As of 1 July 2023, Google Analytics, formerly Universal Analytics, has transitioned to Google Analytics 4 or GA4 across the board. Leveraging the opportunities provided by the new analytics engine, we explore the 10 key features of GA4 and its relationship with Google Tag Manager (GTM).
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google Analytics, the world's most widely used web analytics platform. Google Analytics 4 or GA4 has been designed to provide a more complete and advanced view of web performance and analytics, allowing users and businesses more advanced and personalised information.
Chances are that most companies have already made the switch from Universal Analytics to GA4. The new web analytics engine features a new environment, new features and a slightly different way of operating than its former version, Universal Analytics.
Therefore, it is essential for companies, especially marketing departments, to get familiar with Google Analytics 4.
Universal Analytics vs. GA4: Differences and key features
Below, we list some of the key features of GA4 and explore how they differ from Universal Analytics.
Tracking events instead of page views: Unlike previous versions of Google Analytics, GA4 focuses on tracking events instead of traditional page views. Events can be specific actions performed by users, such as button clicks, video playback, content downloads, among others. This provides a deeper understanding of user behaviour and allows for more detailed analysis of key interactions.
User-based analytics: GA4 bases its analytics on users rather than sessions as was done in Universal Analytics. This allows for a more complete and accurate tracking of user behaviour over time and across devices. In addition, GA4 introduces the concept of "anonymous user identification" which allows for more effective tracking of users who are not logged in.
Exploratory analysis: GA4 introduces the exploratory analysis feature, which allows you to explore your data in a more intuitive and flexible way. For example, you can use exploratory analysis to create customised customer segments, perform ad-hoc analysis and discover hidden patterns in your marketing data. This functionality helps you identify opportunities and challenges, and make informed decisions to improve your customer engagement strategies.
Improved mobile app tracking: GA4 offers more advanced mobile app tracking that allows you to measure specific events within an app. For example, e-commerce managers can now measure metrics such as purchases made or create customised actions.
Better integration with Google Ads: One of the most significant advantages of GA4 is that it integrates with Google Ads, allowing marketers to get a more complete view of the performance of their advertising campaigns by integrating analytics on organic and paid traffic. In this respect, it is particularly interesting to analyse the impact of Google Ads on conversion performance.
Simplified conversion funnel analysis: GA4 offers a simplified approach to conversion funnel tracking and analysis. Specifically, the new environment allows you to define customised conversion funnels and measure user flow at each stage of the conversion funnel, from acquisition to conversion. This optimisation of the conversion funnel analysis is great news for companies implementing an Inbound Marketing strategy. In addition, the new approach facilitates the identification of problem points within the customer journey and represents an opportunity for companies to improve the customer experience.
Improved cohort analysis: GA4 provides a more advanced cohort analysis, allowing users with similar characteristics to be clustered to analyse their behaviour over time. Companies can now create cohorts based on criteria such as date of first visit, source of acquisition or purchase behaviour. This provides valuable information about customer retention and the effectiveness of their marketing and sales strategies.
Revenue analytics: GA4 provides tools to track and analyse the revenue generated on a website or app. Marketers can now measure the economic value of the different actions taken by users, from purchases and subscriptions to downloads. This makes it easier to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing strategies in terms of return on investment.
Custom alerts: GA4 allows you to set up custom alerts to receive notifications when specific events occur or when certain criteria is met. We can now set up alerts so that the system notifies us when it detects significant changes in our key metrics, such as conversion rates, traffic or revenue. This helps professionals to always be aware of important changes in their activity, as well as to take corrective action in real time if an anomaly is detected.
Focus on user privacy and consent: GA4 is better aligned with current privacy regulations, such as the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The system provides enhanced functions for user consent management and enables more transparent and controlled data collection.
Data export and access: GA4 allows data to be exported in compatible formats with other analytics and visualisation tools. In addition, users can now analyse their data via the GA4 API, giving them greater flexibility to connect and use their own data on other platforms. This option also makes it easier to customise the analysis.
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Google Tag Manager (GTM)
Since the announcement of Google Analytics 4, there has been a lot of interest in Google Tag Manager, another of Google's most useful digital marketing tools.
What is Google Tag Manager?
Google Tag Manager is a tag management tool provided by Google that allows you to efficiently manage and control all tracking tags embedded in a website or app. With Google Tag Manager there is no need to make changes to the source code of a web page every time we want to add or modify a tracking tag. Instead, we can implement and manage all our tags through Google Tag Manager's intuitive interface, which makes the process easier and saves time and work.
The great advantage of Google Tag Manager is that it allows users to implement Google Analytics tags, Google Ads, conversion tracking pixels and many other analytics tools without the need for advanced technical or coding knowledge.
In addition, Google Tag Manager (GTM) provides users with greater control over their tracking tags, enabling more effective tracking of user behaviour and encouraging valuable customer insights and optimisation of marketing strategies.
The relationship between Google Analytics 4 and Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager (GTM) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) are closely related and complement each other.
Marketers in an organisation can benefit greatly from the joint use of GA4 and Google Tag Manager.
Deploying GA4 via Google Tag Manager allows users to use Google Tag Manager to embed GA4 tracking code into their websites or mobile apps in a centralised and easy way. This simplifies the process of setting up and updating GA4, as you only need to deploy the GTM code once, and then you can manage all tags, including GA4 tags, through the GTM interface.
With Google Tag Manager it is also possible to configure and manage custom events that will be captured by GA4 for further analysis. GTM provides flexibility and control in the implementation of events and conversions, allowing to adapt them to the specific needs of each business and optimise measurement strategies in Google Analytics 4.
In addition, in the event that Google releases updates or changes to the GA4 implementation, they can be applied more easily and quickly through GTM, avoiding the need to make manual modifications to the code of the website or mobile application.
Finally, GTM offers the ability to manage and deploy other tags and tracking tools besides GA4. This facilitates the integration of tools such as Google Ads, Google Optimize, Facebook Pixel and many others, providing a centralised solution to manage tracking tags and optimise marketing strategies globally.
In conclusion, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) offers many key features that give users and businesses a more complete and advanced view of web performance and analytics. From tracking events rather than page views to enhanced cohort analysis, GA4 enables more detailed and personalised analysis of user behaviour. And by tightly integrating with Google Tag Manager, marketers can take full advantage of these features and simplify the process of setting up and upgrading GA4. If you would like to get a deeper insight into the capabilities of GA4 and GTM, we encourage you to explore more about these tools and start using them to improve your marketing strategies and optimise the performance of your website or application.