GA4 - The next generation of Google Analytics

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GA4 The next generation of Google Analytics-KOMMA99

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Google Analytics 4 conversion at a glance - advantages and tips

On 01 July 2023 the time has come -. Google Analytics Universal is replaced by Google Analytics 4. In the official announcement from Google it is pointed out that as of this date, no more data will be processed in Universal Analytics Properties. What this means, what to do now and what advantages Google Analytics 4 offers, you will learn in this blog article. 

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What is Google Analytics 4?

Since 2018 at the latest, the topic of data protection has attracted a lot of attention due to the wave of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Website operators and companies in particular have also witnessed many discussions around the topic of Google Analytics and the collection of analytical data in 2022. Google and possible gaps in data protection were put through the wringer, which naturally caused a lot of concern among users of these services. For this reason, Google has focused on a new generation of analytics, which will European and international requirements in data law is justified. In addition GA4 relies on Artificial Intelligence (Machine Learning) and thus can provide a much broader insight into data. In short: GA4 is an upgrade from Google Analytics Universal - safer, more transparent and better in data evaluation.

When should I switch to Google Analytics (GA4)?

Now! As of 01 July 2023, Google Analytics Universal Properties will be switched off and it is currently unclear whether and how data can be transferred to GA4. Therefore: Switch to GA4 now, start collecting data now! 

Google Analytics 4 - What changes now?

Google heralds the next generation of Google Analytics on July 01, 2023. GA4 is a completely new property (=reports and data linked to a website or app) that brings familiar but also some new features:

Known from Google Analytics Universal

  • Analysis and survey of website or app data such as traffic, traffic source, etc.

New in Google Analytics 4

  • Users:inside in focus: In the future, data will be event-based collected across the entire user journey. 
  • Simple event trackingIf you had to adjust universal codes with Google Analytics, this now works automatically with GA4. User interactions such as page views, engagement, etc. can be activated simply by clicking.
  • Cross Device Tracking: Data can be compared and analyzed across platforms through GA4.
  • Comprehensive funnel analyses: With GA4, much more in-depth analyses become possible, which were previously only available in the paid Google Analytics 360.
  • Analysis for web & app in one: Previously, Google Analytics for Firebase was used for app tracking. With GA4, app tracking and web tracking is under one roof. 
  • Data Modeling: If users do not consent to tracking, data modeling comes into play - GA4 thereby attempts to fill in the missing data through AI.
  • Improved data protection: In GA4, IP addresses are automatically anonymized and also data gaps are reduced because GA4 can collect certain data even without consent. 

Important: As of July 1, 2023, Google Analytics Universal will be discontinued, so no more data will be processed. After that, the reports can still be viewed for a while, but all new data will flow directly into Google Analytics 4 Properties. 

Good to know: Those who use the paid Google Analytics Universal 360 benefit from data processing until July 1, 2024. 

Enable Google Analytics 4

There are several ways to enable Google Analytics 4 for a website.

Initial setup Google Analytics 4

In a Guidance from Google explains exactly how to activate Google Analytics 4 for a website for the first time. If all steps are followed exactly, GA4 will be active shortly. It is important to note that for successful data measurement, event tracking must be set up - i.e. the Conversion tracking via GA4.

Replace Google Analytics Universal with GA4

If Google Analytics Universal is already active for a website, it must be additionally added the GA4 property will be. Until 01 July 2023, data will continue to be collected via Google Analytics Universal, so both versions can be accessed. 

Add GA4 directly to a CMS

This option is only useful if Google Analytics is obtained directly from a CMS (e.g. Wix, WordPress, Drupal, Shopify, Squarespace, etc.). Here you can find a CMS listing, where this is possible.

Info icon comma99You need support with the activation or conversion to GA4? We can handle the conversion or activation of Google Analytics 4 for you! Just take contact with us.


GA4 - All innovations at a glance 

Google Analytics 4 has many innovations to offer. Above all, the user interface is very different from that of Google Analytics Universal. The new features take some getting used to, but at second glance they are very advantageous. Here you get an overview of all the innovations that the new Google Analytics concept offers. 

New user interface

Similarities to Google Analytics Universal can be found in the user interface of GA4 only in the structure - the interface itself is completely redesigned. This new user interface appears much more streamlined and tidy in comparison.

GA4 The next generation of Google Analytics-KOMMA99 The new user interface of GA4 - here as an example the start page.

GA4 The next generation of Google Analytics-KOMMA99

The menu is completely redesigned, here there are 4 areas to choose from: Home, Reports, Expl. Data analysis and advertising. Further items can then be found in the submenu under the respective menu items. 

GA4 The next generation of Google Analytics-KOMMA99

At "Reports" you can find data on real-time data measurement, traffic (user accesses), session and interaction duration, demographics, engagement, events, conversions, and monetization (for e-commerce and apps). 

