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What’s New in Google Analytics 4

Ellen Hoffman

Data Analyst, Forum One

In October, Google released Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the next generation of their web and app analytics products. While many features of GA4 are still in beta and we recommend maintaining your current analytics configuration, now is a great time to also start getting used to the new interface. If you’re currently using Universal Analytics and wondering what’s new in Google Analytics 4, here are a few high-level changes to expect.

1. Meet “data streams”

First, as more organizations have transitioned from one website operations to connecting with audiences across multiple websites and apps, Google responded with data streams in GA4. Say goodbye to distinct App + Web and cross-domain tracking implementations–all of this functionality is built in. 

Think of a data stream as one data source, a specific website or app from which you collect data. There are three types available: Web, iOS. and Android. Data streams are set up at the property level, and you can add up to 50 streams per property. If you’re tracking an app, note that Google still requires the Firebase SDK.

2. Forget about views

If you’re a Universal Analytics user, you’re used to working within the Account > Property > View hierarchy. In this setup, your account represents your organization, your properties include websites and apps, and your views store filters which customize how your data is collected. You likely have at least two views per property, one that captures raw data and one that applies filters. When you want to lowercase all URLs to prevent duplicates or exclude internal traffic, setting up a filtered view is a great solution.

In GA4, there are no views. Instead, you’ll navigate through reports at the property level. GA4 currently offers two data filters that allow you to exclude developer and internal traffic. You can even test these filters before enabling them. It’s not clear if Google will roll out more filters in the future, but there are some workarounds. For example, you can manipulate variables in Google Tag Manager. You can also create and modify events directly in GA4, a new feature that is sure to improve data quality, especially when a developer isn’t immediately available to troubleshoot an issue on your website or app.

3. Enjoy event-based tracking

It’s all about events in GA4. From pageviews to downloads, every hit is considered an event. While you can set up custom events in Universal Analytics, GA4 will automatically track the most popular user behaviors: pageviews, scrolls, outbound clicks, site search, video engagement, and file downloads. Make sure to select enhanced measurement on each data stream to take advantage of the full functionality.

For each event, GA4 also tracks parameters like page_title and file_extension. Parameters describe events and give you additional context for analysis. A handful of parameters, like page_title, are included with every event; while others, like file_extension, are unique to specific built-in events. You can still set up custom events and parameters at any time. Google even provides a comprehensive list of recommended events for a number of common web and app purposes. We recommend using their naming conventions. You never know when additional features will be released!

Final thoughts

Taking advantage of the innovation of new solutions without sacrificing the reliability of tried and true methods is a solid approach to your digital strategy, which is why we recommend getting started in GA4 while also maintaining your Universal Analytics setup. As your data comes into the new interface, you can monitor its quality and address any issues. We also encourage you to review your business requirements and make sure your analytics setup is meeting your needs.

For a full tutorial of GA4 and other analytics products catered to your organization, please reach out to us! We would be happy to help you get the most out of your data to better serve your audiences. For more materials about implementing GA4 and new features, see Google’s official documentation about GA4

Written By

Ellen Hoffman

Data Analyst, Forum One

Need more help with Google Analytics?

If you need help with the new changes in GA4 or have any questions about your web analytics data, give us a shout. We’d be happy to talk through your pain points and help you get clarity.