Welcome to the future of a cookie-less world. If you are familiar with web analytics, you might have seen a number of announcements from Google in the past year associated with the latest iteration of its Analytics suite of products called Google Analytics 4 (GA4). In the evolution of Google Analytics, GA4 is simply the latest version of Google Analytics products slated for a wide release on July 1, 2023. With the exception of UA 360 properties which will receive a one-time 1-year extension to upgrade, standard UA properties will stop processing data on July 1, 2023 and be auto-upgraded to GA4.
Google Analytics Evolution
To be fully prepared for this transition, it is important to understand the history of Google Analytics and how it has evolved in the last few years. Google has gradually developed its Google Analytics suite from its humble beginnings in 2005 when it first acquired the company Urchin, up through its integration with the Google Marketing Platform (GMP) in 2017 and into its current identity today. GA4 itself has been in development since 2017 and a beta version was released in July 2019 under the name “App + Web Properties.” It has since been released as the new standard property in Google Analytics as Google sunsets its Universal Analytics properties.
Why is this happening now?
Shifting regulatory changes such as the GDPR and CCPA along with a data landscape that has placed greater emphasis in relation to security and privacy has also led to a need for more transparency and control associated with data collection. As the world shifts towards cookie-less tracking, marketing teams everywhere are faced with the unique challenge of optimizing against audience pools that are gradually shrinking.
This is where GA4 steps in and provides a more streamlined way of consolidating user profiles via Google Signals and user ID designations. GA4 relies on first-party data obtained using a blended approach where it starts with a user ID if available and then uses Google Signals data. If none is available, it uses anonymized device data to identify user behavior and create audience pools. Using Google Signals, GA4 is able to merge user data across multiple devices as they collect data from users who are signed in to Google and have consented to share this information.
What does this mean to marketers?
While migrating to GA4 will present potential challenges, it is also best placed to handle industry changes and adapt to them. Apart from having more granular user data controls — consent mode and data deletion request — GA4 also uses behavioral modeling where it is utilizing machine learning to fill in gaps when cookies and other identifiers are unavailable.
Integrations with Google Ads and Campaign Manager 360 play an important role in using GA4 conversions in the automated bid strategies for DV360. GA4 also offers a wide variety of improved visualization capabilities using its Explorations feature that allows advertisers to drill down into more customized reporting to analyze user journeys and audience overlaps. These reports will help in decision-making and fiscal budget management as they enable marketers to build engagement scores and analyze user lifetime value, which ultimately informs ROI.
As a leading marketing agency, Mindgruve is well-equipped to handle any tagging updates needed for event tracking in GA4 and also provides periodic reports to help ensure the migration process is as seamless as possible. Reach out to our team here if you would like to optimize your web analytics and prepare for a smooth transition to GA4.