GA4 is a web analytics platform developed by Google and designed to help businesses measure their online performance across multiple devices and platforms. Its popularity has significantly increased since Google decided to sunset Universal Analytics back in July 2023.
Source: Google Trends
Data Analytics, Web Analytics, and Google Analytics: What Are the Differences?
Data analytics, web analytics, and Google Analytics are all terms often used interchangeably, but they actually have different meanings and use cases.
- Data analytics is the broader process of collecting, cleaning, analysing, interpreting and acting based on data insights.
- Web analytics is a subset of data analytics that focuses on website/online data. It is normally used to track website traffic, measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, and identify areas for improvement.
- Google Analytics is a very popular free web analytics platform.
How does web analytics work?
Web analytics software collects data about users visiting your website by placing tracking code (cookie) on your website pages. This code collects user information such as the user’s IP address, browser type, os, the pages they visit, and the actions users take on your website. Web analytics then analyses this data and generates reports that provide insights into your website’s performance. These reports can be used to track key metrics such as website traffic, pageviews, bounce rate, conversion rate, and time on site.
The Evolution of Google Analytics
Google Analytics has evolved significantly over the years, from its humble beginnings as Urchin to the powerful and versatile tool it is today. Here is a brief overview of the evolution of Google Analytics:
- 2005: Google acquires Urchin and launches Google Analytics.
- 2008: Google Analytics adds support for cross-domain tracking.
- 2011: Google Analytics releases a new version with a redesigned interface and new features, such as real-time analytics and goal flow charts.
- 2012: Google releases Universal Analytics, which offers a number of improvements over the previous version, including cross-platform tracking, flexible tracking code, and custom dimensions and metrics.
- 2020: Google releases Google Analytics 4 (GA4), a new platform that is designed to be more flexible and future-proof than Universal Analytics. GA4 is also designed to work better with Google’s other marketing and analytics products.
Universal Analytics vs. Google Analytics 4
Universal Analytics (UA), has been around for many years and is the more mature platform
There are several key differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4, including:
- Data model: As mentioned earlier, GA4 uses an event-based data model, while UA uses a session-based data model. This means that GA4 tracks each interaction with your website or app as an event, while UA groups interactions together into sessions.
- Reporting: GA4 offers a different set of reports than UA. The reports in GA4 are more focused on user behavior and engagement, while the reports in UA are more focused on traffic and conversions.
- Integrations: GA4 is not yet integrated with as many third-party tools as UA. However, Google is working to make GA4 more interoperable with other platforms.
- Event-based data model: GA4 uses an event-based data model, which means that any interaction with your website or app can be tracked as an event. This gives you more flexibility in how you collect and analyze data.
- Machine learning: GA4 uses machine learning to automatically identify patterns in your data and generate insights. This can help you to better understand your users and improve your marketing campaigns.
- Privacy-focused: GA4 is designed with privacy in mind. It uses aggregated data and differential privacy to protect user privacy.
- Flexible reporting: GA4 offers a variety of reporting options, so you can customize your reports to fit your specific needs. You can also create custom dashboards to visualize your data in a way that makes sense for you.
Overall, Google Analytics 4 is a powerful tool that can help you understand your users better and make better decisions about your marketing campaigns. If you’re looking for a more privacy-focused and future-proof web analytics solution, then GA4 is a good option.
According to “State if the CMO 2022” by CMO Australia, here is a list of priorities for CMOs in 2023:
Google Analytics 4 could be used to collect, analyse & identify business opportunities across the following areas