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DSB15758 GA4 Blog D2

GA4: The digital upgrade that will transform your business

Business Intelligence / 12.20.21 / By Josh Smith

It’s no secret that Universal Google Analytics has been an essential tracking tool for website traffic since its launch in 2005. The software promised a better understanding of user experiences, engagement and overall website visibility. Almost two decades later, GA’s online data tracking capabilities have evolved tenfold to provide even greater insight that directly influences the way businesses market themselves. And although Universal Google Analytics isn’t going anywhere, it’s critical to understand how Google Analytics 4 has the potential to be one of the most powerful tracking and predictive devices businesses have at their disposal. Here are the must-know updates within this Google tool and how companies can leverage them for targeted digital growth moving forward.

Multiple Devices

Tracking mobile devices was consistently a challenge on Universal GA because of the constant need for a different version for Google Analytics to track mobile apps (Google Analytics for Apps and Firebase Analytics). The major flaw here is that these tools reported quite differently from the classic GA dashboard. With GA4, marketers can now send multiple data streams into one medium. With this upgrade, businesses can track desktop and mobile users and even discern whether users are on iOS or Android. Contrary to the previous tracking, this incoming data can be stored and analyzed within one reporting interface. All of this is made possible by the new architecture that enables businesses to install cross-device tracking and unified data points across these different devices. Tracking multiple devices, page views, bounce rate and time on site doesn’t quite fit into tracking a mobile application.

This difference is why an upgraded data model is needed.

The New Data Model

A mobile app produces entirely different data than a website. Which is why Google created a new data model that integrates page views, transactions and social interactions under one model labeled Events. It simplifies the process, enabling marketers to create an event surrounding any key performance indicator (KPI) they want to target. With each event, GA4 gives the option to add information that defines the campaign more closely. This is called “Event Parameters,” which used to be known as “dimensions” in Universal GA. For example, an event labeled “Sale” could have Event Properties like the order ID, revenue, items purchased, etc. These are written in key-value pairs to filter, segment or search through when analyzing.

These properties can also be placed within other events to compare and grow together. This allows campaigns to be more flexible and add device systems, like IoT Devices, at any time. Although providing greater flexibility, this change confirms that proper planning is essential when creating events and event properties, because this data can determine how a business operates moving forward.

Reporting + Forecasting

How does this new data model translate into reporting? There are fewer standard reports inside GA4 because there are no standard tracking points like in Universal Analytics. Now that events can be any action, it’s much harder for the tool to make assumptions of which data is coming into the system. Instead, marketers need to leverage the Analysis Hub, which allows data to be curated in a malleable way.

This is a major transition from Universal Analytics: Instead of a reporting interface to view predetermined data points, this platform provides the tools for the reporting to be a developed and comprehensive summary. This also leverages Google’s existing machine learning system to deliver new insights and improve campaign goals. To take an even deeper dive into the data gathered, GA4 provides the capability to export raw data to Google Big Query (Google’s Data Housing Solution). Here, you can further dissect data, combine data sources, run custom analysis and more. Similar to Universal GA, GA4 can connect to Google Data Studio so marketers can visualize web traffic.

An Evolved Beginning

As displayed here, Google Analytics 4 transcends the traditional GA experience and should be considered a new tool altogether. Providing a unique perception of data and how it encompasses the digital world as a whole forces marketers to be more decisive and intentional about the information sent to the system. Once that’s decided, this tool proves to be one of the most powerful tracking and forecasting devices on the planet. By combining machine learning with business goals, GA4 showcases the technologically evolved state of the market and helps businesses become more tactical—with a measurement plan that can ultimately lead to exponential growth.

Learn more about how DS+CO turns data into a direction and a plan with a purpose for your business today.

Author

Josh Smith

Josh Smith is DS+CO’s content and SEO manager, building digital information strategies to reach the right people the right way.