July 25, 2022
6 mins read

Google Analytics 4: Everything you need to know

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Google Analytics is a tool for analyzing the metrics of a website. Google launched in 2020 an evolution of Google Analytics called Google Analytics 4 (GA4). If your idea is to create a website today you should use this new GA4 functionality. There has been a lot of controversy about this new product since some changes have not been understood or people accustomed to GA3 (Universal Analytics) feel that they see the information better in GA3 and are not giving it a chance.

History shows that it is often difficult to move forward when everyone assumes that a product is unbeatable. Technological progress is often too slow since there are people who do not open their minds, are in their comfort zone and do not value other possibilities. If not ask a German aristocrat who in the nineteenth century commented “why am I going to pay for a train ticket that takes me to Hanover in 5 hours if I can go on horseback for free and arrive in 1 day?”.

Google and data

Google has built its business on data. It started as a search engine, but today it is one of the most powerful companies in the world because it oriented its business model to one based on the collection of information and showing it in different ways. The most obvious result is the Google search engine, in which you type what you want to search for and shows you millions of search results indexed in its databases sorted by relevance.

Its products, similar to the layers of an onion, have surrounded that heart (the Google search engine), of various layers all related to the data and the handling of that data. Examples are Google Search Console, Google Tag Manager, Google Ads, Google Adsense and of course Google Analytics.

How Google Analytics works

Google Analytics is a platform that obtains data and compiles it into reports. To track a website, you must first create a Google Analytics account and then add a JavaScript code on each page of the website. The way to do this is by editing the website template and including that code in the <HEAD> tag.

When a user accesses a page on a website, the tracking code will collect anonymous information about how they have interacted with the page. If you have an online store the code will show how many users bought a product detecting if they did so on the purchase confirmation page. This code will also collect data from the browser, such as the language set on it, the browser used (Chrome, Safari…), the type of device and the operating system used to access the website. No personal data is collected, only technical data.

Even the traffic source is included. This source is the one that led the user to the website and can be a search engine, a clicked ad, or an email campaign.  Each time a page loads, the tracking code collects and sends data about user activity.

Google Analytics groups this activity into periods called “sessions”. A session begins when a page is accessed with the Google Analytics tracking code. And it ends after 30 minutes of inactivity. Returning to the page after you end a session starts another session.

The evolution of Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the consequence of Google’s business model. Taking the data as a starting point, Google has acquired over the years companies that offered data-driven services. For example, in 2005 it bought Uching Software Corporation, the seed of Google Analytics. Already in 2006 Google Analytics is available to all Google users. In 2009 Google Analytics provides a new asynchronous tracking code, the code runs without waiting.

The different versions of GA canbe seen  in Fig. 1.

Google Analytics 4
Figure 1. Evolution of Google Analytics (Source: https://searchengineland.com/give-ga4-a-chance-385290)

Structure of an Analytics account

All Google Analytics accounts can be organized under an “Organization” name. The same organization has one account and that account has several properties. Large companies or agencies have multiple accounts, while small businesses or individuals usually only have one.

In Fig. 2 there are 3 Analytics accounts. The first two are from different domains and the third is from a Google Analytics demo account. Each of them has in turn properties and applications. And in turn each property has a view of the data.

Figure 2. Google Analytics account structure

You can apply multiple properties to each account, so you can collect data from different websites, mobile apps, and other values of your business. For example, you want to know how many people visit you from America you create a property that collects a report of only visitors from America.

Permissions of Users

In Google Analytics, you can assign permissions to other users at the account, property, or view level. Each level inherits permissions from the lower level. For example, if you have access to an account, then it has the same access permissions to the properties and views below that account. But if you only have access permissions for one view, you won’t have permission to modify the property or account associated with that view.

By clicking on “Administrator”, Google Analytics allows you to set user roles for: “Administrator”, “Editor”, “Analyst” or “Viewer”.

• “Administrator” allows users to add or remove user access to the account, property or view.

• The “Editor” allows users to make changes to configuration settings.

• “Analyst” allows users to share things like dashboards or certain measurement settings.

• And finally, “Reader” allows users to view data, analyze reports, and create dashboards, but prevents them from making configuration changes or adding new users.

Figure 3. Roles in Google Analytics

Changes to Google Analytics 4

Since its beta launch in 2019, GA4 has continued to add new features and improve, and the pace of innovation is accelerating. These are just some of the novelties launched in recent months:

  • Subproperties and accruals (for customers of the paid version, Google Analytics 360).
  • Integrations with Google Marketing Platform.
  • New UTMs, which leads to more campaign parameters to add. UTMs are URL parameters that Google uses to measure the effectiveness of  unique URL marketing campaigns.
  • Dimension of the landing page, landing pages are increasingly used.
  • New privacy settings: more granular controls.

Google Analytics demo account

If you want to see before using Google Analytics you can use a demo account provided by Google. This account will allow you to learn by experimenting with data from the Google Merchandise Store and a mobile game called Flood-It!  The only requirement is to have a Google account. If you have it, you will log in to it and if you do not have it, you will be asked to create one and then log in.

By clicking on the ACCESS DEMO ACCOUNT link  below, you will authorize us to do one of two things with your Google Account:

  • If you already have a Google Analytics account, it will allow us to add the demo account to the Analytics account, and we will.
  • If you don’t have a Google Analytics account, you’ll allow us to create one associated with your Google Account and then add the demo account to that newly created account, and we’ll.

The demo account will be available in the Analytics account selector, where you can choose organization and account links.

In addition, it will be subtracted from the number of Analytics accounts that you can still link to the same Google account. At the moment, in Google Analytics you can have, at most, 100 Analytics accounts for each Google account. You can unaccess the demo account at any time. To access it click here -> ACCESS THE DEMO ACCOUNT.

Visual differences between Google Analtyics 3 and Google Analytics 4

To see the different ones in the way of displaying the information you can check what each property shows on the main page. In Fig. 5 you can see the different way to display the informationon the main page of each of the properties.

google analytics 4
Figure 5. Visual differences between Google Analytics 3 (left) and Google Analytics 4 (right)

Summary

Computer science tends to be simple and as the years go by applications and web pages are easier to understand and more direct, however, the underlying base is enormous. We don’t have to understand that basis, but we can simply work on what interests us without wasting time on knowing more.

Google Analytics 4 is the new Therefore, you need to start using the new evolution of Google Analytics (GA4) in your products. It may be that you find it complicated or unintuitive at first, but with the use you will learn the enormous possibilities that this product has for your business. Also, remember that Google is going to implement improvements in GA4 not GA3, for which it will not provide support as of July 1, 2023.

Therefore, Google Analytics 4 is a new property designed for the future of measurement and it is time to start using it since it is the future of the coming years.

References

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Avelino Dominguez

??‍? Biologist ??‍? Teacher ??‍? Technologist ? Statistician ? #SEO #SocialNetwork #Web #Data ♟Chess ? Galician

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