Are you ready for the wave of GA4 updates? With the Universal Analytics (GA3) set to be replaced by GA4 on July 1, 2023, it’s important to stay informed about the biggest updates you need to be aware of. From changes in event tracking to the consolidation of Universal Analytics’ functionality, there’s a lot to cover. But don’t worry, we’ll speak plainly and concisely, while weaving personality into our copy, to help you navigate the world of GA4 updates with tried-and-true experience. Let’s dive in.
Update 1: All Previous Actions are Now Events
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has brought some significant changes that marketers need to know. One of the most prominent updates is that all previous actions are now considered as events in GA4. In Universal Analytics (GA3), actions such as visits, sessions, scrolls, and clicks were calculated differently. However, in GA4, they are now categorized as different types of events.
GA4 marks some big changes for the way marketers track user behavior on their website. GA4 tracks all actions as events, offering a more comprehensive view of user engagement with a website, including specific actions that were previously challenging to track. For instance, with GA4, marketers can see how far users scrolled on a page, how long they watched a video, and how many clicks were made on a specific element.
Now, the events in GA4 are classified into three main types: automatically collected events, enhanced measurement events, and custom events. GA4 even includes recommended events which are, as the name implies, recommendations for different custom events to create.
Automatically collected events
These are basic interactions automatically tracked by GA4, such as pageviews, clicks, and scroll depth.
Enhanced measurement events
By adding code snippets to your website, you can track more advanced interactions, such as file downloads and video engagement.
Create and define your own specific events to track using GA4’s new myriad of custom parameters.
Update 2: Web + Mobile App Integration
GA4s updates also include the integration of website and mobile in-app tracking into a single platform. This feature allows businesses with eCommerce sites and mobile apps to view their entire shopping experience holistically. The integration of tracking for both channels enables businesses to track user behavior and interactions across multiple platforms, providing a comprehensive view of the customer journey.
The integration of website and mobile in-app tracking offers many benefits, such as the ability to understand how customers interact with different channels and devices. This feature helps businesses to optimize their marketing and advertising efforts across various channels, as they can see which channels are most effective at driving engagement and sales. The integration also allows businesses to view cross-device behavior, which can help them create a more personalized and seamless experience for their customers.
In addition to the integration of website and mobile in-app tracking, GA4 has also opened up inputs for multiple data streams. This update allows businesses to leverage different data streams and property tags in order to configure filters at the tracking level. This feature allows businesses to create custom reports and dashboards tailored to their specific needs.
The ability to create custom reports and dashboards provides businesses with a more comprehensive view of their data. This feature enables businesses to identify trends and patterns in their data that they may have otherwise missed. With this information, businesses can make informed decisions that can help them optimize their marketing and advertising efforts.
Update 3: No More Views
Google Analytics 4 has consolidated many features from Universal Analytics into new functionalities, and as a result, it has removed the Views feature from the Admin panel. While this may come as a surprise to some users, it is important to note that this does not mean that custom reporting is no longer possible. Instead, GA4 offers a range of new tools and features that allow for more comprehensive and detailed analysis of your data.
Without the Views feature, GA4 offers a more streamlined approach to data analysis. Users can leverage the power of Analysis Hub to create custom reports and insights, and they can also use the Exploration feature to slice and dice their data in unique ways. Additionally, GA4 has introduced a new way to group and organize data using Properties and Data Streams, which allows for more granular control over data and how it is collected.
While the removal of Views may require some adjustment for longtime UA users, it is a step forward in creating a more integrated and user-friendly analytics platform. By consolidating features and introducing new ones, GA4 offers a more comprehensive and efficient way to gain insights into your data.
Update 4: GA4 Custom Parameters
Thankfully, GA4’s Custom Parameters give marketers the flexibility to create any filters they need to “view” their data however they need. Google Analytics 4 has introduced a powerful new feature called Custom Parameters, which offers marketers greater flexibility and control over how they view and analyze their data.
With Custom Parameters, users can create custom filters to analyze their data in unique and specific ways. Users can pass any data to custom dimensions between third party API data and their website. This allows for a more customized approach to data analysis, ensuring that marketers are only seeing the data that is most relevant to their needs.
“In my opinion, this is one of the most powerful features in GA4. For example, I can pass in 6Sense API data that enables us to see what classification of users are coming to the website. Then we can correlate this data to conversion rates to get real insights.”
Custom Parameters can be created at both the event and user level, allowing for even greater flexibility and granularity in data analysis. For instance, users can create custom parameters that filter out specific types of events or focus on specific user attributes. This allows for a more targeted approach to data analysis, making it easier to identify patterns and trends in user behavior.
Update 5: eCommerce Monetization Reports
Google Analytics 4 has made significant changes to its eCommerce feature, including updates to terminology and structure. This means that businesses using GA4 will need to adjust the language and setup of their eCommerce stores accordingly.
One major change in GA4’s eCommerce feature is the introduction of Monetization Reports. These reports provide businesses with detailed insights into their revenue streams and allow them to analyze the performance of specific products or categories. This is particularly valuable for eCommerce businesses, as it allows them to identify areas for improvement and optimize their product offerings for maximum profitability.
Another notable change in GA4’s eCommerce feature is the shift from tracking transactions to tracking events. This means that instead of tracking transactions as individual events, businesses will now be able to track a wider range of eCommerce interactions, such as product views and cart additions. This change provides a more comprehensive view of user behavior on an eCommerce site, allowing businesses to gain deeper insights into user engagement and identify areas for improvement.
