Taking Charge: How Business Owners Can Harness the Power of Google Analytics 4 for Strategic Success
Let’s start with the basics – what is Google Analytics?
Before diving into Google Analytics 4, it’s important to understand Google Analytics, a product of the Google Marketing Platform that provides a robust web analytics service to allow website and app owners and businesses to track data on how users are utilizing their sites. This powerful tool meticulously monitors and documents both website and mobile app traffic patterns, offering invaluable insights into user engagement and interaction by highlighting key data points from website sessions. A website session occurs each time a user accesses your website.
Originally launched on November 14, 2005, Google Analytics transformed the landscape for businesses utilizing websites, opening up a new world of information on how customers engaged with their businesses. At that time, it was known as Urchin from Google, until transitioning to Google Analytics Classic in 2007. Five years later in 2012, Google released Universal Analytics, which has served the marketing industry for more than a decade as the go-to resource for key data points about how users are utilizing websites.
Universal Analytics provided great insight into statistics such as:
- Bounce Rate — The percentage of single-page sessions in which there was no interaction with the page (a bounced session has a duration of 0 seconds)
- Pageviews — Pageviews is the total number of pages viewed (repeated views of a single page are counted)
- Sessions — The period of time a user is actively engaged with your website, app, etc.; all usage data (screen views, events, e-commerce, etc.) is associated with a session
- Unique Visitors – The number of individual users who have visited a website at least once during a specific period of time, regardless of how many sessions they initiated
And the list goes on. These are just a handful of specifics that Universal Analytics provides. Google Analytics 4 will still offer these metrics to website and app owners, but the new version of Google Analytics will have some key differences in how this data is measured.
On July 1, 2023, Google Analytics 4 will become the default analytics model and Universal Analytics properties will stop tracking data. Historical data for Universal Analytics properties will still be accessible, but no new data will be gathered in Universal Analytics after June 30, 2023.
What’s different about Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4 is the latest advancement in analytics tracking technology from Google. Originally launching in Mid-October 2020, Google Analytics 4 was released to supersede Universal Analytics and enhance the level of detail website and app owners can gain about how their customers are interacting with their businesses.
The main difference between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 is that Universal Analytics utilizes a sessions-based model and Google Analytics 4 utilizes a flexible events-based model. The chart below outlines some high-level differences between the two analytics’ measurement, reporting and automation.
Why did Google migrate from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4?
The primary reason for Google Analytics migrating from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 is to help website and app owners better understand their customers.
The Session-Based Model (Universal Analytics)
Picture a bustling bee, buzzing from flower to flower in a vibrant garden. That’s much like how Google’s Universal Analytics organizes data. At the heart of its reporting lie “sessions,” each one a collection of user interactions on your website, all within a specific time period.
Like the industrious bee collecting pollen, during each session, Universal Analytics gathers and archives user activities. Pageviews, events and even eCommerce transactions are all stored as ‘hits.’ A session can be a rich treasure trove, containing numerous hits, mirroring the myriad ways a user explores your digital garden.
The Event-Based Model (Google Analytics 4)
Think of Google Analytics 4 as an attentive detective, precisely gathering clues about your website or app’s activity. While sessions still have their place, the real spotlight in Google Analytics 4 is on “events.” Events are like little puzzle pieces of activity that help to define the bigger picture, providing a clearer depiction of what’s unfolding on your website or app, whether it’s page views, button clicks, user actions or system events.
Every event is a trove of information, capturing and transmitting specific details that enhance our understanding of a user’s action or add greater context to the event or user. Imagine knowing the exact value of a purchase, the title of a page visited or even the user’s geographic location. Google Analytics 4 turns these snippets of information into a comprehensive story about your digital environment.
Beyond event-based tracking, Google Analytics 4 will provide other important resources including but not limited to:
- Better Integration with Google’s Marketing Ecosystem
- Google Analytics 4 is designed to seamlessly work with Google’s other advertising products, creating a more unified and powerful tool for marketers.
- Cross-Platform Tracking
- Google Analytics 4 is designed to track users across websites and mobile apps, providing a more holistic understanding of the user journey.
- Advanced Machine Learning and AI
- Google Analytics 4 incorporates Google’s advanced machine learning and AI technology to generate deeper insights and more accurate predictions. This can help marketers better understand user behavior and anticipate future actions, which is increasingly important in a fast-paced digital environment.
- Adaptation to Privacy Concerns
- With increasing concerns over privacy and tightening data regulations, Google Analytics 4 was designed with a strong focus on privacy and compliance. It offers more data control options to users and has a more flexible approach to data collection.
How can I use GA4 strategically as a business owner?
As the old adage goes, knowledge is power. With GA4, business owners gain access to a comprehensive toolset that will help to identify hidden pathways in the customer journey, unlocking insights at a deeper level than ever before. From understanding patterns in website versus app data to tracking revenue streams more accurately, to identifying user interest in particular products, GA4 acts as your strategic toolkit to advance your understanding of your audience.
To maximize your use of GA4, consider asking yourself or your team the following questions:
- Which business objectives are we trying to achieve?
- Which metric or key performance indicator must we improve upon to fulfill this objective?
- What value or level does that key performance indicator need to reach to be successful?
As your guide to adapting to GA4, we would be remiss if we didn’t offer some real-life scenarios of how businesses can utilize the leverage gained from GA4 to advance to new levels. The following scenarios outline just a sampling of how the platform can be used to reach new heights.
- Business Type: Online Bank
- Need: Understand website versus app data
- Solution: For an online banking platform, understanding the journey of its users on both the website and mobile app is crucial. GA4 allows them to separate or combine these two streams of data. This means they can analyze which features are more popular on the app compared to the website, track conversions and study the path that leads to sign-ups or transactions. The outcome? They can tailor each platform according to its usage, enhancing customer experience and potentially increasing conversions.
- Business Type: Nonprofit
- Need: Better tracking of donations through multiple channels
- Solution: For a nonprofit organization, every donation matters. GA4 enables them to track the source of these donations — whether they came from an email campaign, social media post, online donation portal or organic search. By using GA4’s advanced attribution modeling, they can pinpoint which channels are most effective and optimize their marketing efforts to reach potential donors more effectively.
- Business Type: Restaurant
- Need: Understanding what menu items users are most interested in
- Solution: Imagine a restaurant that knew its customers’ taste preferences even before they stepped in. With GA4, this is possible. By tracking user interactions with the online menu, a restaurant can identify the dishes that generate the most interest. Maybe it’s the new pasta dish or the specialty drink menu only served on karaoke night that’s driving traffic. With this insight, they can adjust their menu, promotions and even ingredient procurement to match customer interest, thereby improving profitability and customer satisfaction.
The shift to GA4 is here, make sure your business is harnessing its full potential with a team that knows how to use it. Appleton Creative is an award-winning, full-service Orlando marketing agency that specializes in websites and search engine optimization. Appleton works with local, national and international clients to deliver marketing strategies that put your website ahead of the competition. At Appleton, we want to learn about your business, empower your marketing team and be your creative resource. Your goals are worth a conversation: contact us at 407-246-0092 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Google Analytics 4 (GA4) Help
- Google’s Announcement on GA4
- Guide to Google Analytics 4 (Search Engine Journal)
- Understanding Google Analytics 4 (HubSpot)