Website optimisation | 28/10/2020

What is Google Analytics 4?

Posted by Lawrence Greenlee

This month (October 2020), Google released the beta Google Analytics 4.

If you are interested in the technical differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4, Google has this helpful comparison guide. But if you want something less dry, we have put together some thoughts on getting started with Google Analytics 4.

Can I get Google Analytics 4?

As of October 2020, a handful of accounts have access.

First of all, you need to have Google Analytics set up. You can see if you are eligible by looking in the admin section. You will see a button (see the image below) labelled “Upgrade to GA4”, which takes you through to a set up wizard.

Upgrading your Google Analytics does not affect your existing Google Analytics set up, so none of your existing data will change. It is considered a separate entity, so no harm done if you decide to set it up for a few weeks to have a play with later on (that’s exactly what we did!)

How do I install Google Analytics 4?

GA4 has a set up assistant, which takes you through the process of setting up a ‘data steam’. Installing GA4 on your website is like installing Universal Analytics. You have a few options:

  • Copy and paste a snippet of code into your website <head>.
  • Add code via Google Tag Manager, using the property ID.
  • Via your existing Universal Analytics on-page code.

We installed ours via Google Tag Manager, which was a very quick and easy job (about 5 minutes). You can see our tag configuration (minus Measurement ID) below.

How do I set up conversions / goals / KPIs on Google Analytics 4?

This is where the key differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics seem to be.

Universal Analytics tracked, as default, pageviews. Additional user events, like clicks and scrolling, required additional set up via Google Tag Manager or extra information in your source code. This was often clunky, requiring significant knowledge of how Google Analytics works – and the process always felt slightly botched together.

Google Analytics 4, as default, tracks a breadth of user events. These include clicks, scrolling, file downloads and a user’s first visit.  You can see some events that have started coming through below (minus the actual metric numbers).

It would be as simple as clicking ‘Mark as conversion’ for those events which your business considers to be KPIs. In the future, there will be an option to ‘Modify event’ and ‘Create event’, though this is not available to everyone yet. Benjamin from Loves Data has created a great video guide on how to set up conversions this way.

We have noticed that form submissions and ecommerce do not seem to be tracked automatically. These will need to be managed through the Custom Definitions and GA4 Event tags – though the process for this is more intuitive than with the previous version.

Personally, I think this is a big improvement. Gone are the days of goal IDs 1-20, destination URLs and setting Event Categories, Actions and Labels.

What reports are available in Google Analytics 4?

Many of the concepts are the same as Universal Analytics: acquisition reports, engagement, behaviour and user demographics are present on the Google Analytics 4 platform. The reports are neat and visual, with clearer labels and a slightly customisable interface.

An area of significant progress is the Analysis feature (right down the bottom). Here, it is possible to set up data visualisations: an improvement on the custom reports from Universal Analytics. The set up for these requires a bit of trial and error, but we were able to pull out some interesting insights with the week of data that we had collected.

Google Analytics 4 seems a little daunting, and is a major shift in web tracking. It is still very new, and we are still exploring the capabilities of this new tool – so this is not a comprehensive guide. But it seems that this new Google Analytics offers exciting opportunities to marketers to get faster, deeper and better insights from their user data.

Want help with your analytics? Need marketing support? Fox&Bear offers creative digital marketing solutions for search, social and your site. Get in touch with us on 01273 208 913.