Overall, GA4’s updates to its eCommerce feature offer businesses greater flexibility and control over how they track and analyze revenue streams. By introducing Monetization Reports and shifting to event-based tracking, GA4 is helping eCommerce businesses make more informed decisions and optimize their digital strategies for success.
Update 6: Developer Debug Mode
GA4 also looks out for developers looking to better understand how their site is communicating with Google. which provides implementers with detailed information on the data being sent from a webpage. This feature is particularly useful for developers who need to troubleshoot issues or identify when and where data collection errors are occurring.
With debugging mode, developers can see exactly what data is being sent from a webpage, including event and parameter values, and can even view a log of each hit that is sent to GA4. This allows them to quickly identify any errors or issues with data collection and take the necessary steps to address them.
Additionally, Developer Debug View also includes realtime reporting, which allows developers to view data in real-time as it is being sent to GA4. This feature is particularly useful for testing and verifying data collection, as it provides developers with immediate feedback on the data being sent from a webpage.
Update 7: User Engagement Tracking
Another huge update in GA4 focuses on user engagement tracking, which has seen a significant shift in how individual sessions are counted and engagement quality is determined. In the previous version, Universal Analytics (UA), session duration was calculated based on a time threshold of 30 minutes of inactivity or the end of a day. However, GA4 now tracks sessions based on the user’s engagement with the website or app.
To help marketers understand the user’s behavior on their website, GA4 provides a comprehensive list of engagement metrics that tell a complete story of the user’s session from start to finish. These metrics include engagement rate, engagement time, scroll depth, video engagement, and outbound clicks. With this information, marketers can identify which content on their website is resonating with their audience and improve the user experience.
Furthermore, GA4 also provides an Engagement Value metric, which measures the quality of engagement during a session. Engagement Value is calculated by assigning a value to each interaction a user has on a website or app. This value is based on the interaction’s importance to the business’s goals. The Engagement Value metric helps marketers identify which actions lead to higher conversion rates, allowing them to optimize their website or app for better user engagement and increased revenue.
GA4 has also reintroduced season bounce rates, so there is still a way to quickly and easily report on your usual north star CRO metric. In the new GA4, however, “bounce rate” is the percentage of sessions that were not considered “engaged.” If a user views a single page and doesn’t spend a significant amount of time on that page, and doesn’t take any actual conversion action, the visit will be counted as a “bounce.”
Overall, GA4’s shift towards user engagement tracking provides a more comprehensive view of user behavior on websites and apps. The engagement metrics and Engagement Value help marketers understand how users interact with their content, which in turn helps them optimize their website or app to improve engagement and revenue.
Update 8: Reporting Interface Changes
GA4 has also brought significant changes to the reporting interface and menus, making them more comprehensive but slightly more complex. While it may take some time to get used to the new interface, it is designed to ultimately make reporting faster and easier. The interface now includes new dashboards that provide a broader view of website and app performance. These dashboards consist of multiple sections, including an overview of user engagement, acquisition, and monetization.
What’s even better is that you can either 1) create custom reports and dashboards on an as-needed basis or, even better you can 2) you can actually customize the standard reports as well which was previously impossible in Universal Analytics. This turns your entire reporting interface into a customized experience instead of a tool that you have to repeatedly use to customize your reporting tirelessly.
Moreover, the reporting interface now includes advanced analysis tools that allow marketers to visualize their data in new ways. Users can create custom reports and dashboards by dragging and dropping different elements onto the interface. This feature allows marketers to tailor their reporting to their specific business needs, providing insights into key performance indicators that matter most to them.
The reporting interface also includes machine learning capabilities that analyze user behavior and make recommendations for improvement. This feature enables marketers to identify trends and patterns that may not be immediately apparent, allowing them to optimize their website or app for maximum engagement and conversions. Overall, the changes to the reporting interface in GA4 provide marketers with greater flexibility and insights, enabling them to make more informed decisions about their digital marketing strategy.
Update 9: Distinguishing Between First Visit & Last Touch
Last, but certainly not least, GA4 has made significant changes in the way it tracks user interactions on a website. The update distinguishes between the first site visit and last touch, treating them as separate metrics. This means that marketers can now consider the first site visit and the current session as two different touchpoints in a user’s journey, giving them a better understanding of how the user navigates through their website.
With this update, GA4 is more capable of tracking the elongated sales cycles that are common in today’s digital buyer’s journey. This approach allows marketers to track the customer journey from the first visit, to the conversion point, and beyond. By being able to distinguish between a user’s first visit and their current session, marketers can gain valuable insights into the customer’s behavior and create more personalized experiences for them.
The update also comes with a new set of metrics that measure engagement quality, such as engagement rate, engaged sessions per user, and engagement time. These metrics offer a more comprehensive view of user engagement, enabling marketers to measure the effectiveness of their website in engaging users.
While this update may require some adjustment to the way marketers analyze their data, it provides a more accurate representation of the customer journey. By tracking the first site visit and last touch as separate metrics, GA4 offers a more nuanced understanding of user behavior on a website, which can ultimately lead to better conversion rates and customer retention.
Now, keep in mind that Google Analytics in general, regardless of the number, is never a finished product. There are always analytics updates to keep up with. There are bugs and unfinished areas. They continue to add on new features and change things based on the user’s experience and pain points. So nothing is set in stone.
However, understanding the above will help you get started off on the right track when it comes to GA4. It won’t cover every nook and cranny – but we’ll sure get your bases set!
If you’re looking for more in-depth, expert advice on how to setup and manage your analytics in GA4, reach out to a strategist and we’ll be happy to help!