GA4 is the latest iteration of Google’s Analytics tracking and reporting property. It was launched with a few key differences from the UA (Universal Analytics) technology, including:
· It measures data across websites and apps, to better track the customer journey
· Moves from session data to event data
· Meets the changing privacy standards of the industry and is more customizable to shut off some data tracking
· Offers insights based on AI-driven predictions
· Has a clean, simplified interface
Given these changes, it may seem that you don't have to do anything or learn anything to take full advantage, but that may not be the case. Here are some best practices to be sure you're not missing any opportunities.
1. Debug before you launch
Installing the GA4 can be very simple, depending on your platform. If you use a site hosted and maintained by another provider (Wix, etc.), they have simple plug-and-play options to get you up and running quickly.
You should consider keeping UA running while you figure out GA4, however, so that you have more historical data to work with. Once you’re certain everything is working, you can flip over to GA4 completely. Using the Google debug tool can also help you see that things are in good working order. Refer to Google’s instructions for enabling DebugView for more information.
2. Focus on events
While the older UA focused on a session, GA4 is more about the events. What's an event? It's any action that can be tracked and counted as a conversion, such as button clicks, form submissions, or downloads. Google will track some events automatically, but you can also customize them to make sure you're collecting the right data from users on your site or app. This event data is particularly valuable for remarketing campaigns.
Using two parameters for each custom event may help you analyze data later on.
3. Review new terminology
Many of the same metrics will be tracked in GA4 but will go by different names, and some won’t be tracked the same way at all. Major differences in terminology include:
· Pageviews will now be an Event Count, and Social, Transaction/ecommerce, User Timing, Exception, and App/Screen views will all be Events, as well. Every "hit" will now be an event, regardless of type
· Goal Completions will now be Conversions
Also, how sessions are counted will change. Instead of sessions being restarted after 30 minutes of inactivity, they will now be based on the “time span between the first and last event in the session.” Google shares more differences between UA and GA4 reporting here.
4. Don’t dismiss privacy
Privacy will be a big thing in 2023 and beyond, especially with the changes to EU policy. Google has taken all of this into account with GA4 settings, including changing how it tracks and manages data. That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook from having to do your own work, however. Depending on the permissions you’ve been granted by site users (or the location you’re advertising in), you’ll want to look carefully at how your captured data is used, especially in remarketing campaigns. GA4 lets you flag events you don’t want to use when reaching out to customers and that could cause you to be out of compliance with marketing laws.
5. Take advantage of AI insights
One of the perks of GA4 is the insights that help you see trends you may have missed when looking at reporting data, as well as see potential upcoming trends. When first logging into your dashboard, you’ll see notifications alerting you to interesting trends, new event patterns, and opportunities to dig into your data further.
This can be something as simple as a web page getting much higher traffic than in previous months or a session length that's longer or shorter than what's expected for your site. These opportunities are very convenient, as they can let you know about problems on your site, viral sharing of a web page, or even a possible trend you can capitalize on that you weren't aware of before. These are things that you would traditionally have to comb through reports to see.
Bottom line: Your platform may not be GA4 compatible yet, but there's a definite advantage to hopping on board now. Some of the more robust SEO tools require GA4 to help with keyword analysis and ranking predictions, so it’s vital to get up to speed as soon as possible and reach out to a partner if you need a little extra help getting the job done. Plus, with UA not processing data after July 1, 2023, it’s a must if you want to keep tabs on how customers are interacting with your website and apps.