Google Analytics has come out with a major new update. What does that mean for your marketing reports?

Big changes have been happening at Google. You might have noticed the app icons on your phone have changed, or gotten a notice about Google rolling back some of its service and expanding others. Some of these may have affected you more than others, but one big change that’s sure to have an impact on your marketing endeavors is the release of Google Analytics 4, a powerful advancement upon their current analytics platform, and one that is designed to be with us for a long time.

The new analytics capabilities allow for new tracking of website traffic across platforms, with new reporting tools to go with them. And while it may take some time to tweak the settings and get everything set up just right, we’re excited by what we can learn from this new data.

To help you understand what’s coming your way, here are the main things we’ve learned about the new platform so far.

1. Getting it going will require some fine-tuning.

On the most technical of notes, it’s important to know that Google Analytics 4 will be starting its data gathering from scratch. Because it collects and analyzes data differently from the previous version, Universal Analytics, it won’t be porting over old analytics data. So you’ll need to have both properties running on your site for a while, collecting data simultaneously.

There are other configurations you’ll have to make as well (or that we’ll make for you). For instance, while Google Analytics automatically filters out bot and spam traffic, you’ll need to set new filters to exclude your internal traffic from ending up in the analysis. After all, you don’t want your conversion metrics thrown off by the testing your marketing team is up to.

Along with these features, Google Analytics 4 gives marketers new tools for gathering and using data. For instance, you’ll be able to decide what data you want to collect for measuring only, and what you want to use for optimizing ads.

2. Google Analytics 4 is designed to meet GDPR data privacy standards.

One point which deserves a special call out are the new and improved features that are designed especially in response to GDPR standards. These let website owners create separate consent opt-ins for analytics and ads. This allows users to potentially deny some cookie requests, while still allowing analytics tracking.

The controls also make it easier for businesses to respond to data removal requests, which is an important part of GDPR compliance. By storing data more carefully, businesses can be more precise about what data they remove, without potentially throwing out more data than they need to.

The purpose of the more granular controls is that they allow Google to fill in missing data gaps with predictive AI (more on that in a minute). This lets businesses respect data privacy concerns about their users while still making educated guesses about what those users might want.

3. Google Analytics 4 improves cross-device tracking.

One of the big leaps forward with Google Analytics 4 is that it offers more complete tracking of user behavior across devices. So if a user moves from desktop to a mobile app, Google will be able to follow along. Rather than recording that user as two separate visitors, it will show that user as the same recurring visitor.

These tools give business owners a more complete picture of the lifecycle of any new conversion. If a user first sees your business in a YouTube ad, then installs your app on your phone, then completes an in-app purchase, you can follow that entire path. Their goal is to create a complete, unified experience for tracking customer behavior.

4. Your account will be more closely integrated with Google Ads.

All this data can be powerfully put to use by linking it more tightly to Google Ads. With GA4 able to track users from app to browser and back, marketers can be more selective in what audiences they target. This means they can more closely identify potential customers who will be most interested in their ads, and spend less resources chasing down the long-shots.

These tools also make remarketing ads more precise, and they can even be used to remove a user from the advertising pool after they make a purchase. According to their marketing statement:

“With new integrations across Google’s marketing products, it’s easy to use what you learn to improve the ROI of your marketing. A deeper integration with Google Ads, for example, lets you create audiences that can reach your customers with more relevant, helpful experiences, wherever they choose to engage with your business.”

We’re a huge fan of any data analytics that lets us run more targeted ads. As we’ve said in the past, businesses that are too broad in their advertising efforts are going to waste a lot of resources putting advertisements in front of people who aren’t interested. Focus your ads on people who might actually be grateful for them, and you’ll go a lot farther.

5. New AI will generate predictive insights.

Finally, the news that’s been making all the headlines: Google Analytics 4 uses machine learning to help marketers identify potentially profitable market segments and alert them to increased interest in different portions of their site. Their promise that the AI algorithm at its core will automatically surface insights into user behavior is a potential game changer.

To be frank, their claims are both exciting, in theory, and a little hard to grasp. The implications here sound impressive, but like any new AI technology promising the moon and back, we’ll have to see how this works in practice to understand how it can be used effectively. If it’s anywhere near as effective as Google’s neural matching algorithm, it could be truly revolutionary in the way we understand and report metrics.

For now, however, we’ll have to keep our eye on it to see what it can tell us.

There’s a lot to uncover with this tool, and we look forward to the new insights it will bring.

As you might have noticed, a lot of these changes are big. We’re still in the process of digging through the documentation and playing with the reporting features ourselves, and we hope to be able to start showing our clients some exciting new insights in the months ahead.

In the meantime, we’ll keep you updated with any new ideas these reporting tools give us for how to create more impactful marketing campaigns. Keep your eye on this space for new articles as we learn more about how to put Google Analytics 4 to work for businesses!

Published 11/16/20 by Laura Lynch