Google Analytics 4: What It Is and Its Impact for Your Businesses
Google Analytics 4 is here. The latest iteration of the powerhouse web analytics tool, known as GA4, might be leaving you wondering, “What does this mean for me and my business?” In this landscape of ever-evolving technologies, it can be difficult to keep track of the most important changes and the impact they have on your teams.
At Brunner, we have helped dozens of clients across a range of industries manage the transition to Google Analytics 4. Read on to learn more about the latest version of this tool.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4 is a web analytics service that provides metrics and analytical tools for marketing that’s just come into use as Google’s new standard. In early 2022, Google announced it would be sunsetting its current analytics platform, Universal Analytics, and implementing GA4 as its main analytics service. GA4 became the new analytics standard on July 1, 2023. Google wanted to provide a more comprehensive and accurate view of data across multiple devices and platforms, such as websites on laptop or desktop computers and apps on mobile devices, including cell phones and tablets.
Benefits of GA4
Google Analytics 4 came about to provide two main benefits — protecting personal data and improving metrics for customer journeys.
- First, Google needed to ensure that the data collected about individual users preserved their privacy. In Universal Analytics, you could drill down to information at the individual user level, potentially revealing information about them. In GA4, the privacy controls — such as cookie-less measurement, and behavioral and conversion modeling — accommodate tighter privacy restrictions.
- Second, Google wanted to give the end-user a more holistic understanding of the user journey. For example, in previous versions of the tool, a website visitor’s journey via mobile and via desktop would be tracked separately. GA4 allows us to track them together, meaning we get a fuller picture in one spot.
How Brunner Uses GA4
Measuring performance is key to everything we do at Brunner, so our team has been busy preparing for the launch of GA4 since Google’s announcement. Nearly every client at Brunner uses Google Analytics and relies on us to manage it for them, so we knew we needed a plan for a smooth transition. Here’s how we did it.
For our current clients, Brunner set up GA4 properties in July 2022, ensuring that these clients would have one year of web analytics GA4 data for comparison come July 2023.
Another crucial limitation of Google Analytics 4 is that it only keeps user data for 14 months. We’ve developed a workaround for this as well. At Brunner, we ingest the GA4 data into our marketing intelligence hub, allowing us to keep historical data and give clients an alternative to using Big Query, Google’s data warehouse.
“By ingesting GA4 client data into Brunner’s marketing intelligence hub, we create the opportunity for our clients to explore and analyze data to guide future decisions, and track campaign success and opportunities for improvement,” explained Olivia Coghe, Brunner’s Google Analytics specialist.
1. Setting up Tagging/Tracking
The first step of setting up GA4 for our clients was getting the measurement ID onto each website so that we could ingest their web analytics data over a full year ahead of the switch.
2. Configure Data Collection Streams
Ensuring that the data collection is seamless can be a complex process. After setting up the tagging, we can adjust the data collection streams accordingly to enhance measurement events, configure domains for cross-domain collection, and define internal traffic.
3. Create Goals, Events, and Conversions
Each client is unique in terms of how their website works and what key performance indicators they want to measure. Our deep knowledge of their marketing goals helps us guide each client, with their specific needs in mind. We made sure all GA4 goals were mapped to each client’s larger objectives and were reflected appropriately within the platform. When creating GA4 events and conversions, we create GA4 events based on Google’s best practices. We also can register custom dimensions and metrics depending on client needs. Once the events are created, we mark appropriate events as conversions.
4. Finalize the GA4 Property
Google Analytics 4 is highly customizable for each client. This stage of the process is where our team sets up audiences, data settings, and attribution models, among other things. This is also the point when our team connects Google Ads and Big Query to the property. Along with these changes, our team can create custom Explore Reports, a new reporting feature in GA4, for each client.
“In UA, they used to have a whole suite of default reports that allowed the end user to jump in and just look at different slices of data. Now they have the Explore tab, which is very powerful, but unfortunately, it’s not user-friendly,” said Matthew Cancilla, Brunner’s associate director of data management.
These customized Explore Reports give us the power to dig into the data, but it can be a learning experience to get there. Our team describes learning Google Analytics 4 vs. Universal Analytics as similar to learning to speak a different language. The Brunner team can translate these differences easily for each client, giving them digestible and actionable information and reports.
5. Monitor and Make Changes
Google continues to make changes to GA4 even after its release. Staying on top of these changes is vital, so our team checks for updates daily. As our clients’ needs change, we can pivot their GA4 settings quickly.
How Can You Get Started with GA4?
If your company needs help transitioning to GA4, we can guide the process. For new clients, we start with a Google Analytics audit. We ask: are pixels firing? Does this website track conversions? Understanding where a potential client is with their GA4 migration or set up can give us actionable next steps to help them. Google Analytics 4 is ever changing and here to stay — and the Brunner team is here to help.
Kevin Amos is a partner at Brunner and oversees the agency’s marketing intelligence and media teams. He has more than 25 years of marketing industry experience with several companies, with particular expertise in paid media (SEM, display and social media), SEO, data integration and security, analytics and application development. Kevin was a founding member at IMPAQT, which gained national prominence as a top search marketing firm, and served as the firm’s vice president of technology. When IMPAQT was acquired by Merkle in 2011, Kevin remained in his role until moving to Brunner in 2015. While at Brunner, he has established and built a premier digital performance marketing, planning, and data science service unit that is made up of over 70 marketing specialists.