What is GA4? Your Ultimate Guide to Success

by | SEO News

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From 1st July 2023, Universal Analytics is being replaced by Google Analytics 4, an upgrade to data collection and enhanced measurement for your business’ web traffic data.

While you won’t be able to carry on using Universal Analytics after this date, being prepared for the changeover to GA4 will help you to understand the brand new GA4 property and enable a smooth transition to the new platform.

Additionally, it will allow your team to follow best practice when using GA4, and you will learn how to strengthen your SEO strategy.
Get help with your PPC services through the GA4 transition, or read on to learn more!

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Why Do I Need Help with My Transition to GA4?

It’s important to remember that the transition to GA4 is a sizeable shift from the well trodden road of Universal Analytics that business owners know and love.

Not only is the GA4 setup completely different, but the way in which reports are created are also vastly different. For example, you may find that you need to re-configure your reporting methods to read your data differently.

This may change how you interpret your data – where is my data coming from? Do I need to ramp up my efforts in PPC or SEO as a result? Which methods are working for my business?

GA4 is likely to change how you view your view your website in multiple ways, so having the guidance from an SEO expert will help you to unravel the mystery of UA property versus GA4 property. Our team of SEO specialists can advise you through every step of the transition phase, ensuring you get the very best from your new Google Analytics data.

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Why is Universal Analytics being Replaced?

Universal Analytics was implemented in 2012, before the enormous uptake in mobile and remote device traffic, and mobile applications. Google Analytics 4 was developed to track and collect app data as well as that from websites.

What’s more, additional privacy concerns have surfaced in recent years due to new GDPR regulations, and Google Analytics 4 has been designed with these privacy concerns at the forefront so that businesses can continue to collect data without worrying about breaching data protection laws.

Can I Access My Universal Analytics Property After 1st July?

You can access your historical data for 6 months through Universal Analytics property, but you will need to begin storing new data from scratch in Google Analytics 4 property from 1st July. After this time, you will no longer be able to store new data in Universal Analytics property.

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What are the Key Differences Between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4?

A Focus on the User Journey

The new Google Analytics 4 model is designed to measure the different steps of a user’s journey while navigating your website or apps, and completing conversions.

This will mean you can use data to measure how users come to make a purchase or otherwise make a conversion to your business, and create reports based on this.

The benefit of examining the user journey of customers is that it gives you beneficial insight into the behaviour of users and how they navigate around your website. This enables you to spot any potential barriers towards achieving a better conversion rate, and create strategies to overcome these obstacles.

Event Based Data Stream

While Universal Analytics is built around the concept of sessions and goals, Google Analytics 4 is built around the concept of events instead. Events can include interactions from page views, clicks, form submissions.

This method of measurement can encompass a far broader data stream than Universal Analytics, and you can create custom events to tailor the software to your business.

Additionally, you can design custom code to record events through Google Tag Manager, which will allow you to collect data, and you can also create custom dimensions for cherry picking information about your users.

This ultimately means that GA4 property can collect more data with a narrower focus than Universal Analytics, and offer more insight into the behaviour of site users with a focus on individual user actions.

This events based data collection also means you can track data from other sources than a website – for example, in app purchases.

Greater Emphasis on Privacy Laws

With a greater emphasis on GDPR and privacy laws, Google Analytics 4 was built with the ability to control how you collect data from users.
While Universal Analytics collected IP addresses by default, GA4 instead uses IP Anonymisation to prevent the storage of them. This is one of the most pivotal parts of the GA4 update.

Additionally, there have been crucial changes made to the data retention settings in GA4 compared to Universal Analytics. Previously, Universal Analytics could store data for up to 64 months, but under new GDPR guidance, you may only store data for as long as is necessary.

The new GA4 property only allows you to store data for either 2 months or 14 months, depending on the needs of your business.

Still not up to scratch on GDPR? Read the Maratopia Guide!

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What are the Key Features of Google Analytics 4?

Tracking Across Website and App Data

While Universal Analytics was focused on solely reporting on data streams from websites, Google Analytics 4 extracts data to form cross device reporting from both apps and websites to allow you to see a full picture of your users’ activity through data streams.

Probabilistic Matching and Machine Learning Trends

Additionally, GA4 uses probabilistic matching to merge data from different sources, like Facebook Ads and Google Ads. This allows you to view a more complete picture of how you are performing through machine learning trends like algorithms that will generate trends and identify insights.

Predictive Metrics

One of the key tools of Google Analytics 4 is the ability to use predictive analytics to generate your re-marketing campaigns. Predictive analytics is comprised of the following:

Purchase Probability, which predicts how likely a user is to make a purchase through your website or app.
Churn probability, which predicts how many users are likely to visit your website, and not return.
Revenue prediction, which helps to anticipate how much revenue users will generate through your website from the last 28 days of activity to the next 28 days of activity.

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Are There Any Limitations to GA4?

Internal Traffic

One of the challenges faced by using GA4 as a developer is the struggle to implement an internal traffic filter to disregard your interactions with the site. To define internal traffic, this would consist of the series of interactions yourself and other internal staff make with the website.
You can do this by filtering by IP address in your data settings so that your reports are not contaminated with staff internal traffic data.

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So How Will GA4 Improve My SEO Strategy?

What is GA4, and how will it help me? The dawn of GA4 brings an array of opportunities for business owners, not least because they can access a brand new range of tools to create detailed reports, but because they can also create a custom dimension, add new events, and create automated goals.
This allows the business owner to have a flexible and detailed approach to Google Analytics, as well as seamlessly integrate their Google Ads data stream and create a thorough review of their SEO strategy.

The SEO community has also talked about “next clicks” being a ranking factor. GA4 allows for a better analysis of the user journey, and Google is also interested in this journey to see if it delivered successful results and if it can learn from shuffling the ranking pack. Therefore, this gives you the tools and insight to monitor, test and adapt your user’s journey.

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Frequently Asked Questions About GA4

Does GA4 Use Cookies?

Yes, one of GA4’s many advantages is that it is GDPR compliant, meaning that it uses first party cookies to store data, unlike Universal Analytics, which uses third party cookies. However, as technology is ever evolving to find ways to track users without the use of cookies, GA4 is centred on the concept of using tracking IDs.

This allows GA4 to exist in a future world where cookies may or may not be present, and shows a commitment to flexibly meeting customer needs in the future.

What is a data stream in GA4?

A data stream is the flow of data from the user to Google Analytics software using code that is added to your website to send data to generate reports.

How to set up GA4?

As GA4 does not use views like UA, you will need to create a GA4 property. You will need to name this property, and then create a data stream and web stream, and find your Measurement ID. Following this, you will need to set up Google Tag Manager.

Do you need guidance with a smooth transition to GA4?

Contact Maratopia today for expert SEO advice for your business.

Author: Stephen Harvey-Franklin Steve Harvey-Franklin

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