What Is GA4 & Why Does My Website Need It?


Earlier this year, Google announced that as of July 2023, Universal Analytics would no longer be available and everyone had to transition over to GA4 before this time. Before we explore how GA4 can help your business, let’s go through some of the basics first.

What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a free tracking / analytical tool created by Google that allows us to gain a deeper insight into how visitors are interacting with websites. It provides us with information such as where visitors have come from, the popular pages they browse on a website, and more. By having this data at our fingertips, we, as marketers, are able to make smarter decisions about marketing campaigns moving forward.

How Google Analytics Works
While it may sound quite complex, Google Analytics works in a very simple way. It collects data from each website visitor using tags (cookies) that you manually add to your website. This data is then presented in both real-time and stored within Google Analytics to look back on. There is also a reporting section where you can track data and trends easily, helping to gain an insight into how visitors are engaging with your website.

What Is GA4?
GA4 has now replaced Universal Analytics, and the main reason for this launch was to allow privacy-first tracking, in an attempt to focus on customer privacy and therefore give users more control over how they are being tracked over the internet.

The new tracking code has already increased the amount of data compared to Universal Analytics, allowing us to know exactly how to improve the usability and therefore experience of websites. The main advantages of GA4 include:

  • It collects both website and app data to help us better understand the customer journey
  • Data is collected based on events rather than sessions
  • Privacy controls are included, such as cookieless measurements, and conversion modelling
  • It provides predictive analytics without overwhelming you with complex details
  • It directly integrates with media platforms for cross-channel tracking
  • It has AI and machine learning integrations to help you understand your data

Focusing On The User Journey
One thing that GA4 does so well is that it focuses on the overall user journey, as opposed to individual sessions or page views like Universal Analytics used to. It gives you an overall idea of how someone moves through your website, the touchpoints they come across, and how these contribute to a conversion or event.

GA4’s Explorations tab is really useful for this sort of information. There are some pre-built reports within this section, allowing you to look at the behaviour flow of your website traffic in detail. For example, Path Exploration can give you an insight into exactly where visitors have arrived from, allowing you to adjust your marketing campaigns accordingly. GA4 really comes into its own with its reporting, as you can build custom explorations which include specific analytics that you can then track over time.

What To Do Next With GA4
Now you understand how GA4 works, and how implementing this can really help you make more informed business decisions, you may be wondering what steps you need to take next. If you haven’t already, the first thing to do is start the migration process. You can run GA4 and Universal Analytics on the same website, so don’t worry about having lots of additional codes on your website.

Firstly, we would advise that you audit your analytics setup and configuration – there are tools within GA4 itself that can help guide you through this process. Then define your goals and conversions: what actions do you want users to take when they visit your website. Is it important they fill out a contact form, or complete a purchase? Finally, you can spend time creating your own individual reports in GA4 and monitor these regularly.

While you may be tempted to compare the data within GA4 to your old Universal Analytics data, remember one is tracking events (GA4) and the other is tracking sessions. There will of course be some common metrics, but some just simply won’t match up anymore. If you really are struggling with this change (don’t worry, we are still getting our heads around it too), then feel free to contact our digital marketing experts who are on hand to help.

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