An Informative Guide To Google Analytics 4

The industry and regulatory landscape is changing and evolving to prioritise privacy. Here’s what you need to know about Google Analytics 4.

You may have recently received some emails from Google Analytics notifying you to upgrade your tag to access the latest version of Google Analytics – Google Analytics 4. Whether this makes sense to you or it’s left you scratching your head, the bottom line is that Google Analytics is upgrading for the better.

In this blog, we will share information about what the new update means, why it is here, and how you can seamlessly implement GA4 on your websites. Let’s start with the why –

Why is Google Analytics 4 here?

The industry and regulatory landscape is changing and evolving to prioritise privacy, so much so that the use of third-party cookies will most likely become completely redundant in the coming years. Systems and browser updates, including Google Chrome, are implementing heightened controls that impact traditional data collection. Remember all those cookie pop-up notifications you had to accept? Well, many browsers have now either completely blocked the use of third-party cookies or are in the process of blocking them and these pop-ups could be a thing of the past.

The main difference between a third-party cookie and a first-party cookie is that the third party cookie is placed on the browser by an external source e.g. an advertiser or a social media site, and the first-party cookie is placed on the browser by the domain itself e.g. website.com.

While Google Analytics itself uses first-party cookies to track information, it is the most commonly used tool to track third-party web analytics. In this new landscape, GA4 is upgrading to offer users the next generation of analytics tracking, which is durable, scalable and privacy-first.

What are the main differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4?

One of the main differences between Universal Analytics and GA4 is the user interface. Many of the report options have changed as well as the way data is structured. However, many industry experts are saying the new interface is much easier to use once you get the basics down, and we agree. Below is a summary of what other changes to expect –  

  • More focus on machine learning
  • More complex understanding of the customer journey across devices
  • Built to be durable and future-proof
  • Works with or without cookies or identifiers
  • Data is event-based, with the principle that any interaction can be captured as an event

The below table explains how hit types translate to events in a Google Analytics 4 property:

Source: Google

What kind of events can you track in Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 allows you to track similar events to Universal Analytics, for example –  

  • Pages people load on your website
  • Actions people perform within a page
  • Elements people have clicked
  • Information from the URL of the page
  • Transaction and product details
  • Elements that are visible in the browser
  • Details you’ve collected about a user

You can also still utilise Google Tag Manager to track events. Click here for a guide on connecting Google Tag Manager with GA4. 

How to install Google Analytics 4?

It’s worth knowing that during this initial rollout you are able to install Google Analytics 4 alongside Universal Analytics. Eventually, Google Analytics 4 will become the default for new websites setting up analytics for the first time. 

The new interface offers a setup wizard and involves adding your new gtag.js onto your website, whether that’s directing beneath the <head> tag or through a plugin/third-party option. 

  • Click here to find the setup guide for installing GA4 alongside Universal Analytics
  • Click here to find the setup guide for installing GA4 as the primary property

If you need more information or assistance in setting up Google Analytics 4, get in touch with one of our marketing specialists.