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Data Analytics

All About the New Google Analytics 4: Better Features, Reports, & Data Visualization

By Jennifer Marsh | October 15, 2021

In addition to the core update that occurred between June and July earlier this summer, Google has also given its App + Web property a refresh with the roll out of Google Analytics 4. The Universal Analytics upgrade and expansion came with a lot of welcome improvements to reporting and user data visualization, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Because the web landscape is changing, Google introduced some upgrades that track users across devices and added artificial intelligence (AI) into their insight reporting. The new reporting features also integrate better with Google Ads, so organizations can have better control and understanding of the ways online ads convert viewers into customers. Find out more about all of the Google Analytics 4 features and changes that have so many seasoned Google Analytics users excited to make the switch to the latest version.


What is Google Analytics 4?


Google Analytics 4 is an expansion of the Universal Analytics and App + Dev property rebranding that took place last year. With new reporting capabilities, greater data visualization, and audience metrics, marketers and insights teams will be able to build more comprehensive user stories and integrated reports with all of the new and improved Google Analytics 4 features.

The Analytics reporting tool has long been a part of Google's reporting platform, but the new version adds several new features that encompass the growing landscape of web traffic. Users often have multiple devices to browse the web, and the Google Analytics 4 reporting tool targets these users so that organizations can track their experience.


Google Analytics 4 Features


The underlying theme of GA4's recent update is better reporting. More control, greater flexibility, integrations with more marketing platforms, more comprehensive customer mapping, etc. Google is simply giving marketers more options for integrating and interpreting their customers' data. Here are some of the new Google Analytics 4 features getting the most attention from marketers.


Exploring Google Analytics 4 Reporting & Data Analysis Features

Among the biggest takeaways from the Universal Analytics upgrade are more granular control of data and the ability to create more cohesive and integrated reports. In addition to greater data collection and retention, marketers now have greater control over data usage as well. The new Google Analytics 4 allows marketers to leverage certain data for ad optimization while also deciding which data remains a tool for reporting.

While this might not seem revolutionary in the world of Google, Google Analytics 4 reporting is markedly better than what was previously offered in the App + Dev property due to its ability to integrate with Google Ads. What's more, the Universal Analytics upgrade offers marketers a peek into a future in which customer journey mapping is no longer reliant on cookies.


More Seamless Integration with Google Ads

In addition to great reporting capabilities, Google Analytics 4 features can now also integrate with a wider range of Google's marketing platforms for more data-driven ad optimization. Marketing professionals track success of online ads to determine if the cost is worth the return on investment (ROI). Underperforming ads can be tweaked and analyzed to find the right ROI. Google Analytics 4 integrates with Google Ads across devices to better determine if the user is a paying customer from a specific marketing campaign. It also better tracks YouTube views and clicks so that organizations can link video with user engagements. 


Machine Learning-Powered Insights

As part of the new Google Analytics 4 features, marketers can now also leverage AI and ML to set up custom alerts and notifications around conversions and user behavior trends. Called "Analytics Intelligence," this new feature uses advanced data modeling techniques to better understand an organization's unique user experience and customer journey. AI is also integrated with support options so that marketing staff can ask questions and get meaningful answers about their reports. The new AI insights can also make meaningful predictions about purchase behavior, giving marketers valuable insight into future outcomes. Get information about potential anomalies and identify any trends quickly so that you can build better marketing campaigns around user behavior patterns. Marketing teams can customize their insight reporting based on industry, trends, services, and common issues.


Better Audience Metrics & Lifecycle Reporting

Getting the full picture of a customer journey has always been a fragmented affair in Google Analytics. But with the new analytics, reporting is framed along the customer lifecycle, giving marketers insights into channels that provide the greatest customer acquisition and retention and engagement reports that capture user behavior once they enter a site.

Instead of piecing together one user across devices and web properties, organizations can get a better view of a customer's journey across devices, domains, and applications. Google warns that sessions might seem lower with the new Google Analytics 4, but this is because the platform does a better job of tracking users as they go from web to mobile and purchase services on multiple business domains.


How to Switch to GA4


If all of this information about Google Analytics 4 has you feeling compelled to make the switch, it's actually very simple. In the Admin section of your Analytics property, click the "Upgrade to GA4" link. After the application upgrades, you must add streams to your reports. For example, if you have a web application that sells product, you add the domain and input information about the tracking method (e.g., tag manager or global site tag). During setup, you can also use "connected site tags" if you use Google Tag Manager across your web properties.

It's important to note however, that GA4 is still missing some of the features of the old Google Analytics. It might not make sense for every organization to switch over to GA4 if the switch could result in the loss of valuable reporting information. To get a sense of GA4's reporting and data collection capabilities, many experts recommend simply getting started with creating a Google Analytics 4 account and allowing it to collect data while leaving legacy reporting intact. That way, marketers and insights teams can wade through the insights channels after a few months of data collection and determine whether or not the new Google Analytics 4 reporting features are right for their data collection needs.

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