October 28 2020

Google Analytics 4 Launches

google 4In a year where summer blockbusters were kept out of theaters, you’d think we wouldn’t have a sequel to get excited about in 2020. Think again. Google Analytics recently launched their new Property template which critics are already hailing as one of the best of the series.
Google Analytics 4, or the Web + App Property, is a new implementation of Google Analytics that is meant to bring together data from websites and apps. It also includes built-in engagement tracking and focuses more on event-driven data than just on pageviews and sessions. While this Property template is built to view websites and mobile apps in one report, it can also be used for tracking websites only. This type of Property has been in ‘beta’ for over a year but is now the default template when creating a new Property in Google Analytics and will be the focus of all Google Analytics updates moving forward.
Let’s explore some of the updates and features that Google has introduced with Google Analytics 4 so you can learn how you can start tracking using the new template.

Automatic Event Tracking

With Universal Analytics (the version that most websites are currently using) the only thing tracked by default is a Pageview. What this means is that when someone visits your website, the URLs that are visited get logged and the user’s visit is built around where they entered and exited your site, how long they were there and any additional pages they viewed during their visit. Additional engagement tracking can add clicks, downloads, scrolling, video interactions and more to your reporting, but that requires the placement of additional code on your website or in Google Tag Manager.
The new Web + App Property contains some engagement tracking already built-in. This includes tracking of outbound links, file downloads, embedded videos and scrolling on a page without adding any code beyond the initial GA4 tracking snippet. Site search is also included by default, but a small setting may need to be enabled before internal searches are properly recorded. This is a huge difference from tracking engagement on older Google Analytics platforms. Instead of only reporting on which pages a visitor is seeing, you get access to several meaningful touchpoints that indicate interest with your content and promotions.

Complete Reporting and Measurement Overhaul

Universal Analytics, the previous and still most widely used Google Analytics for websites, presented the user with a variety of interactive tables based on the Audience, Acquisition and Behavior dimensions associated with a visit. This gave users the ability to view metrics like Bounce Rate or New Visitors broken down by the inbound traffic channel, city, device or landing page associated with a visit.
While the new Google Analytics reporting platform will look similar to those who have used Universal Analytics, the reports now available have been updated entirely. Reports are now based around User Life Cycle (reports showing acquisition and engagement), User (showing users’ available demographics and device information) and Events (showing all recorded engagement metrics and conversions).
In addition to available reports being updated, the metrics being measured are very different. We’ve already mentioned that engagements are being automatically tracked as events, but what’s also notably different is that Pageviews are now being categorized as an event along with those clicks, scrolls and outbound clicks. This allows Google Analytics to break out Users and Engaged Users, the latter of which are those who trigger an engagement event. Gone are previously used metrics like Bounce Rate, Average Pages per Session and Average Session Duration. Along with the aforementioned Engaged Users metric, you’ll see Event Count per User and Average Engagement Time, plus more of a focus on conversion events. 

Custom Analysis

While the older versions of Google Analytics did allow you to build dashboards and custom reports to highlight specific customer behaviors, they were limited in their ability to show specific user paths and funnels outside of some built-in reports that allowed for minimal edits. Under the new Analysis tab in Web + App Properties you can build a variety of custom reports related to the steps visitors are taking on your site, what the abandonment rate is and how that breaks down for a variety of dimensions.
This means you could create a custom funnel that shows how users viewed your homepage, interacted with a prominent promotion and then ultimately completed a conversion action on your site. You can also create custom reports showing how audience segments overlap, which were previously only able to be compared side by side. With more of a focus on users in the new Property there are custom Analysis reports you can create related to the lifetime actions taken by a user. These reports are highly customizable, giving you the ability to filter your data or apply a custom segment.

Getting Started with Google Analytics 4

There are a few things to consider before creating a new Web + App Property in your Google Analytics.

1. Since this is a new Property there won’t be any historical data, which means you’ll want to keep your existing Universal Analytics tracking snippet where it is. This will allow you to access your existing data and continue tracking for the foreseeable future. Any customization you’ve added through Goals, Filters or Event Tracking will continue to be accessible as long as you don’t change the existing codes, tags or admin configuration.
2. There is also a fair amount of setup required when creating a new Web + App Property depending on how much you’re looking to track and/or are already tracking. If you are currently only tracking Pageviews and are interested in tracking those in the new Property as well, the setup is relatively quick. The new Property just needs to be created in your existing Google Analytics Account, and your website needs to start sending data to the new Web + App ID. This means either adding a new code snippet on your website or adding a new tag in Google Tag Manager. For those looking to track additional information related to more custom event tracking, conversions or user parameters, additional tags will need to be added to send the appropriate data to the new Property.
For anyone who has minimal interaction with their current Google Analytics and is wondering whether you need to upgrade, know that there isn’t any immediate requirement that you start using the new Property template, however this will be where Google’s priorities are for updates and optimizations. So, the sooner you do create the new Property, the more data you’ll have collected for future analysis.
Contact ZAG if you’re interested in upgrading to the new Web + App Property, or if you have any questions about Google Analytics.

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posted by
Patrick Trayes
Patrick Trayes
Associate Director of Client Analytics

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.
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