In October, Google announced the launch of a new version of their long-standing website measurement tool, Google Analytics 4. GA4 is a rebrand of the App + Web property, which launched in July 2019 and was created to allow businesses to measure activity across their mobile apps and websites seamlessly. App + Web properties combined the use of a Universal Analytics property with Google Analytics for Firebase (the property type used for mobile app tracking). However, this use case isn’t necessary for all businesses since it’s only helpful if you have a mobile app. This doesn’t seem to be the case for GA4, however, which is being positioned by Google as the future of Analytics, despite whether you have a mobile app in addition to a website.
GA4 measurement centers around events and parameters, whereas Universal Analytics measurement was based on sessions and pageviews. In GA4, even a pageview is recorded through event tracking. GA4 also relies heavily on machine learning, which allows for predictive reporting and will help fill in data gaps left by increases in browser tracking privacy. On the topic of privacy, GA4 has a built-in IP anonymization feature that is automatically enabled to help ensure GA4 users are complying with privacy laws. Another great feature is that GA4 allows the user to edit, track and fine-tune events directly within the UI (something that previously could only be accomplished via a tag management system or manual code manipulation). For a deep dive into all the differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics, check out this blog post.
Despite all the great features of GA4, most marketers need dedicated time and resources to migrate to the new Analytics platform (especially since it requires setting up an entirely new property type). Google hasn’t announced a date for when Universal Analytics will be going away, but they have said that day will come at some point in the future. To start preparing your business for the transition, it’s recommended that you set up a GA4 property for your website(s) and mobile application(s) now. This will give you time to work out the kinks of tracking setup and allow you to get acquainted with the new reporting interface. Data in your GA4 property won’t begin tracking until the day you set it up, so the sooner you can start collecting data for historical comparison purposes, the better. Google’s guide on setting up a GA4 property is a good place to start this process.