Google Analytics is a powerful tool for website owners and marketers to gain insights into their website's performance. However, the changing landscape of digital marketing and the increasing complexity of user behavior across multiple devices and platforms have led to the need for a more robust and comprehensive analytics platform. In response to this need, Google has introduced Google Analytics 4, which is designed to provide a more complete view of user behavior and engagement across all channels and devices.
Key Features of Google Analytics 4:
GA4 is built on a new data model that enables website owners to gain insights into user behavior across multiple devices and platforms. Some of the key features of GA4 include:
- Cross-Platform Tracking: GA4 tracks user behavior across multiple devices and platforms, including mobile apps and websites, and provides a unified view of user behavior across all channels.
- Machine Learning: GA4 uses machine learning to provide insights into user behavior and engagement, including predictive analytics that help website owners anticipate user needs and preferences.
- Privacy Controls: GA4 provides greater control over user data and privacy, enabling website owners to comply with data privacy regulations and protect user data.
- Event-Based Tracking: GA4 uses an event-based tracking system that enables website owners to track specific user actions and behaviors, providing more granular insights into user behavior.
Benefits of Google Analytics 4:
GA4 offers several benefits over the previous version of Google Analytics, including:
- Better Understanding of User Behavior: GA4 provides a more comprehensive view of user behavior, enabling website owners to gain insights into user behavior across multiple devices and platforms. For example, if a user begins researching a product on their mobile device and later purchases it on their desktop computer, GA4 will track this behavior and provide a more complete view of the user's journey.
- Improved Privacy Controls: GA4 provides greater control over user data and privacy, helping website owners comply with data privacy regulations and build trust with users. For example, website owners can now use GA4's built-in consent mode to ensure that users have provided explicit consent for their data to be collected and analyzed.
- Predictive Analytics: GA4 uses machine learning to provide predictive analytics, enabling website owners to anticipate user needs and preferences. For example, a website owner could use GA4 to identify patterns in user behavior and use these insights to personalize content and improve the user experience.
- Simplified Reporting: GA4 provides simplified reporting and a more user-friendly interface, making it easier for website owners to access and analyze their data. For example, GA4's new home screen provides a summary of key metrics and insights, making it easy for website owners to quickly identify areas for improvement.
Reporting in GA4
One of the more visible changes to the GA platform is the reporting system/engine. Introduced with the new GA4, the new reporting system takes some time to learn and master, but offers a number of key advantages over the previous version.
Beyond the slick User Interface and better integration with Google Ads, Event-Based reporting is one of the bigger changes. In GA4, each user action or interaction is considered an event, which can be tracked and analyzed separately. This means that website owners can gain more detailed insights into user behavior and engagement, and make more informed decisions about how to improve their website.
Data Retention (Important!)
One key change to the platform affects the data retention period for user and event data. Whilst this kind of data could be stored in GA3 for many years (or indefintely), GA4 will only retain such data for 2 month by default. This retention limit can be optionally increased to a maximum of 14 months, however user and event data will be automatically erased after this period expires. This means that the reporting capabilities of the new GA4 platform will be severely reduced, especially for customers that normally compare and analyse long term data, such as in the case of yearly trends. Moving to the (paid) Analytics 360 edition of the platform would increase this limit, and many other benefits, however this comes at a hefty price tag which may beyond most small ortganisations.
More details about the new data retention and limits can be found here.
Impact on Website Owners:
As version 3 of Google Analytics is retired, website owners will need to migrate to GA4 to continue tracking user behavior and engagement. The migration process may require some adjustments to tracking codes and reporting, but the benefits of GA4 make it a worthwhile investment for website owners looking to gain a more complete view of user behavior and engagement. With its machine learning capabilities, predictive analytics, and privacy controls, GA4 is poised to become the future of analytics for website owners and marketers.