Review Google Analytics 4 Pros and Cons

Review Google Analytics 4 Pros and Cons

Review of Google Analytics 4: new features, Pros, and Cons



Review Google Analytics 4 Pros and Cons


Review Google Analytics 4 Pros and Cons: About a year ago, the Google team presented the "App + Web" functionality, which allows you to combine site and mobile application data in one GA resource. All this time, a new type of resource was tested, changed, improved, and finally left the beta version under a different name. Meet Google Analytics 4. 


A thorough explanation of Google Analytics 4's features, how it varies from Universal Analytics, how it benefits businesses, and the issues it can help them with has been compiled by analysts at Help For Beginners. We'll also examine which businesses ought to take advantage of the new kind of resource straight away.


What is Google Analytics 4


In GA, this is a brand-new resource type. It looks a little different than a resource in Universal Analytics (UA) and is much easier and faster to set up. In presentation materials, the Google team repeatedly calls the new type of resource the future of analytics, arguing this for the following reasons: 


  • Scalable cross-platform analytics built around events. 
  • All GA users have access to the ML and NLP features in the new resource.
  • Maintaining privacy is a priority, including eliminating the need to set cookies.
  • Seamless integration with all Google products.
  • Cross-platform user identification. The user's whole journey, or all of his actions across various devices and platforms, is visible in the new resource.

Let's take a closer look at these benefits. 


Scalable cross-platform analytics


An event-driven approach allows you to collect reliable and consistent data across multiple devices and platforms.


In the standard web version of GA, everything is built around user sessions, and in Firebase, everything is built around events. Therefore, it is difficult to analyze the user's transition between platforms, since there is no universal measure of user behavior. Even with raw data, you need to make a lot of effort to build a high-quality user flow.


Google Analytics 4 proposes to consolidate all analytics around events. That will allow you to collect the same standardized data across all devices and platforms. This improves the data quality and provides a single report across the entire user journey.


Machine learning


One of the main advantages of Google Analytics 4 is machine learning and NLP features that are used to: 


  • Create Google Ads audiences based on your projections about the chance of a conversion.

  • Alert you to important data trends. For example, about goods for which demand is growing due to changing user needs.

  • Find anomalies in reports. 

  • Predict the likelihood of customer churn so you can invest more effectively in customer retention:

Source: https://blog.google/


The Google team plans to further develop this area and add new predictive indicators, such as ARPU so that all users of the new resource can adjust their marketing strategy and increase their ROI using ML insights. 


Privacy is the top priority


  • Google Analytics 4 focuses on privacy. To implement it, the gtag.js library is used, which works without cookies. Accordingly, it can be expected that shortly Google will abandon Client ID and rely only on internal device and browser identifiers, as well as a cross-platform identifier that is generated in CRM, i.e. User ID. 
  • In GA 4, IP anonymization is enabled by default and cannot be altered.

Seamless integration with Google tools


This section's YouTube integration is now its most advanced feature. Google is making an effort to raise the standard of YouTube campaign scoring. For example, track view-through conversions. You can do so to learn the answers to the following queries:


  • How does my YouTube ad campaign impact specific engagement metrics? 

  • How does it affect the bounce rate, certain events on the site (not necessarily conversions), etc.?

With deeper integration with Google Ads, you can create audiences and run campaigns that will bring in new customers with more relevant and useful offers, no matter what device they use. 


Also, in Universal Analytics, the BigQuery Export feature is only available to users of the paid version, while in GA4 this feature is free for everyone. You can activate data collection to Google BigQuery cloud storage in the resource settings.


Cross-Platform User Identification


Google Analytics 4 counts real users who interacted with your business, not the devices and browsers they used. 


The new resource uses 3 levels of identification:


  • User_id _ _

  • Google Signals 

  • device_id 


With the implementation of event-based analytics, you can more accurately track the user journey from the first touch to conversion and repeat orders. Moreover, if the user on different devices made the same event, this data will merge into a single touch point. For example, if he put an item in the cart both on his smartphone and on his laptop, then the "Add to Cart" event will be counted once.

