What Is Google Analytics 4?

For years, businesses have been drowning in website data but struggling to make sense of it. What’s the point of having thousands of numbers and graphs if you can’t turn them into something actionable? Enter Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the newest and most advanced version of Google’s analytics platform. From cross-platform measurement to AI-driven predictive models, GA4 can revolutionize how you monitor website performance and understand customer behavior.

Google Analytics 4: The Next-Generation of Web Analysis

On July 1st, 2023, GA4 became the new standard for website analytics. Compared to its predecessor, Universal Analytics, GA4 offers a better way to understand your website’s performance, audience, and behavior across different platforms and devices.  

Here’s what that means for your online strategies: 

Say “Goodbye” to Session-Based Tracking

GA4 shifts from a session-based data model to an event-based data model. Simply put, this means that instead of tracking sessions and pageviews, GA4 focuses on tracking individual user  “events,” such as clicks, transactions, or form submissions. This offers a more granular view of user behavior, making analyzing specific touchpoints throughout the customer journey easier

Machine Learning Models Help Fill Your Data Gaps

With the recent focus on user privacy and the phasing out of third-party cookies, tracking users between sessions, platforms, and in-between events is more challenging. To compensate for these limitations, GA4 incorporates machine learning models that automatically surface insights and predictive metrics (like purchase probability and churn likelihood.) 

Understanding Predictive Insights & Metrics

When presented with gaps, Google uses their massive data pool to make an educated guess about what your data might look like. While these insights can be super helpful when identifying growth opportunities and predicting future user behavior, don’t forget that GA4’s predictions are based on broad patterns and trends. They might not always perfectly align with your specific niche, webpage, or customer journey. 

The bottom line? GA4’s machine learning-driven insights are a great tool to have in your arsenal, but they shouldn’t be the only one. Take these insights with a grain of salt, and always trust your gut when it comes to what’s best for your business.

Personalize Audience Segments with a User-Centric Data Model

In GA4, each user is assigned a unique ID across platforms and devices. This shift from a device-centric approach gives you a more accurate view of your audience, helping you better understand their preferences, behaviors, and journeys. It’s much easier to create detailed user profiles, segment your audience more effectively, and deliver personalized experiences that resonate with your users, ultimately leading to improved engagement and conversions. To fully leverage this feature, however, you need to have a server-side tagging setup. 

Server-Side Tagging

Instead of relying on the user’s browser, server-side tagging shifts the responsibility of data collection and transmission to your server. This gives you more control and flexibility over what data is collected and how it’s processed, but it’s not the “easiest” to set up. You’ll need to have the appropriate consent settings in place, and this can be a bit of a headache if your content management system (CMS) doesn’t have built-in support for these settings. Chances are you’ll need to involve your development team to not only customize the implementation, but ensure compliance with data privacy regulations.

Cross-Platform Measurement for a Unified Audience Journey

With GA4, you can seamlessly connect data from your website, mobile app, and even offline data sources, providing a unified view of your audience’s journey. This cross-platform measurement eliminates data silos and enables more accurate attribution modeling, allowing you to understand the impact of your marketing efforts better and optimize your strategies accordingly.

6 Tips & Tricks for Getting Started with Google Analytics 4

Look, we get it. Migrating to a new analytics platform is a big project. However, getting started with GA4 can be a smooth experience if you take the right approach. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you hit the ground running:

1. Use Google’s Setup Assistant

GA4 offers a built-in Setup Assistant that guides you through the initial configuration process. This tool walks you through steps like creating a data stream, enabling data collection, and setting up essential events, making the onboarding process much more straightforward.

2. Take Advantage of Codeless Event Tracking

One of GA4’s standout features is its event tracking capabilities, such as codeless event tracking. This allows you to follow user interactions, like click-through rate (CTR) and form submissions, without writing custom code.

3. Then Actually Write a Bunch of your Own Events

Likely, GA4 will not be set up to track something that’s important to you. Visit your site and watch a real-time report while interacting with it. What behaviors of yours on your site would you like to have measured but don’t see in the real-time report? Make a list of these, then start researching how to set up events to fire when other users undertake those behaviors. The best way to do this is through writing custom events in Google Tag Manager.

4. Play Around with GA4’s Measurement Capabilities

Digital marketers love GA4 for a simple reason: improved measurement features. From cross-domain tracking to enhanced measurement for web and apps, the ability to collect data from multiple data streams is one of GA4’s most significant selling points. Set some time aside to familiarize yourself with these capabilities so you and your team can leverage them to better understand the user journey.

5. Spend Some Time Learning the New Reporting Tools

GA4 has an array of advanced reporting and exploration tools, like the Analysis Hub, Exploration Reports, and Funnel Exploration. These features help you unlock critical insights, visualize user activities, and better understand the routes to conversion. Explorations will let you build your own reports and better understand how different dimensions and metrics in GA4 can be related to each other. Exploring your data will give you a better understanding of your data and its limitations.

6. Check Out Google’s Free Resources

Recently, Google has put a lot of effort into creating learning materials for GA4, including courses, documentation, and community forums. Take advantage of these resources to deepen your understanding of the platform and stay up-to-date with best practices and new features.

Need Help with Your GA4 Setup?

Installing Google Analytics is more complex than copying and pasting some code snippets. Proper setup requires the right plan and a deeper understanding of how to track goals, configure events, and analyze dashboards. That’s a lot for businesses to take on, especially if they’re already stretched thin on resources. 

Enter Timmermann Group. Our analytics experts live and breathe this stuff, so you don’t have to. Whether you need full-service GA4 management or just a bit of professional guidance, they’re here to help you leverage all the insights GA4 has to offer. Because, at the end of the day, it’s an extremely powerful tool—but only if you know how to use it properly.