We’ve been using Google Analytics UA for over a decade now. Although maybe not the most user friendly upon its introduction, finding those hidden tools and tricks always made data feel just a little bit more fun to work with. In a way, familiarity has led to attachment over the years. For me, anyway. I guess that’s why when that announcement came out, along with the all-too-early introduction of Google Analytics 4 (also referred to as GA4), I wasn’t quite ready to let go.
Regardless, we’ve powered ahead here at Digital 24 and done the research, testing and trialling of the shiny new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) platform and, you know what? We’re ready to eat our words. In fact, I might just boldly say that GA4 is better than UA. Here’s why.
GA4 has smarter default channel grouping (cough cough, paid social)
When it came to tracking and analytics, UTMs were a must-have to track advertising activity as separate to their organic counterparts. Advertising on channels like Facebook ads, TikTok ads, LinkedIn ads, Twitter ads etc. would all require us to set up unique UTMs for each platform and campaign and assign them to a custom default channel group to report on data clearly. There were seemingly no rules in which Google would pick up a set of UTMs for a specific paid social channel without intervention.
However, one of GA4’s new features (which we originally were a bit resistant to) is smarter default channel grouping that users have no control over.
Default Channel Grouping is still rule-based in terms of source and medium – however, there’s some new categories that have been added to the default channel group list – one of these being Paid Social (finally!)
If you want to make sure your URLs are up-to-date and fitting with GA4’s default channel grouping definitions, you can download our free guide on GA4’s default channel grouping source and medium mapping.
There’s a better focus on engagement within GA4
These types of metrics existed within Universal Analytics. However, they weren’t quite as prominent or prevalent as they are within GA4. Nor were they as sophisticated. Metrics like DAU/MAU, DAU/WAU and WAU/MAU are measurements of “stickiness” when it comes to your site – measuring how active users engage with your site over time and with what frequency.
- Daily Active Users (DAU): the number of active users in the last 24 hours
- Weekly Active Users (WAU): the number of active users in the last 7 days
- Monthly Active Users (MAU): the number of active users in the last 30 days
The ratio “DAU / MAU” shows the percentage of users who engaged with your website or app in the last 24 hours divided by those who engaged in the last 30 days. If users engage with your website or app daily, the ratio will be 100%. However, if some users have engaged with your site or app in the past month, but didn’t visit in the past day, the ratio will be less than 100%.If you want a peak at your user stickiness on UA, you could visit “Active Users” under Audience. However, we’re really loving the all-new look and visibility that GA4 has given to these metrics and we know it’s highly symbolic of Google’s dedication to looking at quality of audiences and not just numbers.
GA4 simply looks better
On that note, we’d love to talk about the new look of GA4. Admittedly, at first glance, we did find it a bit unnecessarily overcomplicated. However, that’s most likely because we’ve become so familiar with Universal Analytics and quite frankly, learning where everything is and what the new buttons do is usually the biggest first obstacle to get around when getting around any new platform in digital marketing.
The more we’ve used Google Analytics 4, however, the more we’ve grown to really like the new look!
Reports have become simplified now. We assume this is to reduce the “daunting” element of Google Analytics for new users. An example of this is the “Acquisition group”. In Universal Analytics, these group used to look like this:
Now, in Google Analytics 4, we have 3 options under Acquisition. These are: acquisition overview, user acquisition and traffic acquisition. And that’s it!
We do quite like this more simplified approach as, to be honest, most of the reports we would use are custom and GA4 will still allow for individual report customisation and creation so there’s nothing lost there.
We definitely feel that GA4 has cut the crap when it comes to under-used reports, allowing more space for marketers and data analysts to build out individual groups of data that work for them.
GA4’s predictive analytics audiences are insanely useful for advertising
Derived from Google’s machine learning algorithms, predictive analytics is something that will be a key focus of Google Analytics 4 versus Google Analytics Universal Analytics. With predictive analytics, we can get much more insight into our customer journeys when compared to collecting structured event data.
Please note that predictive analytics is currently only available for analysts who have properly set up purchase tracking and have tracked at least 1000 positive and negative samples. To find out if your account is eligible yet, go to Settings > Audiences > Predictive. If you’re not eligible you’ll see the below screen:
Metrics for predictive analytics include:
- Purchase probability (the likelihood that a user who was active in the last 28 days will purchase or convert),
- Churn probability (the likelihood the user who was active on your site within the last 7 days will not be active for another 7 days)
- Predicted revenue (the expected revenue from all purchases over the next 28 days from a user who was active in the last 28 days).
These audiences can be highly valuable for use in advertising by sharing them with your Google Ads account. A couple of examples of uses of these audiences in advertising are as follows:
- Targeting users who are likely to churn (losing interest) with re-engagement messages. Remind them of your value, product variety, price point or other USPs. A potential win-back may also be offering loyalty messages and strategy such as discounting.
- Targeting users who have a high purchase probability with retargeting messages including a persuasive follow-up message from your broader remarketing.
GA4’s insights are more accessible and more relevant to user journeys
The vehicle for which Google analytics delivers insights, and the quality of those insights has massively improved with the development of GA4.
See below a comparison of insights over the same period and same account, the first being from GA4 and the second from UA. Again, we find this heavier focus on user journey and experience rather than granular metrics. Although granular metrics are highly important, the purpose of insights is to pull interesting tid-bits at a glance – not to replace in depth analysis. Because of this, I personally feel like the format of these insights has greatly improved – giving me more interesting user-based stats in an accessible way.
Not only this, if these pre-built insights aren’t to your liking or fit for your business – you can create custom insights. Essentially, you’ll be asking GA4 to watch out for these key metrics and if anything significant changes with them, it’ll show in your insights!
GA4 has anomaly detection that’s built into reports
I should say, anomaly detection existed in Universal Analytics. To show anomalies, you’d use your search bar and type in something like “unusual last month” and Google will show you whether or not there were unusual spikes or dips in sessions and/or value.
With GA4, however, anomaly detection is built into your graphs and reports. This update makes anomalies more visible and accessible for users of analytics. Again, this is something I feel has improved the “at a glance” quality of Google analytics.
GA4 uses data modelling that ACTUALLY makes sense
I don’t think we need to say much here but we’re big fans of the move towards attribution model control and defaulting to data-driven models. The default of last-click attribution in Google Analytics despite its intelligence in user paths and journeys felt antiquated and lazy. So, I’m pretty happy about this one!
I hope I’ve managed to unveil a range of positives to the GA4 swap from UA for you. If you’re feeling a bit more confident now that the GA4 update isn’t all doom and gloom, you can follow our handy 2022/2023 guide on setting up your new Google Analytics 4 account here!