Google Analytics 4: A future approach for user-driven security needs

Google Analytics 4: A future approach for user-driven security needs

Google announced that Universal Analytics will stop collecting new data on July 1, 2023, for free Google Analytics customers. UA, which is the previous generation of Google Analytics, will be replaced with the new analytics property type, Google Analytics 4.

Experts of digital world suggest to rethink your analytic strategy and redesign key business metrics for a new setup on GA4 analytics. And if you want to have year-over-year data available to report on GA4, you only have a couple of months for your setup reminds Krista Seiden on her website. As one of the specialists who helped to build GA4, she explains that a good analytics implementation includes planning, preparing, and implementing, which takes several months. Therefore, it is critical to plan that the QA (Quality Assurance) process of tracking data correctly in GA4 and building all the reports needed should be considered and added to the time plan. So the reminder is that from now on, you have less than 14 months for this transition to have a well-planned strategy for user insights.

Review of Google Analytics through time

Image: KristaSeiden.com

 

A future approach for measurement: event-based data model

Why are experts announcing that the time is critical to build strategy and setup for GA4? What is so different this time? 

Google Analytics is a new way of measuring user events on cross-platforms. Potential customers use different platforms and devices for the buying process. Everyone considers the privacy of their actions on platforms and all the digital steps while using devices.

To make intelligent business decisions, you need to rely on up-to-date data and all the information you know about your customers, which means first-hand data for your business.

In GA4, everything is an event. Even a pageview is counted as an event. Therefore, the actions of users are measured as events when using all platforms through computers and smartphones.

According to a 2020 report by GlobalWebIndex, consumers are increasingly using smartphones to find, buy and pay for products and services.

Online Activities by Device: The actions of searching, reviewing, and purchasing a product online with a smartphone are higher than PC/Laptops.

Source: Serpstat

 

Creative writer Vlada Malysheva emphasizes the importance of cross-platform services. She works for OWOX, which assists in implementing Google Analytics 360 Suite.

"Today, your brand isn't just a website. It's a mobile application, a YouTube channel, and profiles on social networks. Your customers want to see your company and buy your products when it's comfortable for them. Google Analytics 4 takes this into account and helps you track user behavior on different platforms in the same place." 

Vlada Malysheva

 

In GA4, you can track the user's path across different devices and platforms. So it doesn't matter how exactly your customers interact with you — their actions will be monitored.

This behavioral strategy will be supported by improved integration with Google Ads. GA4 uses machine learning, and you can predict the likelihood of conversion and send new audiences to Google Ads. Because you can see anomalies in reports, it is possible to predict conversion, increase demand for goods, and the probability of customers' outflow and prevent it. Insights will give you new opportunities for key business metrics and intelligent decisions.

 

The need for data privacy: Cookieless world for users

Universal Analytics was built on a session-based model before internet devices like smartphones were widely used. UA measurement was built for independent sessions, meaning a group of user interactions within a given time frame. It is measured on a desktop device, and user activities were tracked with cookies. In Universal Analytics, goals are session-based; you can not measure goals by a user. In Google Analytics 4, conversions (goals) are event-based. 

Where did this need come from to build a new measurement model?

It is essential to understand that it is not a new version that offers an upgrade of this web analytics service but a different measurement methodology to align with user behaviors and privacy needs.

Former Googler Krista Seiden, who had helped build GA4 and the founder of KS Digital, explained that it's an entirely new version of Google Analytics.

"GA4 isn't so much an update, but an entirely new way of doing analytics – set up to scale for the future, work in a cookieless world, and be a lot more privacy-conscious,"

Krista Seiden

 

Google Analytics 4 has been in development for many years. 

It was announced as a public beta called App+Web, and in October 2020, it dropped the beta label and was rebranded as GA4. 

As of July 1, 2023, the version of Google Analytics we have used for ten years will stop processing hits. 

What happened in these years that changed the way of measuring analytics? 

Alongside the fact that the statistics of internet usage through smartphones have been getting higher, a conscious demand for data privacy became a basic need for internet users. If we turn our face to the cyber security world, it is clear that there is an emerging need for privacy which encouraged governments to enforce regulations for digital security.  As a result, companies and brands should revisit marketing and advertising methods and build new models due to new regulations about cookies and data transfers.  

According to the article in The National Law Review, "Google Analytics 4 aims, among other things, to address recent developments in the EU regarding the use of analytics cookies and data transfers resulting from such use."

