One of the bigger web changes coming at us in 2023 is Google Analytics 4 (GA4). It is one of the most popular analytics tools due to its powerful reporting capabilities, integration with other Google services such as ads, and last but not least it is free. In this article, I will give a brief background of this tool, what’s changing, and the essential things you should know.
Wait, I need to learn about analytics?
Now, I know most of you are thinking “Ugh, analytics sounds awful.”, to which I totally hear you. There has never been an I LOVE ANALYTICS bumper stick or t-shirt printed. Initially, I felt the same way until I saw the benefits. Periodically reviewing your website’s analytics provides detailed insight into who your customers are and what they want. Are customers finding your key resources on your site, how did your last blog post do, can customers find my contact information? Without analytics you are flying blind, assuming what’s actually happening on your site. With analytics you see how traffic found your website, where the visitors are from, what content was viewed, and deeper insights for future content to publish.
What is wrong with the current version of Google Analytics (aka Universal Analytics)
The means for data tracking has evolved. As you probably have seen in the news, there is a ton of legislation that restricts how companies can track users on the web. The primary method to understand user demographics and activity was through cookies. With this technology becoming more and more restricted, Google Analytics has shifted away from cookie data and more towards user events (e.g., click, user scrolling, etc.).
What are the basics I need to know?
- Setup is simple and reaps significant rewards. If you feel comfortable navigating your websites administration dashboard (e.g., WordPress), you should have no problem adding GA to your website. In addition there are a ton of instructions on YouTube if you’re not sure where to start. If all else fails, reach out and I can quickly get this setup for you.
- If you are using a current version of Google Analytics (Universal Analytics or UA), it will no longer supported after July 2023. You can run GA4 and UA concurrently, the reports will look a bit different but at the end of the day they both will be accurate. After July, GA4 will be the only analytics tool through Google. My recommendation is to setup you GA4 property now, and avoid the headache later.
- Better tracking metrics. GA4 was created to be simpler. The entire platform has gone from web only data to now web + app data collection. This marriage between web and app ensures better and more consistent data as we move into this combined world. One significant add is the measurement of content engagement rate. It tells how long visitors stay and whether they interact with the webpage. For more detail on this new measurement, check out Google’s GA4 help page.