Going Beyond Sessions: 5 Ways GA4 Ensures Future Success

Data Architecture 30 May 2022

The future of Google analytics has arrived, and it’s here to help marketers ensure success now and for years to come. In March, Google officially announced the depreciation of its widely used Universal Analytics platform, which will sunset in June 2023. This announcement is pushing brands and marketers to make the shift, but change can be challenging especially for large organizations.

It’s clear that GA4 is designed to address today’s biggest marketing challenges by focusing on the customer journey, not just user sessions. Keep reading for the top five ways GA4 is improving customer experiences to give marketers a better understanding of their business and consumers.

1. Better Privacy Controls: Respecting User Choice While Maintaining Ad Insights

Historic methods of using third-party cookies and IP addresses for tracking, data collection and measurement are quickly losing their impact as consumers gain greater control over how their data is collected. In recognition of this shift, GA4 is no longer logging IP addresses or utilizing third-party cookies for advertising analytics. While marketers are concerned about what this means for current campaign success, Google’s decision addresses the broader context of digital marketing amidst evolving privacy standards.

Privacy in the digital marketing space is changing at an increasingly rapid pace that makes measurement more challenging. Marketers must now take into account user privacy preferences and fill in the information gaps from users who choose not to ‘opt in’ to a website’s data collection policy. This is where conversion modeling via Google’s Consent Mode comes into play by automatically adjusting Google Tags when a user does not consent to ads or analytics cookies. Machine learning and conversion modeling are then used to statistically rebuild connections between ad interactions and conversions. GA4 creates a more accurate view of advertising spend and results all while keeping individual users private.

GA4 was developed to help marketers with data regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation ( GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act ( CCPA) by giving them an all-in-one solution that makes it easy to track key metrics across all channels. Previously, marketers relied on a number of separate tools for website analytics, marketing campaign tracking, Google Ads setup, and more. GA4’s new “data stream” model combines data from websites, apps and IoT devices into one place, making it easier for users to manage compliance obligations. Additionally, GA4 includes a dashboard that makes it easy to review and respond to user requests related to personal data handling under the CCPA and GDPR regulations. The dashboard gives users insight into how many people have made requests and how they’re distributed across properties, and allows marketers to update user consent status so follow-ups on user requests can be made without losing any valuable data.

2. Cross-Measurement Capabilities: Sharing a Unified View of Customer Journeys

As noted above, GA4 has introduced new features that make it easier to measure cross-platform activities. Marketers can now see how users move between apps, websites and other channels (for example, how much time users spend on a website after using an Android app). Cross-measurement capabilities are part of GA4’s next-generation audience features which allow marketers to understand users as opposed to sessions. This is possible because GA4 uses  machine learning to identify users across devices, platforms, and engagement moments. With this knowledge, marketers can create better experiences for their customers.

Since GA4 now offers free access to BigQuery to all its users, marketers are encouraged to bring Google Analytics data into the larger data ecosystems brands are building. BigQuery is a managed data warehouse that’s considered part of the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), which means it can be used to analyze large quantities of data from multiple sources and create custom dashboards. This is where we see the rubber meet the road when combining your web analytics data with your offline data.

3. Increased Attribution: Understanding Audience Behaviors

With marketing campaigns spanning multiple channels and tactics, it can be complicated to determine which of them are contributing to conversions. Data-driven attribution assigns credit to more than simply the last click, allowing marketers to see how various initiatives influence conversions. This model uses machine learning to assign credit across different interactions by analyzing how users interact with ads and websites.

In understanding how a variety of touchpoints influence conversion paths, marketers can get a better sense of what’s performing across paid search, social, display and other campaigns — helping brands optimize towards the highest returning tactics.

4. User-Centric Data: Capturing High-Quality Data for Stronger Insights

A common challenge with app and website analytics is the inability to easily segment users that have used both apps and websites into one group. While that was possible in the past by using dimensions like user ID or other types of cross-device indicators, it was never easy, and it wasn’t possible to do this in Google Analytics 3 (GA3) since there was no way to link the two together.

For those unfamiliar with the previous version of Google Analytics, the main difference between GA4 and GA3 is the measurement model that the platforms use. The GA3 measurement model is based off of pageviews and sessions, whereas GA4 is based off of events. The advantage to using an event model is that it should capture higher quality data as it is not based on sessions, so there is less duplication of users (if a session ends in UA after 30 minutes of activity and the users goes back they could be counted twice for the same pageview).

5. Customizable Reporting: Creating a Compelling Data Story

With customizable reporting marketers can answer key questions about users’ behavior with a few clicks, without having to write any queries or set up reporting views. GA4 makes it easy for anyone to understand the data and create insights that are relevant to the specific business.

The new visual report editor allows users to easily drag-and-drop metrics and dimensions into the report canvas. The set of new powerful capabilities such as paths analysis, funnels, segment overlap analysis and more, help marketers learn more about how people intuitively interact with websites or apps so they can better target their marketing efforts.

The Future of Web Analytics

As the world continues to change, so does the way customers interact with brands. GA4 was created with this in mind, offering a more robust and insightful measurement tool that provides a deeper understanding of consumer journeys and behaviors. This update is a positive change for brands looking to get more insight into their customers while meeting evolving privacy regulations. Many of the reports in Universal Analytics are still available in GA4, and the new data model will allow marketers to better understand how their customers interact with their brand across all devices.

With even further capabilities coming through its BigQuery partnership, expect to see GA4 become a leading platform for brands looking to connect their websites, applications and ad platforms into one seamless ecosystem.

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