The 5 best new functions in GA4
Everyone knows by now that Google Analytics 3 (GA3) is being phased out next year – and if you don’t yet, well 1st July 2023 is probably going to be a chaotic day for you!
But what does this really mean for your data, and is it going to force a change in reporting?
In short, it means that no new data will be processed in GA3, but your existing data will stick around – for now. We know that GA3 will still be accessible for at least six months after 1st July, but we still don’t really know when the actual termination date of the historic data will happen.
The deadline has caused a little bit of panic to many marketers, worrying that they need to learn a new interface and the new skills that come with it, but you shouldn’t be worried.
Yes, there are new skills to learn, but this isn’t a bad thing.
GA3 is a really dated solution that just isn’t fit for purpose anymore, so look at Google Analytics 4 (GA4) as the strong advancement that it really is – it’s certainly more in line with modern tracking solutions.
Here are five of my favourite new functions:
1. Clearer dimensions and metrics
GA4 has vastly clearer dimensions and metrics, such as the wonderfully simple “first_visit”. This clearly defines the very first interaction of a user on-site, which was just not possible with GA3 due to the out of the box configuration.
2. User identification
GA4 has better user identification across devices. Some of this is black box, but we know Google Signals is one factor and results in better handling of new browser initiatives that affect tracking.
3. Control of data points
The platform also offers improvement on controlling certain data points from audience building, governing analyst access, to sensitive metrics and predictive modelling for retargeting – for example those likely to purchase in ‘X’ days.
4. New visualisations
When it comes to reporting, new visualisations are now built in, such as funnel reporting, with custom reports gaining more options and granularity in the drag and drop builder.
There will be more flexibility when it comes to unsampled reporting with no data collection hit limits, 10 million hits per report, and no sampling on pre-processed reports at all (even with secondary dimensions).
Additionally, Big Query integration is now free for two months rolling, with only a small storage and usage fee if you need to go beyond this limit.
5. Focus on users
Finally, GA4 will focus more on users than on sessions, since sessions aren’t really what they used to be. Modern devices mean tabs are left open in the background and auto-refreshing. Artificially inflated sessions help no one and can actually count against a campaign.
So by focusing on users now rather than sessions we get much more accurate reporting.
Make the switch sooner rather than later.
Allow yourself the time to understand the new web UI, learn about the differences from GA3, and prepare internal teams for any changes to reporting you will have.
This is also a great time to think about the data you’re collecting; do you really need certain data points, are you being fully compliant with data protection laws, are you missing any data points, have you audited your GA configuration recently?
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