GA4. A step change for Google Analytics.

Google announces its latest release of Google Analytics and it’s a game changer.
12 minute read
By Eli Martinez

Google analytics App + Web is now out of beta (originally released in July 2019 under the name “App + Web Properties”) and has been rebranded as Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This is a completely new version of Google Analytics, using Firebase Analytics for its backend, and will now be the default when trying to create a new Property.

This new property type includes expanded predictive insights, deeper integration with Google Ads, cross-device measurement capabilities, events driven and with more granular data controls, all of which we will cover in this post.

In addition you can finally roll up your data across web and mobile, which is far more powerful than the rollup properties we relied on in the past, with underlying data for each platform using the same schema.

GA4 is a complete rebuild of the Google Analytics you are familiar with. Many of the default reports that we have come to rely on have been removed or replaced. Popular dimensions and metrics such as “medium” and “bounces” no longer exist. The process for designing your implementation and adding tags is very different as well.

What about your current Universal Analytics?

When it comes to concerns about what to do with your current Universal Analytics set up, rest assured that there is nothing to worry about. Universal Analytics will still be in good working order and you can continue using it for the time being. However, it is recommended that you create an instance of the GA4 property and run it alongside Universal Analytics so you can start collecting data. This will allow you to progressively get familiar with the new features and eventually start moving away from the previous version.

Why is GA4 a game changer?


Image source: Google

Machine Learning at its core

What is the difference between this new version and the previous one? The main difference that we can now benefit from, is machine learning capability, with AI powered insight and predictions:

  • You can now get automatic alerts to data trends
  • Predict user behaviour and act with the predicted metrics and conversions feature, allowing for anticipation and focus on audiences with high value
  • Understand what channels are driving new customers in the user Acquisition report and then use the Engagement and Retention reports to understand the actions these customers take, and if they continue to engage after converting

There are less reports in GA4 and what there have been simplified and built around the customer life cycle, so you can quicky access the data that you really need. This now gives you a more complete tool for a deep dive and analysis of the end-to-end customer journey.

Churn probability in GA4

Image Source: Google - Churn probability in GA4

Measure of App and Web interactions together

GA4 can measure App and Web engagement together, providing a better understanding of all online marketing activities. This new approach to customer centric, cross device tracking in GA4, provides a more complete understanding of customers journeys across devices, from acquisition to retention, by bringing together data across app and web at scale.

For the first time this gives you customer centric measurement, instead of measurement fragmented by device or by platform. By using multiple identifiers, including marketer provided User IDs and unique Google signals, from users opted into ads personalization, you get a more complete view of how your customers interact with your business. For example, you can see how a customer first interacts with your brand, from an advert online, and then goes on to install your mobile app and make a purchase from there.

Stronger integrations with other Google products

For those running paid search there is now a deeper integration with Google Ads, letting you create audiences that can reach your customers with more relevant, helpful experiences, wherever they choose to engage with your business. And because GA4 measure across app and web interactions together, it includes conversions from YouTube engaged views that occur in-app and on the web in reports.

As a result, we can now also see performance from YouTube and how this impacts the customer journey and experience. Alongside conversions from YouTube video views, we can see conversions from Google and non-Google paid channels, plus organic channels like Google Search, social and email, that helps you understand the combined impact of all your marketing.

YouTube engaged view conversions

Image Source: Google - YouTube engaged view conversions

Data Controls that are Privacy focused with an eye on a Cookie-less future

Google has made it easier to comply with the GDPR and CCPA regulations, with more granular user data controls and options to help advertisers comply with these new data regulations. Google also states that GA4 has been designed, *"to adapt to a future with or without cookies or identifiers".*

Given the importance of privacy not only for Google but for users and businesses, Google has made it easier for us to access and configure it within the platform. This can be seen across the platform, for example:

Consent mode (in Beta): Adjust tag behaviour based on consent

Consent mode is designed for websites that must obtain user consent to collect analytics data. This new mode provides separate consent opt-ins options for both analytics and advertising. This new level of granularity avoids the need to exclude all analytics data, which some people were doing.

GA4 consent

Image Source: Google - GA4 consent

More control on the data deletion request

Data deletion administration is also improved, enabling businesses to comply with requests from users to delete their data, without having to remove more data than necessary.

Lastly, but no less important, and we think this one is key, you can preview changes and verify the data before it is removed permanently.

Data deletion

Image Source: Google - Data deletion

Google Analytics in a cookie-less future

As third-party cookies are phased out, Google anticipates that gaps in data will become the new normal. The new norm will be a mixed data set, with event data but not necessarily a user ID associated with it. As GA4 develops they will use machine learning and modelling to fill in the data gaps, supporting different modes of analysis that focus more on the behaviour.

In Summary: What ‘we’ noticed

These were the ‘main changes’ that Google shared with us last week. However, we have been so excited about this release and despite already using the beta version we have started ‘playing around’, again, and thought we would finish by highlighting some practical differences between Universal Analytics and GA4.

  • We have always been an advocate of GA Views and the best way to set them up. However, the first thing we noticed was that ‘Views don’t exist anymore! The new structure is Admin > Account > Property. After the initial shock, we will just give this one a bit of time and will keep neutral feelings for now.
  • Filters cannot be applied to GA4, which right now feels like a downside. However, we’re pretty sure they’ve thought this through and that there will be a way around this.
  • We can now use BigQuery which was only available if you have GA360 which is a big plus.
  • Advanced reports like funnels are now available, with these previously only being available in GA360. These are flexible and allow data to be modified retrospectively.
  • Event based tracking rather than pages and session! From now on it is not all about pageviews, as we are using an Event based model, moving away from URL based model for collecting hits.
  • At the time of writing Google Optimize does not seem to work with GA4, again this is early stage so we just need to wait for more updates to come.
  • Also, it is not possible to migrate from Universal Analytics to GA, you just need to run both properties in parallel for now.
GA4 for

GA4 for

GA4 will continue to evolve and Google have promised continued changes and updates. This is a massive change for those of us who have grown up with ‘traditional’

Google Analytics and will no doubt take us some time to get used to but I’m sure in a few months’ time we’ll be more than comfortable with GA4 and the new set up and hopefully looking back, thinking, how did we ever manage without it!

Fingers crossed.

If you would like to find out more about how ekino can help you with your Google Analytics, please contact us.

Eli Martinez
Web Analytics Lead, ekino London.
An experienced Web Analytics and AdTech professional with a proven track record of successful analytics projects for numerous multinational companies.

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