 

Differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics 



Review Google Analytics 4 Pros and Cons


Let's contrast the primary tracking ideas in Google Analytics 4 with Universal Analytics: 


Universal Analytics Web


  • Page Views / Screen Views 
  • Events 
  • sessions
  • Hit Types: page, event, e-commerce, social
  • Custom Dimensions, Custom Metrics
  • Content Groupings
  • User ID
  • Client ID


Google Analytics 4


  • Events
  • Event Parameters 
  • User Properties 
  • User ID

In Google Analytics 4:


  • Analytics is based on events, not sessions. Since sessions are an artificial concept, Google suggests that they should be abandoned. You may create your session data if you need it by dealing with Google BigQuery's raw data.

  • Both settings that change with each occurrence and end-to-end data gathering options are available for the entire website. 

  • GA 4 provides built-in end-to-end reports on user IDs, you do not need to create a separate view to use user id.

In GA 4, by analogy with Firebase, there will be three types of events and their parameters. 



3 types of events and parameters in Google Analytics 4



  • Recommended events are grouped by business area: retail and e-commerce, travel or gaming. See the full list here.

  • Custom - whatever other events you want to introduce and track. They are subject to GA4 limits.

Recommended and custom events are implemented independently.


Each event can have additional parameters


The parameters and indicators that are end-to-end for the majority of reports and assist in meeting the GA 4 constraints are known as custom definitions (Custom Dimensions).


No category, action, and event label


The terms "category," "activity," and "event label" do not exist in Google Analytics 4. 


These characteristics are matched to specific event settings for modifications that are already in place and data that is being gathered. If you want to see properties in GA 4 reports, then you need to register them. 


Pageviews become a page view event


If the "config" fragment from gtag.js has been implemented, this event is automatically gathered.


The page view event has preset parameters:


  • page_location
  • page_path
  • page_title
  • page_referrer

Sessions and session counting in Google Analytics 4


While there will be 4 sessions, GA reports will count them differently than Universal Analytics does:

  • The automatically gathered session start event starts the session.
  • The time between the first and last events is known as the session length.
  • Automatic recognition of interactions (no need to send an interaction event).
  • The timeout for processing late hits is 72 hours (versus 4 hours in UA Properties). There could be fewer sessions in GA 4 if you compare the number of sessions in a GA 4 report to the number of sessions in Universal Analytics. Considering that hits delivered after the session ended can be attributed to the appropriate session within 72 hours. The generation of session reports will thus take longer.
  • The length of a session cannot yet be specified in a GA 4 resource.

Custom parameters and metrics 


For Custom Dimensions & Metrics to get into GA 4 reports, they must be transferred to a new resource according to the rules that Google suggests. While hit and user-level parameters have GA4 equivalents, there is no equivalent for session-level parameters. You may also define them at the hit level.


To use custom product-level definitions, they must be added separately. It is not yet clear how this will work, because the feature is still in development and there are no Ecommerce reports that would contain custom product-level definitions.


Universal Analytics


  • Hit-scoped
  • User scoped
  • session-scoped
  • Product scoped

Google Analytics 4


  • Events or event parameters
  • user properties
  • no equivalent
  • E-commerce parameters (COMING SOON)

User Properties (New)


In GA 4, a new feature appears - "User Properties" (User Properties). 


These definitions are appropriate for a particular audience and user. For example, gender, city, new or returning customer attribute, regular customer attribute, etc.

 

All of a user's activity is governed by any properties that apply to that user. Audiences are created to customize adverts based on user traits.


Who will benefit from switching to Google Analytics 4 now



Review Google Analytics 4 Pros and Cons


You should already implement Google Analytics 4 if:


  • The Data Layer and Google Tag Manager are used to coordinate the data collected on your website.

  • The fewer tags you have, the better because you won't need to make as many changes.

