It may be finally happening people! Google’s new analytics tool, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), is receiving some much-needed updates in order to make it a true replacement for Universal Analytics (UA).
As a quick refresher, GA4 is Google’s new analytics tool that is geared towards a cookie-less future. If this is the first you are hearing of GA4, or just want a refresher, here is a blog post introducing GA4.
GA4 was missing some favorite features from Universal Analytics when it was launched. Since then, Google has remained busy updating and refining GA4 to make it the true replacement for UA that it is meant to be. Which is exciting and very timely considering the continuing restrictions to personal data.
Here is a list of the updates to GA4 in the last 6 months, and why you should care.
Updated Conversion Models
“Regulatory and browser changes (such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention), the phasing out of Chrome’s third-party cookie support, ATT (AppTracking Transparency), etc.) impact Google Analytics’ ability to join some conversion events with previous engagement events, which may leave gaps in attribution reporting. New conversion modeling in Google Analytics 4 will help fill in these gaps where observed data is unavailable, enhancing your understanding of the customer journey while respecting user consent choices.”
Why you should care- It’s all about attribution people! GA4 promised improved reliability of data despite the reduction in cookies. This update shows Google is practicing what they preach and are staying up-to-date with regulatory changes and addressing them. Now, how and if it works will be a whole other issue.
“We are introducing a new set of insights focused on conversion paths. These insights show the most common individual first-touch and last-touch channels, as well as the most common channel combinations for multi-touch paths.”
Why you should care- Multi-touch reports are a favorite of the Parallel Path analytics team. These reports allow you to look at your marketing efforts and website performance from an omnichannel perspective. This is vital. Having these metrics in GA4 closes the gap between UA and GA4.
Improvements to Default Channel Groupings
“We recently made the following changes to improve the quality of default channel groupings:
- New channels: We added the following additional channel groupings:
- Organic Shopping
- Paid Shopping
- Organic Video
- Paid Video
- Paid Other
- Mobile Push Notifications
- YouTube is now Video, not Social
- New channels: We added the following additional channel groupings:
- Channels are more accurate and more often classified:
- All rules are case insensitive.
- Paid mediums now additionally include CPA and CPV. Google Analytics 4 recognizes all mediums that match regex ^(.*cp.*|ppc|paid.*)$ as Paid. Based on the source, GA4 will categorize traffic with a paid medium as either Paid Search, Paid Social, Paid Shopping, Paid Video, or Paid Other.
- Display mediums now additionally include expandable and interstitial.
- Tagging utm_medium=organic on a social site is now classified to channel “Organic Social” and no longer classified as “Organic Search”.”
Why you should care- Updating the channel grouping rules is a key component of our DCI (Data Collection Infrastructure) where we focus on cleaning and improving how data reports within Google Analytics. “Channels” allow for the quickest and easiest analysis of site performance, so having this data reporting correctly, and in a usable manner, is extremely important. It’s exciting to see that Google is doing some rethinking when it comes to default channel groupings. Having additional rules and granularity out of the box will relieve some common pain points experienced in UA.
Note- If you are concerned that your Google Analytics attribution may be off, we’d love to get you on the right path
Apparently, the engineers at Google were looking to earn their yearly bonus, because December included three big updates to GA4
1- Expanded availability of Churn probability metrics
“Analytics recently expanded availability of the Churn probability metric, one of GA4’s predictive metrics, so that many customers who weren’t previously eligible to use this metric are able to do so going forward. This was made possible due to increased resource investment from Analytics.”
Why you should care- If you run an eCommerce site you know that churn is bad! The “churn probability” metric predicts how likely it is that recently active users will not come back to your site or app within the next 7 days. You can use this metric to build audiences to then remarket to and increase the likelihood of these users coming back. These predictive metrics can also be used to determine which marketing campaigns are likely to lead to the most churn. While we don’t recommend going and relying only on these metrics to determine ad spend just yet, it’s great to see Google is expanding the availability on one of the most exciting parts of GA4.
The next two updates can be grouped together as they both focus on making GA4 the central hub of your Google data.
2- Search Console Integration-
“We are thrilled to announce that GA4 now supports an integration with Google Search Console! When your properties are linked, users will have access to two new reports in Google Analytics 4:
- Google Organic Search Traffic Report
- Queries Report
3- Import Google Ads links from Universal Analytics
“We’re proud to announce the launch of a critical new feature supporting the GA4 migration: importing Universal Analytics to Google Ads account links!”
Why you should care- The benefit of using the g-suite is having your various platforms speak to each other. Adding the Google Search Console integration and improving the ease of the Google Ads integration closes the gap between UA and GA4.
Cross-channel Data-driven attribution
“The cross-channel data-driven attribution model (DDA) is now available in the Attribution reports (Conversion Paths and Model Comparison) within the Advertiser Workspace.”
Why you should care- The data-driven attribution model looks at all of the touchpoints of a user’s journey and assigns a value of each visit that leads to a conversion. While this may not be the attribution model you choose to use as your source of truth, it’s an important one to consider when making investment decisions. By making this more widely available, Google has put powerful data in the hands of its users.
Note- Google identifies that the usability of this model is dependent on the available data. When insufficient data is available, this model may report the same as the “cross-channel last click” model.
Some of these updates are just getting GA4 up to speed with UA. Others make some of the most exciting features of GA4 (predictive modeling) available to more users, which in turn benefits everyone. Universal Analytics is still the suggested analytics tool for business decisions and reporting, but these types of updates are starting to close the gap between the two.