data collected for six months after, after which it will be cleared permanently. 

For this reason, setting up GA4 early can be a huge advantage for any business. The sooner it’s set up, the more data can be pulled through to help make future decisions. It is also important to note that much of the overall platform is quite different to the old Google Analytics, so the more time marketing teams have to understand GA4 the better.


Key takeaways

GA4 is here to stay – Whether you’ve already set up GA4 or are just starting to think about it now, it is definitely the future and all companies should be setting it up as soon as they can. 

It’s different from Google Analytics – If you’re thinking GA4 will be the same as Google Analytics, you may want to think again. Although it has the same overall goal, many of the metrics and the layout are different.


Need support setting up GA4 or optimising it to match your business goals? Find out more about how AgencyUK can support your company’s goals by getting in touch with us today. hello@agencyuk.com / +44 (0)1225 429 938