Demystifying GA4 for Businesses

April 24, 2023

Harsvardhan Tripathy, Associate Director, Data Science Solutions

GA4 or Google Analytics 4 has gained tremendous popularity in the world of analytics recently. Loaded with new functionality, features, data sampling methods, and reporting capabilities, GA4 is more than just a version upgrade. With the sunset of Universal Analytics scheduled on July 1st, 2023, many businesses are rushing towards migration.

However, it is also important for businesses to know how GA4 can create a difference in the way they have been looking at web analytics data. In the following article, we will discuss why GA4 is more than a simple version upgrade and how businesses can leverage its new features and capabilities to maximize insights into their website, mobile app and user journey.

Let’s discuss how businesses and marketers can leverage some of the new features and capabilities of GA4 to help them better understand their audience and make data-driven decisions.

Cross-Channel Tracking

One of the significant benefits of GA4 is that it can be used for website and mobile app together. In GA4, the ‘app +web’ implementation is used, which is essentially Google Analytics for Firebase combined with website tracking capabilities. This implementation allows users to consolidate mobile app and website usage data for unified reporting and analysis. In the previous version, Universal Analytics (UA) only used to track websites and businesses had to deploy Firebase to track mobile app activity.

Using GA4, we can measure a customer’s purchase journey across websites and mobile apps more accurately. Such cross-device insights can improve the understanding of customer purchase journeys and enable a better user experience. We can also address cross-device attribution issues and understand the effectiveness of marketing campaigns across devices/platforms.

Enhanced Measurement

The new ‘enhanced measurement’ feature built-in GA4 property allows automatic tracking for certain types of events without any additional coding/tagging. We can automate tracking of scroll depth, outbound clicks, site search, form submits, and file downloads. This functionality was missing in Universal Analytics.

Enhanced Measurement also enables tracking of engagement rates for specific types of content, such as videos and social media posts embedded within web pages. This can help determine what types of content to produce in the future and which types of content the audience finds most engaging.

Advanced Event Creation

Another new feature in GA4 is that we can easily modify or create a new event based on the occurrence of other events and parameters. Previously in Universal Analytics, all the tracked events used to follow the category-action-label-value schema. In contrast, GA4 provides a much more flexible event tracking setup where additional information is supplied to an event via parameters.

The GA4 measurement model is based on events and parameters, making it more versatile and superior to Universal Analytics' session and page view-based model. In GA4, one or more parameters may be transmitted alongside each event, which allows you to specify additional details about an event, such as when, where, and why it was recorded. In GA4, unlike GA3, event names don't need to be unique because the collected parameter values serve as identifiers. In GA4, it is recommended that event names be reused as often as possible.

Reporting Capabilities

The reporting view in GA4 provides anew set of engagement metrics that can track users’ engagement with your website/app much more accurately than the page views and bounce rate metrics used in Universal Analytics. Some examples of GA4 engagement metrics: engaged sessions, engagement rate, engaged sessions per user, and average engagement time.

GA4 has done away with many standard reports when compared to GA3. However, a new suite of report templates known as Explorations is included in the GA4 reporting view. Earlier, the 'Exploration' report templates were restricted to only GA3 360 users. Now, GA4 standard version allows users to build their reports using the Explorations report templates.

Up to 200 exploration reports per user per property, and 500 shared exploration reports per property, can be generated using the GA4 standard version. The maximum number of exploration reports that can be created in GA4 360 is 200 per user per property, with a maximum of 1000 shared exploration reports. The GA4 standard version does not use sampled data in its exploration reports unless more than 10 million events are queried at once.


 Data Access Via BigQuery

The ability to connect to BigQuery for free, a service previously reserved for GA360 customers, is one of GA4'smost exciting and useful new features. When users can access GA data in a database, they can run SQL queries, perform data transformations, and integrate with any BI tool for visualization. We can now more easily manipulate data and combine it with other sets for more thorough analysis.

However, there is a cap on the amount of data that can be exported in the standard version of GA4. Some of the key limitations of GA4 Standard vs. GA4 360 are - 50 event-scoped custom dimensions per property & 50 event-scoped custom metrics per property compared to 125 event-scoped custom dimensions per property & 125 event-scoped custom metrics per property in GA4 360. Daily export is capped at 1 million events in GA4 standard compared to 1 billion events daily export in GA4 360.

Even with the GA4 standard version (Free Version), one can conduct a series of deep dive analyses, draw actionable insights and blend data with other sources as well to get a more detailed view of performance and user journey.


Enhanced Debugging

Google has ensured it has something new for everyone with its new release of GA4. For developers, debugging implementation setup is an important step to validate the analytics configuration. With GA4, debugging has become relatively easier than before due to the presence of a special real-time report called Debug View. This allows developers to monitor the website’s event data in real time, along with all the custom parameters and user properties set in one view, making the debugging process much more efficient.

What’s Next?

Google has stepped up its game in web analytics through its upgraded and more powerful GA4 release. Businesses that are still in the process of upgrading or have just done the basic migration should assess or seek help in understanding and realizing the true potential of GA4.

At Blend360, we co-create value with our customers through the integration of data, advanced analytics, technology, and people. Whether you are at beginning of your GA4 migration, or need more support addressing new reporting challenges, reach out to us to begin the conversation today.

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