Exploring all major changes in GA4 and how it affects Data analysts and Marketers

With the introduction of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), marketers and analysts have gained access to a new set of metrics and dimensions that offer enhanced insights into user behavior and improved tracking capabilities.

Along with tracking, GA4 is also equipped with features that are based on Predictive analytics powered by AI and Machine Learning. There have also been some major changes in how GA4 handles data collection, data privacy and data retention.

Enabling mobile app tracking in GA4 is another sweeping addition to the GA4 tracking capabilities that would make any marketer rejoice. In this blog post, we’ll extensively delve into some key changes brought by GA4, focusing on all of the above developments and see how it affects data analysts and marketers alike.

Let's explore the exciting features and benefits of GA4's new metrics and mobile app tracking and its impact on analytics.

GA4 Metrics and Dimensions:

GA4 has introduced several changes to metrics and dimensions, allowing for more accurate and comprehensive analysis of
user interactions and conversions. Here are some noteworthy updates:

Event based model versus Session based model: 

Session-Based Model (UA):

In UA, the tracking is primarily session-based, where a session represents a period of user activity on your website or app. All user interactions within a session are grouped together, and metrics such as Bounce Rate and Average Session Duration are calculated based on these sessions. However, this approach can sometimes result in less accurate insights, especially when dealing with complex user journeys that span multiple sessions.

Event-Based Model (GA4):

GA4 adopts an event-based model, which offers a more granular and flexible approach to tracking user interactions. In this model, every user action is treated as an event, allowing for a more detailed analysis of specific actions users take within a session. This includes not only traditional pageviews and clicks, but also custom events like scrolling, video views, and interactions with dynamic content.

This transition to an event-based model empowers businesses to capture a broader range of user actions and interactions accurately, providing insights into how users engage with different elements of your website or app. With this approach, GA4 enables a more comprehensive understanding of user behavior and allows for the creation of more tailored and effective marketing strategies.

Average Time on Page (UA):

In UA, the Average Time on Page metric calculates the average amount of time users spend on a particular page before moving to another page or leaving the site. However, this metric has limitations, especially when a user’s last pageview is considered, as there’s no data available about their time spent on that page.

Average Engagement Time (GA4):

GA4 introduces the concept of “Engagement Time,” which takes into account the time users spend actively engaging with content on a page. This includes interactions such as clicks, scrolls, and interactions with embedded media. Engagement Time offers a more accurate  representation of how long users are genuinely interacting with your content, even on the last page they visit. This metric provides a clearer picture of user engagement and helps in evaluating the effectiveness of your content.

  • Engagement Rate and Engaged Sessions: In GA4, Bounce Rate and Average Session Duration have been replaced with Engagement Rate and Engaged Sessions. Engagement Rate provides insights into the level of interaction and involvement users have with the website or app. Engaged Sessions represents the number of sessions where users actively interacted with the content. These new metrics enable a deeper understanding of user engagement and can inform strategies to improve user experiences.
  • Conversions Instead of Goals: GA4 has replaced Goals with Conversions. All conversions are now treated as events, offering greater flexibility in tracking and measuring user actions aligned with business objectives. Events can be customized and defined as conversions based on specific requirements. This change allows for a more tailored and comprehensive approach to tracking and optimizing conversions.
  • Revised Session Definition: In GA4, sessions are now counted when a “Session start” event is triggered, generating a unique session ID. This update improves cross-platform session tracking accuracy and ensures consistent session attribution. With this revised session definition, tracking user interactions across various devices and platforms becomes more reliable and insightful.

Mobile App Tracking in GA4

Mobile app tracking in GA4 offers a comprehensive understanding of user behavior within your mobile applications. By implementing GA4’s mobile app tracking, you can gain valuable insights into user engagement, conversions, and in-app events along with your website tracking metrics all in one analytics property. 

Here are some additional aspects to consider:

  • Custom Event Tracking: GA4 allows you to track custom events within your mobile app. Custom events are user interactions or actions that hold significance for your business. By defining and tracking these events, you can measure and analyze specific user behaviors that align with your app’s objectives.

    Examples of custom events include adding items to a cart, completing a level in a game, or submitting a form. With custom event tracking, you can gain granular insights into user actions and optimize your app accordingly.
  • User Properties: In GA4, user properties provide additional context about your app’s users. These properties can be used to segment and analyze user behavior based on specific attributes such as demographics, device information, user type, or subscription status. 

    By leveraging user properties, you can identify user segments that exhibit distinct behaviors and preferences. This information can help tailor your marketing campaigns, personalize user experiences, and optimize your app for different user groups.
  • Funnels and Conversion Analysis: GA4’s mobile app tracking allows you to create and analyze funnels, which represent the sequential steps users take within your app. Funnels help you identify drop-off points and areas of improvement in your user journey.

    By understanding the user flow and analyzing conversion rates at each step, you can optimize your app’s onboarding process, reduce friction, and increase conversion rates. Funnels in GA4 offer valuable insights for app developers and marketers aiming to improve user engagement and retention.
  • Retention and Cohort Analysis: With GA4, you can analyze user retention and cohort behavior to understand how engaged and loyal your app users are over time. Retention analysis allows you to measure the percentage of users who return to your app after their initial visit or installation. 

