In the past few weeks, I’ve been asked by clients and internal team members a very smart question; “When should we start using GA4 (Google Analytics 4)?,” and I didn’t really have a clear answer. In the past few months since being released in October of 2020, GA4 has been throwing many digital marketers and analysts into a bit of a frenzy.
It was brought on to simplify many of the age old testaments of Universal Analytics, and was created to focus heavily on event-driven analytics. Universal Analytics was hit-based, so most user interaction was based on pageviews. An event-driven analytics data model tells a larger story of user behavior vs hits as it fills the gaps between pageviews.
GA4 also combines the use of web tracking with Google Analytics and Firebase for Apps into one place. Gone are the days of an integration between Firebase and GA. Here are some of the key changes brought with GA4:
- Out of the Box Event Tracking: Essentially, GA4 will automatically track certain website interactions automatically. There is a list of automatically tracked events here. This reduces the need to create tags for things like scroll tracking, simple video tracking and a few more.
- Larger Measurement of Time-Based Engagement: In Universal Analytics, you needed additional tracking to be able to track time-based engagement for users. GA4 allows events to have a bigger piece to play in user engagement on pages of your website. Now you can see how long it takes users to complete very specific events.
- DebugView: This is nifty for many users who wanted a clear way to debug implementation within Google Analytics. With Universal, debugging GTM implementation largely was handled in GTM, and now with GA4, you can debug implementation in their debug mode tool.
There are other changes brought forward with GA4, like a major UI upgrade, and more. I suggest reading through this great article that my above points are summarized from.
It took me a fair amount of research and speaking with others in the analytics world to really finalize my thoughts on the question “When should we start using GA4?” The answer to that is really “Now,” but with a caveat.
For many small businesses or small teams just trying to wade through website analytics, the introduction of GA4 can be what puts them underwater. Universal Analytics isn’t going anywhere, and your current collected marketing data in your Universal Analytics properties won’t be deleted or archived.
Google will eventually start to focus and favor GA4, but the properties will still exist. Any large property changing introductions for current Universal Analytics properties will be given a long notice period. Also note that as of this writing, Google has yet to announce any sunsetting of Universal Analytics.
How I suggest marketers “move” to GA4 is to set up a GA4 property along-side your current Universal Analytics property and start the process of collecting GA4 data. GA4 is going to be the new norm, and I suggest you start to learn how it operates.
As you’ll find in my video below, the setup of GA4 isn’t a complicated process if you’re starting out and just wanting to collect data in your GA4 property. Google offers you some handy “enhanced measurement” events that are automatically tracked that were manual to track in Universal Analytics. Take a look…
So let’s say you are ready to take the plunge into GA4, but you think to yourself “Hmmm, what about my event tracking & conversions?” That is a very valid question. Event tracking is pivotal to success in digital marketing. Watch my video below to learn how to set up basic GA4 event tracking…
And just like that, you’re off to the races and tracking marketing data in your GA4 property. Wasn’t so hard, was it? There are many different resources for understanding GA4, and I wanted to share a few of them:
- Google Developer Guide for GA4: This is a great resource for understanding the ins and outs of GA4. Don’t worry, despite its name having “developer” in it, it’s not all code talk.
- GA4 – ConversionXL: ConversionXL is a library of great marketing courses that spans the landscape of digital marketing. It’s not cheap but if your agency or yourself can afford it, I highly recommend taking Charles Farina’s course on GA4.
- Google Analytics Resources for Marketers and Analytics Pros: There are already articles created to help you find resources for learning GA4 better than I could put together, so here is a great one
- Charles Farina’s Blog: Charles is an incredibly trusty digital marketer. He is also the Head of Innovation at Adswerve. He’s always down to help troubleshoot issues you’re having and answer any question you have on the top of your mind. Give his blog a read-through and bookmark it.
- Measure Slack: Measure Slack is a community of analytics, engineers and digital marketers who are passionate about everything analytics. Join our awesome community.
Whether you are ready to make the move to GA4 now, or planning on it soon, I hope you found this post and videos useful.