The world of technology is constantly adapting and advancing to meet the world’s current needs. In October 2020, Google announced Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This new analytics service offers enhanced features intended to increase the effectiveness of marketing strategies. GA4 is not only the future of Google’s analytics but may also be the future of growing small businesses.

The changing landscape has increased remote work and generated a boom of small businesses. These changes require enhanced technology, innovation, and a more granular ability to analyze web data to gain insights for growing companies. As a small business owner, marketing strategies greatly depend on having insight into your customers, their patterns, and what aspects of your business they engage with most. With the enhanced analytic abilities of GA4, you can collect more detailed and flexible data to grow your business.

How is GA4 Different from Google Universal Analytics?

You may already be familiar with Google Universal Analytics (UA). Though UA is customizable, its primary and automated feature is to collect session-based page view data. GA4 takes data analysis a few steps further by tracking outbound clicks, file downloads, scrolling, video engagement, and site searches.

The most significant difference is that GA4 mainly focuses on collecting “event-driven” data, which provides more detailed metrics. While UA also tracked events, the data was much more restrained and had to fit within certain predefined types of “hits” such as:

  • Events
  • eCommerce
  • Social Interactions
  • Exceptions
  • User Timings
  • Screens

However, GA4 allows for a much broader and customized level of data collection, including user details. The transition away from predefined hits to “event-driven” data allows you to collect data without such limitations or restrictions. Some examples of the events you can track with GA4 include:

  • Actions performed within a page
  • Elements clicked
  • URL information of the page
  • Transaction and product details
  • Details collected about the web or app user
  • Elements visible in a browser

In addition to its flexibility, one of the most welcome changes is that GA4 is an App + Web platform. This allows you to streamline both web and mobile app traffic data in one place, which is an exciting and convenient improvement.

GA4 also has enhanced time-based features to adapt to different marketing needs. For example, you’ll be able to suspend ads for a product to users who have recently purchased it. You can customize the amount of time that the ads will be suspended. At the end of the established time period, users can become eligible to receive a new set of ads.

Additionally, GA4’s “time elapsed feature” allows you to collect data on the average time your users spend on specific tasks like completing surveys. It can also track how much time they spend on one page before clicking to another, such as how long they read a blog post before viewing a product page.

Do I Have to Switch to GA4?

Using GA4 is not currently mandatory, but it will become the new default property. GA4’s user interface design and functionality changes may seem overwhelming. Those who are currently still only using Universal Analytics are recommended to begin experimenting with GA4. This will help facilitate an easier upcoming transition.

Will I Be Able to Merge My Current Universal Analytics Data with GA4?

If you are already a Firebase user, your past data will carry over to GA4. However, GA4 will not be able to pull historical data from Universal Analytics because they operate on two different data models. Because of this, you will unfortunately not be able to merge data between the two properties. By beginning the transition process to GA4 now, you can start to collect as much data as possible.

Are There Any Downsides to GA4?

Though the new platform has many improvements, technology always has growth opportunities. Some users have noted a steep learning curve between UA and GA4. Reported drawbacks include:

  • GA4 doesn’t use custom views as UA does. Instead, filters are applied to the entire data stream.
  • The new design may be more challenging as the report builder is less flexible than before.
  • GA4 does not allow you to set up reoccurring email reports, which saved many users time and effort in Universal Analytics.

Google is constantly updating GA4 with new enhancements, features, and integration options. Early adopters of GA4 can still run UA while learning the new property. The sooner GA4 is implemented, the more data you will have as Google releases updates.

To upgrade your Google Analytics account to GA4, follow these steps:

1. Visit your Admin Settings

2.  Go to Property Settings

3. Click the “Upgrade to GA4” link

4. Click “Get Started” and follow the prompted process

Growing your business is an exciting adventure, and there are plenty of ways to support your success. You enhance your marketing strategies with the latest tech tools and seek opportunities to collaborate and strategize with small business educators when you need a little extra support.