    By examining retention rates for different user cohorts, you can identify patterns and trends, uncovering factors that contribute to long-term user engagement. This information helps you optimize user experiences, increase user retention, and maximize the lifetime value of your app users.

    GA4’s mobile app tracking provides advanced attribution modeling capabilities, allowing you to understand the impact of different marketing channels and campaigns on app installations and conversions.

    By attributing app installs and conversions to specific marketing touchpoints, you can optimize your marketing efforts and allocate resources effectively. GA4’s attribution modeling helps you measure the effectiveness of your acquisition channels, identify high-performing campaigns, and make data-driven decisions to maximize your app’s growth.

Data Retention Policy:

Data Retention Policies in GA4 vs. UA:

Google Analytics 4 (GA4):

GA4 introduces a simplified data retention policy. By default, GA4 retains user-level and event-level data for 14 months. This means that you can analyze and retrieve data related to user interactions and events for a period of up to 14 months from the time of collection. GA4 also offers the option to reduce the data retention period to 2 months if you have more stringent data privacy requirements.

Universal Analytics (UA):

In contrast, Universal Analytics offers more flexibility in terms of data retention. It allows you to choose retention periods of 14 months, 26 months, 38 months, or 50 months for user-level and event-level data. Once the chosen retention period elapses, the data is automatically deleted from Google Analytics servers.

Data Retention Policy of 14 Months:

The default data retention policy of 14 months in GA4 ensures that you have access to valuable user behavior and conversion insights for a tad bit over a year. This extended retention period can be immensely beneficial for businesses that need to analyze trends, seasonal patterns, and long-term user engagement. Whether you’re tracking the success of a new feature or monitoring the impact of marketing campaigns, having access to historical data helps in making informed decisions and optimizing strategies.

Reporting Enhancement with BigQuery:

One of the powerful features of GA4 is its seamless integration with Google BigQuery, a cloud-based data warehouse solution. This integration allows you to export your GA4 data into BigQuery, where you can perform advanced analysis, create custom queries, and generate more complex reports. Here’s how the connection works:

  • Data Streaming to BigQuery: GA4 enables you to set up a data stream that continuously sends your event data to BigQuery. This means that as new data is collected in GA4, it’s automatically sent to your BigQuery project, ensuring you have near real-time access to your data.
  • Advanced Analysis:  BigQuery’s capabilities extend beyond what is available in the standard GA4 reporting interface. You can run complex SQL queries, join GA4 data with other datasets, and perform more in-depth analysis to uncover insights that might be challenging to achieve within the GA4 platform alone.
  • Custom Reporting: By connecting GA4 to BigQuery, you can build custom reports and visualizations tailored to your specific business needs. This level of flexibility allows you to create reports that directly align with your unique metrics and goals.
  • Scalability: BigQuery is designed to handle massive datasets, making it suitable for organizations that generate a significant amount of data. This scalability ensures that you can store, process, and analyze your GA4 data effectively, regardless of its volume.

Data Collection without Cookies in GA4:

Data collection without cookies has become increasingly important due to user privacy concerns and the implementation of stricter privacy regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA. Cookies have traditionally been used to track user interactions and behavior on websites and apps, but with increasing restrictions on cookie usage, alternative methods for data collection have become necessary.

Google Analytics 4 offers the ability to collect data without relying solely on cookies through a feature called “Enhanced Measurement.” Enhanced Measurement allows GA4 to automatically track certain user interactions within your website or app without the need for explicit event tracking or cookies. Some of the automatically tracked interactions include pageviews, scroll tracking, outbound clicks, site search, and more.

Additionally, GA4 supports the collection of user properties, which can provide valuable information about user characteristics and behaviors without relying on cookies. These user properties can be leveraged for segmentation and analysis purposes.

Cookieless data collection not only respects user privacy but also ensures more accurate data collection, as some users may block or delete cookies, leading to data gaps in traditional cookie-based tracking.

GA4’s streamlined data format enables greater flexibility with data, opening up a whole new realm of customisation for data analysts and marketers. Based on what we’ve talked about so far, these are the main elements you can take away from GA4:

To begin with, GA4 utilizes an event-driven approach. Next, GA4 focuses more on engagement and predictive analytics. Furthermore, GA4 contains a number of innovative and privacy-focused capabilities that can enhance your data analysis. Finally, GA4 allows you to gather cookieless data, which simplifies data collecting.

It may take some time for your team to adjust to GA4. You may also encounter difficulties with the new data retention policy. Here’s where we come in.

As a US-based data visualization and data analytics consulting company, our services encompass: 

Website analytics: We consult and implement Google Analytics (GA4) and help our clients achieve enhanced website tracking and measurement through Google Tag Manager (GTM).

Data Integration Consulting: We can assist you in selecting the apt data integration module that can assimilate and store your data in an error-free manner. 

Data analytics consulting: We can use the right data integration tools for further analysis of data. 

Data Visualization consulting: We build intuitive dashboards that can identify various trends and outliers and provide tailored consulting for your business.

ML-based Tech Solutions: We can empower your business by harnessing the potential of data using Machine Learning models to provide futuristic insights