4 Fundamental Changes Happening with Google Analytics 4

4 Fundamental Changes Happening with Google Analytics 4
9 min read
08 May 2022

 Google Analytics 4 is out, and everyone is focusing on the new shiny features, the event tracking, the funnel analysis, maybe what is there, what is not yet there, but before you get wrapped up in trying to figure out Google Analytics 4 by yourself, are you actually aware of the fundamental shifts that are going on under the hood? I bet you, if you understand these fundamental shifts a bit better than you save lots of time and energy, when it comes to explaining this new paradigm to your client and your stakeholders. So if you don't know quite yet what this whole shift is all about.

 So Google Analytics 4 is out, and it was announced and pushed rather fast. I was getting questions all over the place on how to install it, where to find this report, that report, or should I actually switch to Google Analytics right now? 

Now it's important to notice that Google Analytics Universal Analytics is not going anywhere soon. It will probably be around for many years to come, but it's also clear that Google Analytics 4 is the future of Google Analytics. Looking beyond all the shiny little new details of the tool, there's actually a lot going on here.

So I thought we together take a look under the hood and explain the fundamental shifts that you need to know about today. And because it's Google Analytics 4, here are the four big changes I see happening with this tool.

1. New Device Support

Tracking mobile devices was always a bit tricky thing to do inside of Google Analytics, because of the different technology, we needed eight different approach. There was always a different version for Google Analytics to track mobile apps, Google Analytics for apps, Firebase Analytics, and finally Google Analytics for Firebase.

The big issue used to be that those were quite different from what we saw inside of Google Analytics for the website. So probably the first big change we really need to mention is that you can now send multiple so-called streams of data into Google Analytics 4. To track not only your own website, but also your mobile devices.

There's an SDK for iOS and Android, as well as a JavaScript library, based on the Gtech to track your website. And the incoming data can now be measured and stored in one reporting interface and analyze across devices.

That is possible with a new architecture that lets us install cross-device tracking and unify the data points across these different devices. And this also includes being able to track a user cross device.

Obviously tracking page views, bounce rate, or time on site doesn't quite fit into tracking a mobile application.

2. New Data Model

To unify all of these different data collection methods and the data that comes into the systems from different devices, there needed to be a complete rethink of how Google Analytics works. A mobile app just produces completely different data than a website. So they got rid of talking about page views, transaction, social interactions, and so on and unified it under one concept. These are events.

If you think about it, it's quite smart. As an event can be anything you'd like it to be. You could name your event, page view, screen view, or app view. And then you can send in any data that you really want. With each event that comes in, you can send extra information that describes the event more closely. And these are called event parameters. You might know them from Universal Analytics as the name of dimensions.

An event that is called purchase, for example, could have properties like the order ID, revenue, items bought, et cetera. Now these are written in key value pairs. So you can use them later on to segment, filter or search through them in your analysis stage.

And these properties can also occur in other events so you can Crow them together and compare them against each other. This makes things way more flexible in the long run and also future proofs the system for any other kind of device, system you might wanna to track like IoT devices or point of sale systems or smart purchase for example. But it also means you need to put a bit more thought into setting up your events properly in order to be able to actually analyze them later on. Proper planning is therefore a crucial component of working with Google Analytics, 4.

3. New Views

With all that event, data coming into Google Analytics 4 property. How can you now make sense of it inside of the tool? You might remember that Google Analytics Universal Analytics had a pretty broad spectrum of reports to answer many of the questions you might have for your data.

But now that event data could be anything, it's maybe a bit harder for the tool to make any kind of assumptions of what data is actually coming into the system. That's why you see a less standard report at least right now, inside of Google Analytics 4 and instead, we'll be working with the analysis hub which lets you query your data in a very flexible way and you can do quick ad hoc analysis, build little funnels and create cohorts.

Google Analytics 4 is making a bit of a switch here to be less of a reporting interface where you simply view your data and see what's going on to a platform where it gives you the DIY tools for your reporting so you build it yourself. But if you want to go even deeper into your data, Google Analytics 4 now, lets you export your raw data to Google BigQuery, which is their data warehousing solution. There you can work with your data even further, combine it with other data sources, run custom analysis and more.

And of course, you can also pull the data from Google Analytics 4 now into Google Data Studio and then visualize it and build reports for your client and stakeholders. That's probably the way to go if you wanna show that data off.

4. New Perspective

As you can see, Google Analytics 4 is unlike anything we know from our previous Google Analytics experience. It's actually like a new tool. The tool has whole new perspective on the data and how it represents this new digital world. The simplified data model allows you to be more flexible in the information you send into the system. And it also allows Google to plug that data into the existing machine learning systems to come up with new insights for us. So we don't ask the question, they give us the insights right away. They actually already knew predictive metrics available in Google Analytics 4 today.

And Google Analytics 4 is less opinionated about which device or which business we are actually tracking, making it independent from the assumptions about what type of business we have in front of us or which website we are using here. And this obviously opens up whole new world of customization, as your perfect Google Analytics 4 setup won't be the same as anybody else's.

And lastly, there's also a new perspective of the place of Google Analytics and the tool mix of the whole marketing platform. They have multiple tools in there, right? And it's more shifting the focus to a measurement and analysis platform for Google Analytics 4, leaving up some of the functionality of reporting to tools like Data Studio or BigQuery.

All this makes the platform hopefully more future proof and allows us to be more flexible with our measurement needs in the future. All right, these were my four big changes that I saw inside of the big shift to Google Analytics 4. I know I didn't quite talk about all the new little features inside GA4 because they are frankly changing from a day to day basis, but we'll probably get to them on the channel as well, but let me know what you think. 

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Alex 9.6K
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