Google Analytics 4: Start Now to Reap the Rewards of Data Democratization

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A Q&A with Lifeblue Data Analyst Dana Walker on how to use the new Google Analytics

When Google Analytics announced it would sunset Universal Analytics in July 2023, it sent marketers scrambling, trying to understand the impact of this shift to the next iteration: Google Analytics 4 – and the GA4 benefits that could be unlocked.

We spoke to Lifeblue Data Analyst Dana Walker on how to tap into these rewards – and the urgency to act now. Dana joined Lifeblue earlier this year after completing the UC Davis Data Analytics Boot Camp, in addition to years of experience in software development and project management.

-Why should organizations start using Google Analytics 4?

One of the points that I think is scaring people is that you can’t aggregate the data you collected in Universal Analytics over into Google Analytics 4. You’ll just lose that data if you don’t save it.

So, it’s essential to start collecting data right now for GA4 so that by a year from now, you’ll already have a year’s worth of data on that platform. That’s what we’re getting on top of with our clients right now.

[Read: Google Analytics is Being Sunsetted. Here’s What You Need to Know.]

-What GA4 benefits are you most excited about?

GA4 encompasses several capabilities of other Google products. So, you can easily automate a lot of elements of Google Tag Manager or Google Data Studio in Google Analytics now.

Reporting in GA4 is more simplified and streamlined than it previously was in Universal Analytics. It’s now closer to what you would see with the Google Analytics 360 enterprise-level marketing platform.

You can optimize reporting through more robust marketing funnels and audience builders that help measure and predict user journeys. Previously, more in-depth funnel features were only available through GA360. Now, most of these funneling features are being moved into GA4, which is great for tracking conversion goals and e-commerce insights.

[Read: Companies are Going to Be Left Behind: The Importance of Data Strategy]

Another great tool is the automated insights feature that allows you to easily answer questions such as, “What are my most visited pages?” You can even see a list of suggested questions in the search bar that instantaneously generate graphs or tables. So, it takes a lot of the pre-processing out of visualization software, like Google Data Studio, and transitions it into this all-encompassing platform that allows you to easily report on and view raw data.

-What’s one of the biggest impacts of GA4 on small- to mid-size organizations?

Google BigQuery is a cloud data warehouse where you can store raw data. Previously, it was only available through Google Analytics 360, which costs at least $150,000 per year to access – so, typically it’s only been accessible to huge corporations with crazy amounts of data.

But now that Google Analytics 4 links to BigQuery, it provides access for organizations of all sizes and is a very cost-effective tool. That’s what’s so exciting – it democratizes data.

-GA4 optimizes several features, but trained experts remain critical to unlocking the potential of data. Can you share more about this?

It’s one thing to be able to access data and click around and make graphs that look like they’re telling a story. It’s another thing, though, to understand which data points are the highest value, how to effectively track them and how to determine an actionable insight that doesn’t just give you the data but gives you a pathway towards your next business initiative.

[Read: Never Mind Your Business Plan. What Are You Doing with Your Data?]

A common example of this would be an e-commerce purchase or someone requesting to talk to your sales rep. We’ll often look at funnels and user journeys to see the most popular pathway for users getting to that high-value conversion, like how many clicks does it take on a page for a user to finally contact their sales rep?

-How else do GA4 benefits enhance insights into user journeys?

I’m working on a cool project right now for a global brand to implement cross-site tracking in their GA4 account. They have three different domains and previously, that meant three different Google Analytics profiles.

Collecting all this data in different places, could be a mess. It was difficult to see how a user went from one page to the next across domains because what they did on each page would be in a whole different GA profile.

But GA4 allows you to easily access cross-site tracking and view events on multiple different pages. This is particularly helpful with e-commerce sites. If a user goes from one of your websites, like products.com, to another of your websites, like myproducts.shopify.com, it links one event to the next so we can see how a user interacts within each of the domains – how different events are connected throughout their whole user journey.

This allows us to be a source of truth because the data is right in front of us, completely live, enabling us to consistently validate the data and the story we think it’s telling.

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