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How Google Analytics 4 allows you to track cross-device

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Vicki Nichols

Digital Marketing Lead

Measuring cross-device behaviour whilst respecting user privacy with GA4

On 1 July 2023, Universal Analytics will stop processing new hits. This means that without Google Analytics 4 you won’t be able to access your website’s analytics data. 

So if you still rely on Universal Analytics, we urge you to prepare for the future by completing your move to Google Analytics 4, our next-generation measurement solution.

Speak to our team of experts if you have any questions regarding this. 

What does Google Analytics 4 track?

With its flexible event-based data model, GA4 (Google Analytics 4) allows you to see unified user journeys across your website and apps. It uses Google’s machine learning to bridge gaps in your data with modelled insights and predictive capabilities that you can use to get better results and grow your business. 

And it’s built to keep up with a changing ecosystem because it does not rely exclusively on cookies, so you can learn about your customers even with gaps in your data.

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Using GA4 to track across devices

Not only does Google Analytics 4 optimise customer demands for privacy, but it also allows you to understand cross-device tracking. 

UA Universal Analytics was launched in 2012 and was created to only track website metrics. Apps used Firebase and so it was complicated to track single-user movements from one device to another.

This is where GA4 comes into its own to allow advanced analytics and tracking across the customer experience and journey. It helps marketers and analysts to understand the drivers of conversion, sale or lead generation.

With Google Analytics 4’s data streams, you can hook up your website and mobile app in minutes. Tracking both your website and mobile usage data in one GA4 property with more accurate data and the same technology to record conversion data making it a powerful tool for the modern-day marketer. 

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Does Google Analytics 4 track data the same way?

GA4 has replaced sessions and bounce rates, they replaced them with events. Events make up the majority of tracking and insights in Google Analytics 4. 

Events will become a marketer’s best friend within the platform and it is important to understand this change to capitalise on the new feature set.

Is GA4 better than Universal Analytics?

Google Analytics 4 was created to track across IOS, Android and Website platforms this brings much deeper insights. Marketers can now understand buying behaviour better. 

They can take information from the digital body language and users’ understanding of the flow to and from devices. 

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Examples of how GA4 allows a deeper understanding
  • A user registers on a desktop, downloads a mobile app and then purchases regularly on through the app. 

The registration source was Google Ads as a last-click attribution but revenue is 0 per website as all purchases were conducted on mobile. 

In UA you wouldn’t be able to attribute this effectively, however, in GA4 this would be shown with the entire value attributed.

  • A campaign drives people to an app download, the user registers but then visits the site in a web browser to enquire about a holiday. 

The campaign drive to register app downloads would not show this enquiry data in Universal Analytics, and the campaign may be deemed unsuccessful. 

However, Google Analytics 4 would give marketers this visibility to see what their campaigns actually drove. 

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Why GA4 is the future of analytics

As you can see from the above examples, GA4 brings richer insight for data-driven decisions based on real-life user behaviour. Rather than having to make assumptions in siloed device reporting that Universal Analytics provided.

All this while giving the users greater control over their privacy. IPs in GA4 are switched on by default. User data is also only kept for a maximum of 14 months before getting automatically deleted.

In summary, the Google Analytics 4 model is much more sophisticated than the Universal Analytics measurement. As it’s done on an event basis, this gives greater granular control over insights and reporting this respects privacy but allows marketers to create a richer user experience without worrying about cookies. 

The volume of data can be used in line with machine learning to serve to audiences more accurately than single-session cookie data.

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Worried about GA4 and want to make the most of your data?

Get in touch with our team of experts who have been studying the changes so you don’t have to.

Book a session with our Digital Strategist today to talk about GA4 and how to capitalise while your competitors struggle.

Contact us today

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