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GA4 and Your Digital Data 

As a response to the way that Google collects and stores personal website data.  Privacy laws in Europe and those that have passed at the State level have changed the way that marketers and advertisers approach targeting audiences.  Google developed GA4 to accommodate the changes required and your digital footprint is affected on many levels. 

 
How has Google analytics changed? 

Universal Analytics from Google 

Traditional UA properties group user data into “sessions.” Basically, data was tracked from the time a user entered your website. The user data includes the time they spent, pages they looked at with each user experience. If the same user came back multiple times to your website, you would be able to track that. 

In traditional analytics you were also able to set conversions for specific actions taken on your website. Unlike the out-of-the-box analytics, tracking the user through specific actions allowed marketers to set goals and assign values to things like “contact us” or “checkout.”   

This was the norm for data collection.  The data was then stored, and you could evaluate how your website was working for your business objectives based on data collected on the site.  

GA4 Changes how data is collected  

While Universal analytics collected everything a used did while they were on your website, GA4 is based on an event happening in the user’s journey. You will still see session data, but it will be viewed as an event. Tracking how many users clicked a button, followed a call to action, or purchase. 

There are some benefits to collecting data in an event-based format.  First, you will still be able to see the clicks and pageviews of your website.  If your customer installs or opens an application you use, you will still be able to see user engagements just like you did in Universal Analytics. 

What does Google say about these changes?

Google claims that event-based tracking provides “even richer insight” from the data collected. 

GA4 comes programmed to automatically collect events for you in your website analytics.  However, you will be able to log actions for things that were not available previously. Here is a list of events that Google GA4 will measure automatically: 

  • pageviews 
  • scrolls 
  • file downloads 
  • video views 

Sounds great, right? What changed in GA4? 

For marketers, one of the biggest changes is creating user IDs for what Google identifies as a “signed-in” user. That is a big advantage, but it also limits what you see for individual IP addresses. Unless that IP address is assigned to a user for whom you have permission to collect specific data on. 

What do we mean by permission?  Under the roll out of data protection, you now must have a user’s permission to track what they do online. Your privacy policy must explain to your users how you will be using their data. Permission is everything. 

Google now has a setting that users must enable for analytics to collect data from users on your website. It is triggered by a user’s Google account. If Google users do not give consent to share the information, Google does not have permission to store it. In turn, they will not provide that data to you via Google Analytics. 

From Google Blog

Device ID’s Verses Google Signals 

Traditional Universal Analytics relied on what is called “Device -ID’s.”  These are the identifiers for your unique internet usage from your browser or IP address. Remarketing ads can target your devices on the various places you visit online. The user history is stored with cookies and marketers can use it to re-target you online until you clear your cookies, or you browse online using an incognito window. No dad wants to know you got the wrong size TV for him for Father’s Day and how dare you buy that brand (aka, other users in your house that use the same devices also see what you are browsing for.)   

Google signals on the other hand, are a bit different because of permissions. The user must opt into the feature and agree to have their data collected. When they do, you can track a signal users’ journey through your brand online. If the user does not have permissions for Google signals enabled, then it defaults to the old way of using the device ID to track data.  

“When you only have access to one identity space, like device ID, a single person could appear as a different user every time they interact with your business on a different device. But when you use multiple identity spaces, you can get better insight into user journeys, with more robust cross-device and cross-platform data and reporting that reflects de-duplicated users.”

Google 

The important to take away? Your new GA4 account will only start collecting data for signal-based users when your GA4 property is activated. Even though you will still be able to use Universal Analytics until July of 2023. Enabling your GA4 property now can help the machine learning process to give you better data over time.  According to Search Engine Journal, it can take more than 30 weeks for your GA4 account to learn your site. Machine learning will improve as the AI learns and your calls to action.  

Person using a laptop with Analytics shown graphically as an overlay

Things You Need to Know Before You Flip the GA4 Switch: 

User-ID data collected from your Universal Analytics profile will not transfer over to your GA4 account. You are starting over because of the privacy policies that Google is implementing. Essentially, you are creating a brand-new account. They do not merge the old and the new. 

The remarketing ads that creeped a lot of users out will no longer be eligible for different destinations. Within the Google platform you will no longer be able to use remarketing for:

  • Google Ads
  • Display & Video 360
  • Google Ad Manager  

User Tracking and Analytics. 

All Google users will have the ability to opt out from your analytics. All they must do is install an add-on to their browser. If you would like to opt-out here is the link to add it to Chrome.

Again, data collected focuses on a user’s Google account no matter what device a user is on. Unless the user has opted out of analytics tracking you will get data from how they used your website, what actions they took and location data. Tracking is permission based from now on. If someone does not want to have their data stored, you will not be able to track them in your analytics if they opt-out.

The Big Takeaways: 

This is going to happen no matter when you choose to switch over to GA4. Your analytics from the Universal Analytics platform to the new GA4 will become permission based. Every piece of data funneled through Google is going to be based on user permissions. Anyone with a Google account will have the opportunity to “opt-out” of being tracked.  

The good news is that permission-based tracking allows you to gather real data from real users in real time. You can set up specific actions you want your users to take on your website. Then follow them through their interactions with your brand. Most importantly it will help keep companies compliant with privacy laws. These rules and regulations are evolving both in the United States and beyond. 

Do you need help understanding the changes to analytics? Do you even know if you HAVE analytics on your website? We can help. Contact us today to get started

ADDITIONAL READING:

Get Answers With Google Analytics

What is ADA Compliance

Author
igvsupport
Date
June 3, 2022
Category

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