Since it was launched in November 2005, Google Analytics has become the world’s most popular online analytics tool.
As well as its link to the globe’s favourite search engine, it has immense power to help businesses discover who, when and how people are visiting and using their website and other online presences.
From July 2023, all new data collected by Google Analytics will be available through GA4 (Google Analytics 4) as the third iteration of the tool (Universal Analytics) is consigned to history.
In the fast-moving world of technology, current versions of software and apps often get replaced but what advantages is GA4 offering users and – in particular – the average B2B business?
Let’s take a look…
The differences between websites and apps are becoming ever blurred.
One requires a simple web browser – the other requires downloading (typically to an Android or Apple device) – but once in use, visitors often struggle to tell the difference.
The outgoing Google Analytics requires additional Firebase or APP View extensions to be able to analyse app traffic, alongside your website.
However, the new GA4 takes a more holistic view, allowing you to simultaneously track your website and app in one.
This is perhaps the most significant change between the outgoing Google Analytics (Universal Analytics) and the new GA4.
Google Analytics has historically tracked sessions. In simple terms, these are fairly rudimentary actions users take, defined by up to four parameters.
In GA4 everything is tracked – not just defined actions but all the user’s behaviour even when they appear to be doing very little! These events now can involve up to 25 parameters, including details as granular as page location.
Accurate reporting of unique users
This events-based tracking leads to more accurate reporting of individual users. The practical advantage is that you can track the same user across various devices and platforms.
From viewing your app on their phone – to visiting your website on their laptop or desktop – you can get a more accurate view of what an individual (or individuals) are up to.
No more bounce rate!
Bounce rate is an age-old metric which reports when people enter a website and then ‘bounce out’ without visiting another page.
It’s typically considered a bad thing as we want people to explore our websites further. However, what if the user found everything they wanted or returns later?
Instead, GA4 includes a new set of predefined metrics which can be used to report on users’ engagement with your website or app. These replace bounce rate with more detailed and nuanced metrics which take into account that your carefully constructed landing page may just provide users with everything they need!
Strictly speaking, bounce rate does remain in GA4 but it reports on a much narrower group of interactions where no other engagement is recorded.
As many users can attest, on the outgoing Google Analytics, establishing the tracking of certain events on your website or app can require a high level of skills and knowledge. It’s often not very intuitive!
On GA4, many aspects of common event tracking are now just a tick box or toggle away – such as page views, scroll events or video engagements.
This should prove much more user-friendly for many businesses who want a simple way to understand user behaviour on their website or app.
Many advanced reports were previously only available to users of GA 360 – a premium paid-for version of Google Analytics.
GA4 includes a suite of reports called ‘Explorations’ which are now available to everyone.
Highly configurable, they can be edited to create highly bespoke and specific reports into any data or sequence of events/actions – with all the flexibility previously reserved for GA 360.
No limits on the volume of data
Few people ever came to the limits of the current Google Analytics – but GA4 pushes the boundaries even further, by not having any!
BigQuery is a ‘cost-effective, serverless, multi-cloud data warehouse to power data-driven innovation’ – so say Google!
In non-tech-speak, it allows analysis of large (massive) amounts of data. It’s typically used by international brands such as leading e-commerce retailers, banks and media streamers.
Not much practical use to the average B2B businesses – but it’s good to know it’s now integrated into GA4!
Data control and privacy
Much has changed in the world of data privacy, including new legislation such as GDPR. As a result, Google Analytics has had to change too.
There is now greater control over how data is collected and if/when it can be shared. GA4 no longer records IP addresses or stores cookies.
There are also increased ways in which you can limit Google’s own use of information, including asking them to delete all the data they hold for your business (taken via Google Analytics).
There are often holes in online data which make it hard to create an accurate picture of how a website or app is performing and how users are behaving.
GA4 uses a higher level of machine learning to look at trends and fill such gaps with intelligent insights and predictions, giving a much fuller picture.
So, why upgrade to GA4?
Well, quite simply, you won’t have a choice!
The current Google Analytics will cease to collect data from July 2023. If you haven’t accepted the option to change, you’ll be unable to access any new analytics data.
However, on the face of it, GA4 is a significant improvement. It satisfies the holy trinity of improved software by being 1 – easier to use, 2 – more intuitive and 3 – more flexible.
How do you upgrade to GA4?
You can currently test GA4 whilst maintaining your existing Google Analytics (Universal Analytics) access.
Google’s Setup Assistant is the easiest way to upgrade to GA4. From your existing Google Analytics account, go to the Admin area, click the gear-shaped icon, select ‘Property > GA4 Setup Assistant’ and follow the steps.
As with Google Analytics, you’ll have to apply a new GA4 Tag. On the GA4 dashboard, click on ‘Setup Assistance > Tag Installation’ and follow the steps.
What do you do with all that information?
Truth be known, the sheer breadth and level of data available from GA4 is perhaps only applicable to business with high volumes of critical traffic to their websites and apps – those with a high reliance on online functionality or e-commerce.
However, for absolutely any business with a website, there is data and information which can give you and amazing insight into whether your website is attracting, satisfying and converting visitors into your next customers.
Few digital marketing decisions relating to your website should ever be taken without an understanding of the core metrics through Google Analytics.
Need help getting the best for your business from GA4?
At East Anglia’s leading B2B marketing agency, we help businesses in B2B sectors including manufacturing, technology, logistics, IT, professional services and supplies get the very best from their marketing.
If you need any support optimising your digital marketing – be it your website, SEO, PPC, social media, content marketing or Google Analytics – contact us here.