  • You actively use YouTube Ads and User-ID based remarketing.

  • You are an active user of Firebase and your team is familiar with the data collection logic of Firebase, as well as the data schema of App + Web (Firebase) export tables in BigQuery.

The sooner you move to GA 4, the sooner you start collecting historical data, the more information you have for decision-making, and the sooner you get value from ML insights. 


As we have already seen, the structure of data and the logic of their collection in GA 4 and Universal Analytics differ significantly. Therefore, it will be problematic to combine the data of the two resources. 


Why You Shouldn't Rush the Transition


If: You experience issues deploying Google Analytics 4


  • On-site code is used as the main tracking method.

  • The primary tracking method is GTM, and there are numerous tags in the container. Especially if the tags are tied to auto-events.

  • You have a large site, with many subdomains, each of which is tracked separately.

  • There is no system of metrics - unified names and values ​​of events and their parameters, a unified approach to the event hierarchy. In this case, it is not clear which events are more important to add to the GA interface in the first place, and what is better to wait.

  • You have a website and applications, you plan to implement end-to-end analytics on them, while the site with applications does not have a common event hierarchy.

  • Your team has not yet worked with raw data in BigQuery and is not familiar with the principles of Firebase Analytics / App + Web and the upload scheme. 

Therefore, we recommend that you first build a common data collection logic and only then deal with implementation, otherwise you can very quickly run out of free slots for user parameters.


If you do not have a built-in data collection scheme, you can collect useless events in BigQuery and face export restrictions + pay for storing junk data that will not be useful to anyone. For example scroll events, banner views, etc.

 

The main disadvantage of GA 4, in our opinion, is the scheme for exporting data to GBQ, in which the key parameters of events and users are stored in nested fields. This means that to obtain the necessary information from GA 4 tables, it will be necessary to process many times more data compared to OWOX BI streaming or BigQuery export in standard Google Analytics 360.


Other situations where Google Analytics 4 won't work for you


  • If the new resource should be used by several teams at the same time. At the moment, there are no views in GA 4, and access control has not yet been implemented. 

  • If you want to analyze costs and ROAS for non-Google campaigns, there is no data import in the new resource yet.

  • If you need to export conversions to Search Ads 360 and Display & Video 360, integration with other Google products is not yet fully functional. 

How to upgrade to Google Analytics 4


Google and OWOX analysts recommend using both versions of GA assets for now. For this: 


1). Create and configure a GA 4 resource.

2). Add the tracking code manually or through GTM. We recommend using Tag

3). Manager because it is more convenient and faster. 

4). Think about the parameters and events you want to capture for the new resource type.

5). Use two resource types at the same time to compare how data is collected.
Please pay attention:
  • A GA 4 resource may include ONLY ONE Firebase project.
  • at the same time, several flows from different applications can be configured into one GA 4 resource. 

Summary

  • This is the most dramatic update of the GA logic: now everything is built around events (events), event parameters, and users (users), and not around sessions as before. 
  • Cross-platform analytics between the site and applications out of the box is one of the key features and drivers of GA 4.
  • To set up a new GA4 resource, you can use an already configured GA via gtag.js or GTM.
  • When setting up GA 4, a new WP resource is automatically created, and only from the moment of setting up data will be collected into it. Data is not migrated from old WPS.
  • The Google team does not encourage everyone to abandon the old GA and switch to the new one. They recommend launching the new Google Analytics 4 in parallel and starting collecting data into it. The standard GA is still the source of historical data.
  • While there are shortcomings in the new GA 4 and not all features are available yet, developers are rolling them out gradually.
  • The ability to import costs from non-Google sources into Google Analytics 4 is not yet available.
  • You can set up a free download of data from GA 4 to GBQ. The export method is the same as Firebase's.
  • GA 4 resources can already be set up, and data collection may begin. More historical data will be gathered the earlier you sign up.


Do you have questions about how to find your ideal niche? Let us know in the comments below!


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