What is Google Analytics 4? Do I need it? And what should I be doing with it?

Sounds technical, don’t worry this is an article written by a small business for small businesses that implies no experience or tendency towards an analytical mindset. We’re going to take a look at what is google analytics 4? And why this particular update is causing so much of a stir online. Spoiler alert, it likely affects you in quite a big way.

What we will cover

What is Google Analytics 4?

Nowadays big data and personalised experiences have all become game changing in the world of big brands. According to research from Salesforce, 75% of customers now expect a personalised experience.

As a consumer it sounds a little intrusive, but we can instantly get on board with the benefit of Netflix looking through our previously watched shows and recommending our next favourite series to binge.

As small businesses we almost certainly won’t have the budgets for our clothing ecommerce site to change our advertising based on the weather, but there’s a valuable little tool attached to your website that gathers information on every user and their journey with you – and here’s the news, it’s hit retirement age.

You probably know what I am talking about, and likely already have Universal Analytics (more commonly known as Google Analytics) installed on your website.

If digital marketing is important to your business, you may be frequently reviewing it, or if you have a Tribe package with us, it will make up an element of what we report back to you every month.

On the flip side, you may be blissfully unaware of its existence, or perhaps you’ve logged in once, and were completely overwhelmed by where to click and what to do. In this case, it’s quite possible that your foray into the world of website analysis lasted less time than Nottingham Forest’s likely stay in the premier league after 23 years away (possibly even less than Liz Truss).

Liz Truss term as PM famously outlasted by a lettuce

I suppose it’s also possible you don’t have it, after all, not all websites come with Google Analytics installed. If you aren’t sure, but got your website from Vu then we install it for free as part of the launch process, along with some other google tools like Google Search Console.

What does it do?

Originally launched in 2005, it’s all many of us have known in terms of gathering data from our website. In short, it tracks user journeys through your site. 

If you’ve spent any time workshopping how your customers engage with your business then you may have considered some keywords that your potential customers may type into google to find you.

We often think about our customer journeys starting on the homepage, with a grand plan for how they may move between pages until they checkout or get in touch.

Analytics qualifies this. It tells us how many people have visited our site, where they came in and what they did… until they stopped doing it. 

It can show us how users found us and what they did

It tells us, for example, that actually only 30% did come through the homepage, and that obscure FAQ page you thought you deleted years ago is the source of most of your traffic.

Over the years it has been evolved by Google to keep up with metrics that would be useful to the digital marketer and tread the line of gathering acceptable personal data from users.

And it has been used in a multitude of different ways over the years, but a common configuration you would see a decade ago was to set up pages as end goals for journeys and measure how many users navigated to them. 

Think of a thankyou page you have been redirected to that didn’t seem to do very much – well, if nothing else, it told the website owner you had completed their journey. 

Fast forward to today and Google Tag Manager allows us to measure engagements with pages (scrolls and clicks rather than just page visits) and this is the point. The new Google Analytics 4 is designed to better match the evolution of the other Google tools. 

Do I need Google Analytics 4?

You could be forgiven if you missed updates 2 and 3 (in all honesty, I can’t tell you which version you’re on just by looking at the dashboard) so you would be forgiven for not knowing what is google analytics 4, however, the difference this time is if you miss this update, it will have just stopped working.

A look at a GA4 dashboard – similar to previous iterations

So if you want to keep tracking data you need to log in to your current Google Analytics profile and follow the steps to upgrade it to version 4. If you arent sure whether you have an account (or how to get into it) then chase around anyone who have set it up and if all else fails, accept that it may be time for a fresh start.

And if you are being forced into a fresh start, it’s worth considering your options. There are alternatives to Google, Matomo, Fathom and Plausible are all affordable. However, it is expected that Google will offer some kind of export/import of the old analytics data into the new GA4 account at some point, and it is still the most used (and importantly, free tool) out there.

If you have a Tribe package with us, you will already have a GA4 account (you can have both the old and new versions running simultaneously), which means we are already tracking data for you. 

How do I install it?

Google has a million support articles, so it’s no surprise they have covered this off with some instructions.

Setting up the account will be easy for most. However, it will require fiddling with some code on your website to put the tracking code live.

If you don’t know how to add or edit code on your website, then your best bet is to add a plugin. Be sure to check for ones that are trusted by others and recently updated.

If you are adding plugins to your site then be sure to limit how many you use, check for how popular they are and keep them updated!

We don’t recommend adding lots of plugins to your website – it slows them down and creates weak points and potential conflicts in the code when you update your site. So, alternatively, you can ask us to do it for you – we will add the tracking code to the template.

It may be worth thinking about how you would like to engage with GA4, you can set up weekly or monthly reports for any metrics you want to track. So what would be useful for your business?

How could I use Google Analytics?

Common uses:

  • Traffic – The most obvious one, a monthly report on how many visitors you have had to your website.
  • Pages – A breakdown of pages that users came in on, (or perhaps more valuably) left on? A list of top performing products / blog posts?
  • Sales – It’s possible to track the value of sales at checkout and monitor your ecommerce revenue
  • Acquisition – What percentage of my traffic is paid? organic search? or typed directly into the browser?
  • Device – What percentage of my traffic comes from mobile, tablet or PC – am I designing my website for my user?
  • Flow – You can see a page by page flow of where your users clicked next and left your website
  • Goals – You could set up a purchase or form submission as the goal of your website and measure how many users complete this goal

However you choose to set up and use analytics, it should be personalised to align with your business goals. 

Have a think about how many customers you receive from your website and what kind of impact a percentage improvement would bring. Have a look here if you need a little help working out conversion rate or figuring out your plan.

Bringing in old data to GA4

You can import historical data into your GA4 account, there’s a handy guide here. There’s a few differences between the old and new metrics so you may learn a few new things along the way.

Hopefully, that helps you to identify what is google analytics 4 is and how best to employ it. Drop us a line to or speak with your account manager if you have any questions about your current Google Analytics account or setting up a new GA4 one.

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