What is GA4? (Google Analytics 4)

Published on August 17, 2022 by Richard Harvey

Businesses everywhere use Google Analytics to monitor the traffic that comes to their website, collect data on customers, and understand what marketing methods are the most effective for their organisation. The world of Google Analytics is currently undergoing change as Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is being implemented, altering the way businesses understand their web performance forever.

How Will GA4 Change Things?

To keep it brief… quite a lot. 

The data structure that will be used by GA4 is very different to that which we use today (data collection will undergo similar changes as well). At the moment, When you use Google (Universal) Analytics, everything is centred around sessions, whereas with GA4, it will focus more on users and events. This means that every user interaction will be treated as a standalone event within GA4. 

Though the change may not sound like much, it is highly significant. Historically, Google Analytics used a session-based model, which meant that user interactions were grouped all within the same time frame.

What are the benefits of using GA4?

GA4 comes with benefits to marketers and marketing companies because moving the focus of data collection over from sessions to events means that they will get enhanced capacity when it comes to pathing analysis. Not to mention cross-platform analysis, which becomes a lot more straightforward too. All in all, by moving to a model which is based on events, GA4 can be considered much more flexible and is better at predicting user behaviour. 

The right thing to do

Following Apple’s move to block third-party cookies with its “Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP)”, Google is set to also block all third-party cookies on its own browser in the next couple of years. The move to GA4 therefore supports marketers in switching towards more ethical user tracking.

Universal Analytics works by setting third-party cookies on a user’s browser. As implied by the name, these are held by third-parties which the user has not directly consented to giving their data to. Ad tech companies store and manage (and potentially even share), lines of code to deliver and track ad campaigns across many different websites, building a comprehensive dataset of an individual’s internet usage.

GA4 relies on  first-party cookies, where the cookie is created by the website the user has decided to visit, and importantly, has clicked the ‘accept cookies’ button. Here there is an explicit agreement between the user and website.

Whilst this presents new challenges for online marketers, a move towards the events-based approach creates more actionable data around user behaviour. This will feed the all-powerful Google AI with richer data for understanding and predicting users who will engage with our websites.

GA4 Events Screenshot

Should your company make the switch to GA4?

It is important that businesses make the switch to GA4 sooner rather than later. Even if you are not using it religiously immediately, making the transition is paramount, given that changes will come into effect next year, meaning the current Google Analytics will no longer exist. With this, it is likely  all the historical data that you have gathered using those previous analytics will only be accessible for six months before it is be lost. You should treat the next 12 months as an opportunity to gather as much data as you can using GA4 before the switch is made permanent.

What can businesses do to prepare for the switch to GA4?

Making sense of the changes alone can be tricky for marketers. Work closely with an agency  at the forefront of new information regarding GA4. In doing this, you can be sure that all important information will be fed directly to you in an understandable and actionable way so  you can use that intelligence to benefit your business.

How is Climbing Trees Supporting Its Clients?

As a Google Partner, Climbing Trees are up to date on new advice and learnings in the world of GA4 and are already supporting our clients to navigate the changes. We have already begun migrating our clients over to the new platform. 

If you have any questions about GA4 or would like to know more about how Climbing Trees can help, then please do not hesitate to get in touch

Looking for help with GA4?

Climbing Trees will switch new clients over to GA4 as part of their initial set up.