Love it or hate it, analytics is here to stay. It’s how modern businesses survive. For us small business owners, having access to powerful analytics tools can help us build a successful first-party data strategy. For nearly two decades, Google Analytics has been one of the most useful and helpful tools available to us.
And two years ago, it got even better with the release of Google Analytics 4 (GA4). With its analysis hub (from the Google 360 service), improved metrics, new data collection methods, and a simple integration with Google Ads, they’ve created a more powerful and more accurate version of Google Analytics; GA4 is, simply, a good business decision.
So, why is it so important that you institute GA4 right now?
Well, I’ve looked at the data—and here’s my analysis.
What are the benefits of GA4?
If you haven’t tried GA4 yet, you might not be aware of its improvements over UA. Some of the most important reasons to make the switch from UA to GA4 (or to try GA for the first time) include:
Universal Analytics is going away
In 2012, Google unveiled Universal Analytics (UA). At the time, it was their newest, most powerful iteration of Google Analytics. Though GA was still available, UA became the standard—and the only version Google continued to actively support. So, there’s a good chance you’ve grown accustomed to UA over the past decade.
With the release of GA4, the standard has once again changed. It’s got more powerful tools, more accurate analytics, and a host of other improvements and upgrades. Soon, it will be the only iteration of their analytics suite that Google will support.
As of July 1, 2023, UA will cease to exist.
The sooner you switch to GA4, the sooner you can learn how to navigate the new UI, use the new tools, and get the most out of the new, more accurate reports. Switching now also gives you the opportunity to migrate your operations from UA to GA4 at your own pace.
The change is coming either way. At the moment, you still get to choose how that happens for you.
If you’ve ever used UA, you might remember that you had to create separate Universal Analytics properties for web and apps. If you had Google’s 360 service, you could create rollup properties to track users across multiple platforms. In GA4, these interactions are tracked differently.
With the new service, web and app interactions can work together in one GA4 property. But that’s not all—Google Analytics 4 properties are very versatile. In some ways, a single property can act as a rollup property itself. You can have a single property collect multiple data streams, creating the analysis you need based on your own parameters.
Follow the customer's journey wherever they go
According to a 2020 survey, the average American has access to at least 10 internet-connected devices. Knowing this, you might offer your customers multiple touchpoints for easy access to your business—websites, apps, social media ads, etc.
Here’s where those versatile properties can offer a boatload of help. See, monitoring a customer’s journey across multiple touchpoints in UA meant toggling between several properties and arranging them as needed.
GA4’s event-based data model makes tracking that journey much easier.
Now, each customer interaction gets tracked as its own separate “event.” Tracking these events in a single property helps you view it as one seamless customer journey, regardless of the touchpoints used. You can also create customer segments based on specific events for further insights into your customers that help you nurture leads toward conversion.
Not only does this help create a complete map of the journey, this data is fully integrated into the UI. There’s now a section called “Life Cycle,” which offers standard reports on acquisition, engagement, monetization, and retention—perfectly lining up with the customer’s journey. This helps you see what’s helping push each step of the journey forward (and what isn’t) so you can better optimize your marketing strategy.
Enhanced engagement metrics
Google understands the importance of engagement and has created tools to help. Where UA focused on page views and bounce rates, GA4 focuses more strongly on engagement.
For instance, a user might browse your landing page for several minutes, click nothing, then close the tab. In UA, that would count as a bounce, as there was no interaction recorded. But GA4 recognizes that time spent on your page as engagement—something on your page kept the customer’s attention.
GA4’s engagement measures include:
- Length of visit
- Site searches
- Video/media interactions
- FIle downloads
Use AI to predict the future
One of GA4’s strongest features is its ability to use AI to predict the future.
GA4 introduces new predictive metrics to show you the customers most likely to make a purchase soon. These new metrics are:
- Purchase probability: The likelihood that a customer who’s been active within the previous 28 days will make a purchase in the next 7 days.
- Churn probability: The likelihood that a customer active within the previous 7 days will not be active in the next 7 days.
- Revenue prediction: The expected revenue in the next 28 days of a customer active within the previous 28 days.
Accurately track conversions with data-driven attribution
Data-driven attribution assigns credit to all events that lead to conversion. This helps you find the events along the path that have the biggest impact on conversion outcomes. Then, it goes a step beyond: it uses computer learning to compare what did happen with what could have happened to further analyze event effectiveness.
This helps you increase your ROI by prioritizing those aspects of your campaign that lead to that final click we all desire: conversion.
Make easy use of those insights!
One of my favorite aspects about the tools Google creates is how well they can work together. GA4 continues that integration and expands it through its suite of tools and those offered on the Google Marketing Platform (GMP).
This makes it super easy to implement any new insights offered by your data directly into those tools. With data activation becoming more and more critical, this integration offers a seamless option for optimizing your marketing campaigns.
Offer privacy without sacrifice
In modern marketing, data might be king—but privacy is queen!
Privacy security is one of the most important concerns for people who use technology. GA4 takes that into consideration. It lets you set country-specific privacy parameters to ensure you comply with local laws.
GA4 addresses many privacy considerations. It’s helpful that it no longer relies on cookies to track user data. It also doesn’t collect IP addresses. In fact, it’s against Google’s policy to collect personally identifiable information.
There are also new limits to the length of time you can store the data you collect. Previously, you could store this data for up to 64 months. Now, your options are limited to two: either 2 months or 14 months.
You can also remain in control of who has access to what data. This way, each employee or team can only see the data they need to complete their tasks without overwhelming them or leaving user data open to a breach.
But won’t all this privacy security impact your business? No! GA4 still offers powerful data collection and analysis tools that can help you build a successful business without violating anybody’s privacy.
Say goodbye to samples
Much of UA’s data analysis used samples. This was helpful if you collect a lot of data: instead of taking the time and money needed to crunch all of the data, UA would offer pretty good reports based on samples of that data.
GA4 offers more powerful number crunching that offers a much more accurate analysis. Instead of using samples, much of GA4’s analysis uses larger data sets—often either a complete or near-complete set. This doesn’t just increase its accuracy, it increases the usefulness of the reports.
As an added bonus, GA4 offers a lot of space for all of your data—even on the free version. You get 1TB of querying and 10GB of storage. And, if you need more, you can simply buy more space.