Google Analytics 4: Building Excitement and Taking First Steps

In October 2020, Google announced a new version of Google Analytics called Google Analytics 4. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will have expanded capabilities over its predecessor Universal Analytics. Marketers, website managers, analysts, and anyone else relying on Google Analytics to make decisions will have plenty of reasons to be excited about the latest and greatest from Google! While the excitement builds, it’s important to get GA4 up and running on your site or app but recognize this should be a slow transition. The best plan for the immediate future is to create and implement a new GA4 property to run alongside your existing property. This will allow you to begin utilizing the new GA4 features as they roll out, but still make decisions based on historical data in your Universal Analytics property. Here’s a rundown of what GA4 is and what actions to take right now to ensure you’re taking advantage of all there is to offer from the GA4 enhancements.

What is GA4?

Google Analytics 4 is an advancement on Google’s App + Web Properties that were open as a Beta product to Analytics users. GA4 is a product built to meet the wants and needs of marketers and decision makers with industry changes to marketing approaches and data privacy. Oh, and they threw in machine learning just for good measure. As stated above, GA4 is the future of Google Analytics, but it should only serve as a supplemental tool to your existing property for now. Google is recommending a “dual setup,” as many of the new features for website-only businesses (businesses that don’t have an app) are scheduled to come later in 2021. 

Your GA4 property will be a new property, so additional tracking is needed to start collecting data. We’ll cover this in the “What do I need to do right now?” section below.

What’s new? Why should I switch?

Google set their site on three main advancements with GA4: Holistic marketing approach, Data Privacy, Machine Learning.

Holistic Marketing Approach

We’re seeing the industry shift to a holistic approach to marketing. Businesses are putting more emphasis on the multi-touchpoint, full customer journey over siloed channels and individual sessions in their marketing. GA4 aims to equip marketers with more visibility into conversion paths and cross-platform, cross-device touch points. 

Reports will look a little different in GA4. GA4’s reports will focus on 4 core areas: Acquisition, Engagement, Monetization, and Retainment. This is a change from Universal Analytics standard Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversion (ABC) style. This will help marketers focus on and monitor the long-term goals for their brands.

Data Privacy

New laws and regulations to help preserve consumer privacy presented legal concerns for brands and new challenges to marketers as they strive to comply with the guidelines while still maintaining marketing performance. These laws are not going away anytime soon. In fact, marketers should expect them to become more common if anything. This created the need for an analytics platform that made controlling data privacy quick and easy, and that’s exactly what GA4 aims to do! GA4 will give Analytics users an option to turn off data collection and processing through the UI for specific data fields giving them the option to be as restrictive or inclusive as they’d like with just the check of a box or click of a button. 

Machine Learning

Google was excited to announce GA4 will have a machine learning backbone. This will power new metrics such as conversion probability and churn probability and help make user stitching more accurate across devices and platforms. Google also plans to add new predictive metrics like forecasted 28-day revenue and 12-month revenue later in 2021 to help marketers invest their spend in the most efficient way possible.

Other Features We’re Excited About

Outside of GA4’s “Big Three” product highlights, we found a few other new features really exciting! Here are a few we’re looking forward to:

  • Enhanced Measurement
    This is a new feature in GA4 that automatically measures some site interactions such as outbound clicks, video plays, and file downloads with behavior events. No additional site code or tagging is needed! 🤯
  • Event Editing
    Did you or a developer make a typo when adding behavior events to the site, and now you’re looking at some events under the event category Homepage and others under the category Homepage? It happens to us too. With Universal Analytics, there was no way to correct this. Analytics users could only correct the tracking and delete the previously collected data entirely. However, GA4 allows for event editing within the UI, so you can now easily and retroactively correct any instances of typos in events! (We just heard that collective sigh of relief from all developers reading this.)
  • Debug View
    Need to see exactly what you’re sending to Google Analytics? You can now do that in Analytics with Debug View. Some help from the Analytics Debugger Chrome extension is required, but this is a definite upgrade from the current use of the Debugger extension.

What do I need to do right now?

An immediate goal of yours should be get a GA4 property setup and collecting data on your website. Again, this should be an additional tracking property, not a replacement for your current property. Even after implementing GA4, you should still expect to rely on our existing tracking as your primary source of data-based decision making for another year or so.

Although some of GA4’s most useful features won’t be available until 2021, it’s important to begin collecting data, so when those features become available, you already have data to power them. Here is a pdf guide from Google on setting up your GA4 property. Note: the gtag.js library or Google Tag Manager are required to implement GA4 tracking. If you are not currently using either option, we recommend you get these up and running sooner rather than later. 

Here’s a great video from Google on getting started with the Google Analytics 4 Property:

We recognize a good portion of our audience has built their site through Shopify or BigCommerce. Because these platforms seamlessly incorporate Universal Analytics tracking built into the site, we only expect a GA4 option will soon be available. However, if you’d like to take immediate action, we recommend implementing Google Tag Manager on your site and serving GA4 through GTM.

Special note for GA360 users

As of now, we do not have any specifics on a GA360-equivalent for GA4, but Google announced that more information will be available on this in 2021. Google recommends GA360 work with their sales representative to keep updated on any closed beta opportunities and still get their GA4 property up and running in the meantime. 

How can Trinity help?

Trinity is ready to hit the ground running in any way we can! For our partners on Google Tag Manager, we can do a full implementation quickly and efficiently. If you are using gtag.js to send data to Analytics, looking to implement gtag.js or Google Tag Manager, or you don’t know where to start let us know. We’re here to help!