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Late last year, Google released Google Analytics 4, also referred to as GA4. This update has improved privacy and data collection, and although existing Google Analytics setups can run alongside GA4, these new changes will impact event setup.

Whenever we see a big update such as this one, the first question to ask is what the update hopes to achieve. In their announcement, Google explains that the update’s goal is to address the increased demand for web analytics, implement new machine learning capabilities, and to address privacy trends.

Currently, GA4 sits alongside the traditional Universal Analytics setup, and any new setups will be using Google Analytics 4 by default. Key areas of change include the move to a user and cohort-based model and increased privacy protection measures.

Measuring users and cohorts can make it easier to identify trends in data and optimise a website for specific audiences. New privacy protection tools help to adapt to changes that are occurring across online services in general and incorporate support for newer tracking tools (such as Server-Side Tag Manager) or Google’s Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). More information on Google’s FLoC tracking coming soon.

To collect demographics (such as age and gender), as well as in-market data, Google Analytics 4 can integrate Google Signals – which correlates your website visitors with logged-in Google users who have consented to share their data.

Best Practice USe of GA4

As most tools and systems are still tightly integrated with the older version of Analytics, it is recommended to continue using UA while you also introduce GA4 to your website. Once your new profile has collected data you can transition to using this for reporting and analysis.

With Google Analytics 4, Google introduces a new way of measuring analytics and how data is stored, so it only collects data from the time it is set up, and does not reflect historical data stored in a Universal Analytics (UA) property.

What are my next steps?

You likely have an existing Google Analytics profile set up with events and goals. It is important to note that Universal Analytics events and goals need to be set up differently for GA4.

The default GA4 setup now automatically tracks basic event tracking for scroll tracking, outbound links, document downloads, search result pages and video views.

If your current website analytics is set up via Google Tag Manager you can add new GA4 events to the same triggers that are set up for your existing events.

Other analytics implementation – such as direct inclusion on your website – require changes to the code on the website. There are also considerable changes to E-Commerce tracking with implementation requiring new code to be included to track the relevant checkout stages and product data.

Threesides can provide assistance in setting up the new GA4 profile on your website and either re-link to existing events setup in Google Tag Manager, or setup new conversion and event tags based on actions that are important to your website.

Information to note:

Please note that to be able to receive demographic data (such as gender, age, and interest) about your website visitors, Google Analytics provides Google Signals integration. By using this, Analytics will automatically and anonymously associate your visitors with their Google profile if they allow ad personalisation.

“By activating Google Signals, you enable Google Analytics to collect data about your traffic in addition to data collected through a standard Google Analytics implementation in order to provide additional features like cross-device audiences and insights.”

As part of using Google Signals to collect this data – privacy policies will need to be updated to include wording surrounding the use of data matching – where Google will attempt to match and aggregate the users of a website with the information they can access.

Keep your eyes out for future updates:

Threesides will provide more information on the Federated Learning of Cohorts tool that Google intends to use to replace third-party cookies and how this integrates into Google Analytics and Ads as more information is provided.

If you want to discuss how the Google Analytics 4 update will impact your website, you can get in touch with the Threesides team on (02) 6249 1117 or by emailing us.

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