Google Analytics 4 (or short: GA4) refers to the next generation of Google’s online measurement solutions, which is to become the new go-to tech upon the sunsetting of Universal Analytics in 2023.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Even though Google initially presented the concept of GA4 several years ago, the major shift from Universal Analytics to it hasn’t been announced until 2022, supposedly in accordance with the company’s plans to deprecate third-party cookies in its Chrome web-browser in 2023.
Key GA4 Benefits
Unlike its UA predecessor, GA4 utilizes an entirely different, i.e. event-based data model, instead of measuring separate users’ sessions on a specific platform. This new model doesn’t rely on cookies much, rather taking an omnichannel approach to measuring the company’s user attribution across all digital channels and touchpoints
In addition, GA4 is designed as a privacy-first measurement tech. First and foremost, according to the official announcement, it will no longer store users’ IP addresses. Second, it will enable customers to configure granular limitations on the collection of specific data elements (e.g. metadata), based on their audience location, directly within the platform.
It also allows setting up granular permissions to share access to specific data segments with the company’s media partners (e.g. ad agencies), hence keeping more control over their audience data disclosure to third parties.
Last but not least, GA4 enables businesses to apply the platform’s built-in, sophisticated predictive insights to compile new, potential customer segments and further reach/convert them using other Google’s marketing products, like Google Ads.
Potential Challenges with GA4
The key challenge with the implementation of Google Analytics 4 is timing. Namely, per Google’s announcement, the processing of new data via Universal Analytics will stop on July 1, 2023, with the ability to access formerly-processed data in UA to be removed on October 1, 2023.
This leaves publishers of digital properties with little time to restructure and adjust their team data practices to the new data model and complete their move from Universal Analytics to GA4 in the future months (hence already marked as a crucial task in many of to-do lists).
Of course, they can also opt for using a completely different measurement solution, instead of GA4. However, this decision should be made fast, too, since the shift between platforms usually takes substantial time and operational effort, especially if large chunks of data are being exported / imported along the way.