Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

It can take years to become fully fluent in an area of expertise like Google Analytics. So, understandably, it can be frustrating for analytics to find that things have changed, and skills must be relearned. Such is the case with Google Analytics 4, or GA4. On the upside however, the promise of new features and functionality offer the potential for more optimised and informed decision making. And when used with a strong Google Search strategy it can really drive your business, especially ecommerce, into a data driven place.

This article explores the 7 key features and updates of GA4, including predictive analytics, custom reporting, event tracking, conversion tracking, customisable automated table, anomaly detection and audience segmentation.

 

Advanced Features

In Google Analytics 4, the dial has really been turned up on machine learning and artificial intelligence. For example, once purchase events are set up on a retailers website, GA4 will automatically start creating predictive audiences based on a site’s real user behaviours. This gives retailers detailed insights on the purchase behaviours (or churn) on particular product lines from their own user base. Now, some might argue that this already exists and that many retailers already apply this technology to their websites, which is true. The big benefit with GA4 is that it is offered entirely free – making access to such technology more equitable for businesses of varying size wishing to grow.

What is now evolved into custom reports, was once known as custom dashboards. But this earlier iteration did not include the creation of tables or visualisations for cohorts, paths, funnels, and segments to improve audience insights. These reports can now be exported or downloaded in PDF or excel form.

Automatic and enhanced event tracking allows businesses to easily and automatically track events, allowing for greater inhouse visibility and capability. New events can easily be created within the Google Analytics 4 platform for any events that have not been previously set up. Per property, you have a quota of up to 300 events – which is significant and rather generous. Conversion tracking is even simpler, by simply togging on a particular event as a conversion, you automatically begin tracking that event as a conversion. Deleting unwanted conversion tracking is just as simple. In earlier versions, up to 20 conversions were available for tracking, but in GA4 this has increased to accommodate 30 conversion events.

As with event and conversion tracking, customising automated tables is no new concept. But previously, it was tricky to do. Earlier versions of analytics also limited the addition of dimensions to two. In Google Analytics 4, any of the data in the reports can be customised. Any number of dimensions and metrics can be manipulated and also saved to ensure your style of reporting is remembered each time you need it.

Anomaly detection is when Google presents feedback when a particular action on your site was predicted, but failed to occur. This detection system relies on their artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies. A failure to achieve a predicted goal of £5,000 of sales of a particular product in one day is an example of such an anomaly. Essentially, Google is highlighting significant events to you based on their algorithmic calculations. This makes reporting and actioning change simpler for businesses to manage themselves. GA4 also puts you in charge of setting the sensitivity levels for the anomaly detection, to fit your risk and significance preferences.

Finally, you can now build audience segments for one-time use. Previously, audience segments had to be created and saved – which was a frustration for many. Now in Google Analytics 4 the comparisons tool on the reporting page allows for one-time-use audience segmentation. You can still create audience segments to save and store in the configuration section or explorations section, but this is no longer a necessary step.

 

Take a look under the hood

The team at Google put together this walkthrough of the Google Analytics 4 User Interface so that once you’ve made the switch you’ll be fully prepared with what you’ll see upon entering. It’s worth spending a little time giving it a watch so that you can hit the ground running.

Summary

If analysts can put the frustrations of significant interface and functionality change to one side, they will soon see that there is plenty in GA4 to get excited about. There are a number of key features and updates such as predictive analytics, custom reporting, event tracking, conversion tracking, customisable automated table, anomaly detection and audience segmentation, that will make for improved data-backed decision making.