"On August 17, 2020, the non-governmental organization None of Your Business ("NOYB") filed 101 identical complaints with 30 European Economic Area data protection authorities ("DPAs") regarding the use of Google Analytics by various companies. Following these complaints, the French and Austrian DPAs ruled that the transfer of EU personal data from the EU to the U.S. through the use of the Google Analytics cookie is unlawful."

The National Law Review

 

Google Analytics 4 press release on March 16, 2022 announces that GA4 "is designed with privacy at its core". The National Law Review website declares that Google launched GA4 in an attempt to address EU privacy concerns. They reported that "...the most impactful change from an EU privacy standpoint is that Google Analytics 4 will no longer store IP address, thereby limiting the data transfers resulting from the use of Google Analytics."

Therefore, Google published an article offering privacy-first marketing strategies. The strategy article reviews the near future of cookies, privacy, and tracking conversions. In the article, it is claimed that in 2020 only 10% of the population were covered by privacy regulations and that by 2023 a full 65% of the population will live in countries with privacy-protecting regulations that limit how much of their Internet activity can be tracked.

Let's look at how Google explains it on their blog while inviting us to prepare future with Google Analytics 4:

"Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions and more easily observable data from cookies. This measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete. Meanwhile, Google Analytics 4 operates across platforms, does not rely exclusively on cookies and uses an event-based data model to deliver user-centric measurement."

- Russell Ketchum

 

Not depending on cookies and using an event-based data model, Google Analytics 4 can operate across multiple platforms, which leads to a solution for future needs. So it seems here the expression 'future' means user-driven data privacy. 

Google Analytics works by setting cookies on a user's browser to "remember" information about a visitor. However, cookies also pose a privacy risk because they share data with third parties.

Kayle Larken from Search Engine Journal reminds the importance of having a strategy for data privacy: 

"I encourage you to use this time to consider your data strategy and set the tone for your company's data privacy policy, assess your digital footprint and consent management, and ensure compliance." 

- Kayle Larken

Since cyber security is becoming a basic need, users want more control over their data and its use.

Laws such as GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act are enforcing this need.

Google Analytics 4 does not store IP addresses and GA4 relies on first-party cookies, which supposedly keep them compliant with privacy laws.

Russell Ketchum, the Director and Product Management of Google Analytics declares this fact in the press release which announces Google Analytics 4:

"It helps businesses meet evolving needs and user expectations, with more comprehensive and granular controls for data collection and usage. Importantly, Google Analytics 4 will also no longer store IP addresses. These solutions and controls are especially necessary in today's international data privacy landscape, where users are increasingly expecting more privacy protections and control over their data."

Russell Ketchum

 

GA4 get a complete view of the customer lifecycle with an event-based measurement model for you to analyze customer journey and gain insights from their footsteps.  

July 1, 2023: All standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits.

October 1, 2023: All 360 Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits.

Previously processed data in Universal Analytics will remain available for at least six months after the above dates.

Because Google UA will stop collecting data, right now, the recommendation is to start using only GA4 when you work on a new project.

Google released a GA4 Demo Property to help users explore new analytics by using GA4 sample data. Using data from the Google Merchandise Store and Flood-It! App, you can learn how to use it without creating a test account.

You can read more or discover GA4 in detail through the links below.

Good luck with your new journey!

 

SOURCES:

DISCOVER GOOGLE ANALYTICS 4:

Google Analytics 4 Demo: Learn how to use GA4 without creating a test account.

Google Analytics 4 Tutorial for Beginners - Analytics Mania: Learn how to launch for your first steps with Google Analytics 4: installation, interface, reports, conversions, configuration, and more.

What's New in Google Analytics 4 - Adswerve: Google Analytics expert and Head of Innovation at Adswerve, Charles Farina provides an overview and Q&A session for the new Google Analytics 4 Property (GA4) in this video. Find out detailed explanation about new updates and features.

GA4 Quick Tips videos : You can watch video playlist by former Googler Krista Seiden.

The Ultimate Side by Side Comparison Guide: GA3 vs GA4 - KS Digital Academy: Visit to have a free downloadable cheatsheet to easily compare GA3 vs GA4, side by side.

In-depth paid courses of GA4 - Krista Seiden, KS Digital Academy: KS Digital Academy offers in-depth courses to help you master Google Analytics 4, taught by former Googler, Krista Seiden. Learn directly from one of the people who built it.

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