Soon, Google Analytics 4, or GA4, for short will be replacing the previous three versions of Google Analytics. Meanwhile, Anil Batra, Managing Partner of Optizent, and Shawn Hessinger, the Executive Editor for Small Biz Trends discuss why that should be something small businesses should look forward to instead of dreading.
In this SBT in 15 episode, they both sit down together to discuss what GA4 is, ways in which it is a simpler data model, the main differences between it and previous versions and other important takeaways.
For more from Anil Batra and Optizent, visit: https://www.optizent.com/
Also, the following primers can help with GA4 implementation:
What is GA4?
Shawn: What exactly is GA4, and what does it mean to small businesses?
Anil: GA4 is the free and latest version of Google Analytics. It’s called GA4, which is short for Google Analytics 4. Now, why are they calling 4? I think they have gone through three major iterations before this, and that’s why they are calling it GA4.
However, none of the previous versions were called GA1, GA2 or GA3, right? In addition, many people in the industry are calling the previous, and current version, Universal Analytics, GA3, although that’s not the official term.
Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics and Previous Versions
Shawn: What are people going to see that is different from what they see now?
Anil: The purpose of Google Analytics is for it to be a digital analytics tool. Primarily sitting on your website, it tracks a website’s user’s behavior.
So as users are coming to your site, what are they doing on the site? Where are they falling off from the site? etc.
The digital analytics part of it is, where it’s also measuring the performance of your campaigns. So think about that whole digital ecosystem, some data resides in Facebook ads, Google ads, etc but once a user clicks on the ad, then they come to your site and it can measure the effectiveness of those ads and it can figure out what users are doing when they are on the site.
Understanding and Optimizing Web Analytics is Critical to a Small Business
Anil tells us that the definition of web analytics is the measurement, collection reporting and analysis of the data for the purpose of improving customer experience, conversions, ad performance and marketing performance.
Now, most of the people using Google Analytics just track their reports—how many people came to my site? What they did? etc.
The ultimate purpose of any measurement, and we’ve been teaching this for years, is to understand and optimize that and decide what actions to take. In reality, many folks just measure, measure, measure.
Now, what’s happening over the past few years is that users are using different devices to come to your site. They might look at your ad while they are watching TV; they might go on the phone, open the phone—or go to your site on an app and then come back to their desktop and purchase from there.
GA4 Brings Together Apps and the Web
The interaction between app users and the web creates a disjointed journey with the previous version of Google Analytics, Anil says. You can’t really understand what’s happening when the user journey is broken.
In the past few years, there’s been a lot of uproar around data privacy policies, cookies, etc. So there is a lot of discussion around those where local laws exist—where each country has its own laws—even like states have their own laws—users are demanding more and more control over their data. These things are addressed in GA4.
Also, app usage has become very common. So when Goggle Analytics started, it started as a web analytics tool, which was only for your website. Then, when the app usage people started using apps, they came up with a product called App + Web, which allowed you to track your apps as all.
However, the journey was not connected. So you have App + Web, even though they were saying it, you could just put two sets of data.
To explain, if Shawn comes to your website, he is still showing up as two: one via an app, and one via the website. Shawn makes two visits to the site or app.
GA4 Geared Toward the Paradigm of Events
Anil tells us that GA4 is more geared toward this whole paradigm of events instead of page views, which happen on websites. It’s all about events that happen, and you can track everything as an event on a website.
For example, somebody scrolling, somebody downloading something, somebody pinging the server, or somebody completing a purchase on the web, are all events you can measure as events.
So they have combined both app and web. By combining using the same terms, and the same methodology for tracking them, GA4 combines those two behaviors. Now you can now track everything as one, giving you a simpler data model.
Also, using machine learning—using the data Google has—it can now stitch together everything so that it knows that these are the same users.
There are other big differences, including the fact that users have more control over the data. For example, they can ask for the deletion of data that they don’t need their organizations to collect.
Considering this, my opinion of the main thing that has changed is that there is a lot simpler business model, as you get a lot more events that you can track in GA4.
The previous version of Google Analytics only lets you track three parameters for an event. On the other hand, with Google Analytics 4, you can have up to 25 event parameters, meaning you can enrich the data.
So if someone is scrolling, rather than saying only which page they are scrolling from, how far they have scrolled—you know you can track those things—but now you can enrich that data with other attributes as well.
This event took place at this user’s local time, this event took place after the user did something, all those things, well, you can parse it and get really rich data. The same goes for user properties.
So the event model that GA4 has is two components: one is a user, and one is an event. That’s it. A user comes to your site, and they perform certain things, those are events. When you pass all these parameters, you are creating an enriched data set that you can analyze.
Going back to the definition we are talking about with GA4 and its events, it has measurement, collection and analysis for the purpose of optimizing. Knowing you have rich data, you could optimize it a lot more than you could do in the previous versions.
Be sure to check out the rest of the video where you’ll find helpful and actionable tips for small businesses that are migrating to Google Analytics 4 from Universal Analytics.
Here, you’ll find out information on what stays the same, what things will change and what you will need to do when the time comes to change over.
For instance, Anil discusses some common metrics businesses use that will go away in GA4. That includes the bounce rate. He says you can use another metric in GA4 that makes more sense to use instead.
So, don’t put off learning about GA4 by joining us for this informative video. Also, be sure to let us know in the comments about Figuring Out Google Analytics 4 and how you plan to incorporate it into your website after watching.
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