At "Expl- Data Analysis" can perform exploratory data analyses can be created. Here, graphics and visualizations are used to analyze and display a specific data set. 

GA4 The next generation of Google Analytics-KOMMA99

GA4 The next generation of Google Analytics-KOMMA99

At "Advertising" you can find out more about the most important user paths. If media expenditures are made, they can be viewed and analyzed here. 

New model of data collection

At the latest in the area of data acquisition, one recognizes: A lot has changed here. With a completely new data model, GA4 relies on an event-based model. Google Analytics Universal's data model is based on session- and pageview-based data collection - now the focus is on the Users and events. All user interactions with the website or app are recorded as an event and collected in a data stream. 

Events already existed in Universal Analytics, but the new concept is completely different. Previously, an event had an action, category, label and trigger type. The new event-based data model eliminates the use of trigger types and reduces it to three components into which data is organized: Events, Event Parameters, and User Properties. 

Info icon comma99In GA4, a user interaction tracks an event (e.g. page_view). The event parameter captures information describing the event (e.g. page_title, page_location, etc.). The user properties provide information about the user who triggered the event.

In Google Analytics 4, there are four different types of events:

  1. Automatically recorded events are automatically captured by GA4 and do not need to be activated manually. These include e.g. session_start or first_visit. 
  2. Events for optimized analyses are collected automatically by GA4, but you need to enable "optimized analytics" in the data stream settings. Then events like downloads, interactions with forms, scrolls, etc. are recorded.
  3. Recommended events are not automatically enabled by GA4, so they must be set up manually. The setup will be recommended by Google and concerns, for example, a registration, a login or a purchase. 
  4. Custom events are activated manually and are only used if the desired event is not recorded in the previous categories. This is where technicians are needed, because individual code must be written for this. 


New metric "user engagement 

From Google Analytics Universal we know metrics like bounce rate, average dwell time and pages per session. In the future, this will no longer be possible with GA4 because sessions themselves are not measured. With Google Analytics 4, a new metric will be added: User engagement. User engagement refers to the time during which users have actively viewed the content of a website or app. 

This metric is used by GA4 to determine the "Sessions with interaction" in other words, exactly what typical website or app operators want to achieve:

  • Session lasts at least 10 seconds 
  • Either session includes at least one conversion event
  • Or session includes at least two page or screen views

The seconds can be adjusted manually, since 10 seconds cannot always be considered a qualitative dwell time, of course. 

Within the GA4 Property, comparing sessions with interactions to the total number of sessions yields the metric "Engagement Rate". And this can of course be very informative, especially for data analysis. If online marketing measures such as SEO, Google Ads or social media marketing are used for a website or app, then the new "engagement rate" is much more meaningful than the previous data such as the dwell time. Now relevant data is put in relation to each other and our online marketing hearts are happy about that 🙂

Everything new in data protection

We online marketing experts really had some educating to do last year when it came to the topic of Google Analytics. In 2022, Google was put through quite the wringer for data protection reasons, as the processing of personal data left some gaps open and was thus in the gray area. There has also been an increase in users refusing to share their data - which of course leads to data loss in analytics. Google has responded to this with GA4 and appropriate adjustments made.

One thing in advance: We do not put our hand in the fire that GA4 to 100% is data protection compliant. We believe that there will always be a gray area. But: Google has made really good adjustments to optimize data protection. Briefly and compactly, the most important changes: 

  • No storage of IP addresses
  • IP addresses are processed for geolocation only for a short time
  • Deactivation of detailed location and device data is possible
  • First-party cookies are used, which ensure data protection laws
  • Retention period of the data is a maximum of 14 months in the tool itself (export is of course still possible)
  • Data from end devices within the EU is processed and stored on servers within the EU

Cookies are history? No! Google Analytics 4 continues to use cookies, which means that users still have to give their consent to tracking (opt-in via cookie box). The advantage GA4 offers here: If users refuse tracking, GA4 uses Artificial Intelligence (Machine Learning) to close possible data gaps through "blended data". Cool stuff and a clear advantage for online marketing people!

Info icon comma99That all sounds like a train station to you? We take care of the conversion or activation of Google Analytics 4 for you! Just take contact with us.


Conclusion - Google Analytics 4, and now what?

It's not easy, we have to admit. Completely new concept, new interface, new metrics, and, and, and... But: Who really intensively deals with GA4, quickly recognizes the advantages of the new Google Analytics generation. Our clear conclusion: GA4 brings a breath of fresh air, is extremely comprehensive, but at the same time also clearly and modernly prepared. It is still free of charge and offers many possibilities for data analysis, especially in the area of marketing.

And finally a hot tip to all those who actually set to work themselves and dare a new setup or conversion to GA4: Make sure you have a well thought-out tracking concept! Without a doubt, you have to deal with tracking more with GA4 than with Universal Analytics.

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