GA4 And What Marketers Need to Know

The future of Google Analytics is changing, and Amin Shawki wants your organization to be on the cutting edge of data-driven insights. Shawki is the VP of Client Services at InfoTrust, a digital analytics consulting and technology company. He’s the go-to expert on all things Google Analytics, and he recently led an AMA Chicago workshop to discuss what we can expect from Google Analytics 4 and how we can best prepare our organizations for the coming change. 

A little background

If you’ve been in marketing and advertising for a couple of years, then you know that big changes are coming down the pike in terms of user privacy and third party cookies. The European Union’s General Protection Regulation (GDPR) was put into place to protect consumer privacy on the web. As a direct result, marketers are having to say goodbye to the traditional ways of tracking user behavior and demographics. Google Analytics 4 is Google’s solution to the changing regulatory landscape. 

What’s different? 

GA4 has been totally re-written on the backend to prioritize data privacy and user-centric reporting. Unlike UA, which was built around sessions and page views, GA4 will use a completely event based model. That means all data pushed through GA4 is considered an event. This new model makes the platform more future-proof and adaptable in the ever-changing world of regulations, browsers, and privacy. 

Compliance with Privacy Regulations

GA4 will feature a “consent mode,” which collects data while adhering to user consent choices. The platform will track anonymous behaviors using metrics like purchases, product prices, and order totals. If a user chooses not to consent, you can generate data models for anonymous, session-based metrics like page views, outbound clicks, scrolls, and more. 

Enhanced Flexibility and Scalability 

Digital marketers will also be pleased to learn that GA4 is going to be more flexible in terms of how data is collected, processed, and displayed. Instead of treating websites and mobile apps as separate streams, GA4 features a unified data model with cross device reporting and attribution. Additionally, GA4 will allow for at-scale automation and automatic machine learning. 

User-friendly Data Modeling

GA4 will feature simplified tracking, reporting, and dashboarding compared to the old UA system. This simplified, event-based tracking means you won’t need to create custom dimensions. GA4 will also boast highly customizable reporting. The platform’s reporting tool will allow users to create a dashboard similar to Google Data Studio, but less complex and simpler to use. You can also customize viewer permissions and toggle measurement options like page views, clicks, and more. 

How can you prepare? 

As of this writing, there’s no way to migrate data from your existing Google Analytics platform into GA4. In other words, GA4 will be a totally blank slate. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start building up your data repository now. To get ahead of the curve, Shawki recommends setting up GA4 now and running it alongside Google Analytics. You can use a dual tagging system to ensure that all incoming data populates in both platforms. By the time you switch over to GA4, you’ll have a nice treasure chest of historical data to work with. 

In terms of your timeline for transitioning to GA4, Shawki recommends that sooner is better. Google has slated UA for fewer and fewer updates and less support going into the future. Eventually, the platform will likely be sunsetted. If you don’t have plans in the near future to adopt GA4, then early 2023 is the absolute latest your organization should adopt it by. Plus, the sooner you make the leap, the sooner you can start playing around with those cool visual reports and machine learning features! 

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