What Marketers Need to Know About Google Analytics 4

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Google Analytics 4 — the latest version of the leading web analytics tool — represents a giant change from how its service has worked up until now.

GA4 is Google’s solution for measurement in a world where cookies are gradually fading away and privacy regulations are constantly tightening. This update could have a significant impact on how marketers track website performance.  

There’s a lot to unpack, but here are some of the high-level changes that marketers should be aware of.

Google Analytics 4 Unites Web and App Analytics

The biggest shift is that GA4 combines app and website measurement for cross-property analysis. 

About a year and a half ago, Google started down this road when it created the App + Web property as an option, and it’s now become the default in Google Analytics 4. 

This could be a huge win for marketers. After all, most people spend three to four hours on their phone every day. To get a complete picture of how audiences are interacting with your marketing and your business, you need to be able to holistically track interactions, not in separate web and app silos.

Goodbye, Goals. Hello, Conversions.

When it comes to defining what actions and outcomes have value in website tracking, Google Analytics 4 approaches things differently from the previous generation of GA, aka Universal Analytics (UA). 

Case in point: GA4 doesn’t track “goals,” it measures “conversions.” With UA, goals were URL-based — if your visitor landed on a thank-you page after making a purchase or submitting a form, it was counted as a goal completion.

With Google Analytics 4, you can treat essentially any event as a conversion, including actions like pageviews, clicks or scrolls. (Which would be kind of crazy, but it is possible.)  

This all goes back to GA4’s model of uniting app and web measurement. A URL- or hit-based tracking strategy doesn’t translate nearly as well to the world of apps, where users could complete multiple tasks while staying on a single screen. Events do a better job tracking activity, and it’s where everyone should be, whether you’re measuring app or web performance. 

Be Mindful of Complexity

This new version of Google Analytics is exciting, but it’s not an out-of-the-box solution, especially for ecommerce. If and when you decide to use GA4 as a reporting tool, you should have a detailed migration plan, one that accounts for everything you’re trying to measure. 

One way to get started: You can set up a new GA4 property for your website without destroying your existing property — your old school UA setup will continue to collect data. And if you prefer the existing way of doing things, you can still create a Google Analytics account that uses UA. 

If you have questions about Google Analytics 4, or if you need help rethinking your tracking strategy, contact Alight’s team. We’d love to talk!

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