Google recently made its new version of Google Analytics official.
Previously named App+Web during the Beta phase, GA4 offers new possibilities, but also raises a lot of questions about new features and the challenges surrounding platform adoption.
Is GA4 a the next big thing in analytics?
To help us measure website activity, Google offered Universal Analytics (UA) in 2015. Six years later, the giant is inviting us into the new era of data with GA4. In short, GA4 is the next big thing.
Why? GA4 offers an updated, much cleaner user interface, a new data model based on events, and features previously unavailable or inaccessible to users of the platform’s free version.
The platform’s backend is changing completely and the way reports are managed, presented, and analyzed will require adaptation. Practicing working with these changes will, we believe, create a serious competitive advantage for your business.
Let's take a look at the platform's new features.
Events, Custom Funnels, BigQuery and Reports
Four changes that should be on your radar:
- Events, which were already important on UA, become a central element in GA4. Everything is an event, even the Page View. Although this may add a layer of complexity, it is a positive change as it offers much more flexibility for the data that can be collected.
- You can now create custom funnels and get the segment overlap (functions that were previously available exclusively for GA360 users). These important additions make it possible to obtain much more information about the website use, create more complex audiences and integrate those audiences automatically with Google Ads.
- The ability to connect BigQuery, (also previously reserved only for GA360 users) is probably one of the most eagerly awaited features. A BigQuery connector is included with the adoption of GA4, and allows automatic data export to its own data warehouse.
- eCommerce metrics and reports, although incomplete at this time, are not compatible with the Universal Analytics implementation. It is possible to use the enhanced eCommerce installation with a few manipulations, but it is clear that you will have to make some adjustments, especially because the events are structured differently.
The sooner you adopt it, the better ... with a caveat
Timing: Although these new features are very interesting, it does not mean that you should immediately replace UA by GA4! UA data is not compatible with GA4. This means that if you replace UA entirely today, your historical data will not be transferred.
Many features are still missing. Missing features include connectors for several important platforms, such as Search Console, Google Optimize and the entire 360 suite (Display & Video 360, Search Ads 360, Campaign Manager 360, etc.). Annotations and attribution reports are not available either. Also, the platform does not support Regex in most reports. The list is longer, but we know that most of the essential features will be integrated over time.
Even if these features are missing, we still recommend installing GA4 in order to start accumulating data, so that the transition will be easier down the line. By accumulating data today, you'll have a base amount of history to work with to explore the platform and do analysis.
While GA4 no longer carries a beta product label, it is not ready to become your primary analysis tool. But it wouldn't be surprising if the platform were completely viable, by the end of 2021. Rest assured, Universal Analytics will not be discontinued anytime soon, so you don't have to worry about your current data.
Our final recommendation: Integrate GA4 with Universal Analytics, to help you through the transition and to get adapted to features that are only available with GA4. This will set you up for better data and better performance in the months ahead.
Not sure where to start? Read Google’s help article. Or contact our team. We can help you get the most out of your data.