GA4 - The most valuable tool you get for free

Google has long been the market leader in website analytics, helping website owners and advertisers worldwide to understand who their customers are, what actions they are taking on their website, and how they got there in the first place. The value of this data to advertisers is extensive. 

It has become a standard practice to see Google Analytics data showcasing the success or failures of advertising in reports. (Whether or not this is how most advertisers use it is another question!) Yet, in tech terms, Google Analytics is well past its sell-by date. 

Built on a system from 2012, the way it stores data is slow; it has limited flexibility and assumes you will be able to track every website visitor, which isn't true in a privacy-first world. Enter Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the fourth and most substantial change to Google Analytics since its inception. GA4 has changed the rulebook for analytics and has a myriad of benefits which you can read about in detail across the internet, but to help you, we have broken down the salient points below:

The Good (top 3 of many) 

  1. GA4 has a consent mode option - allowing you to report on the behaviour of people who reject cookie tracking by sending anonymous 'hits' improving data accuracy in real-world privacy scenarios
  2. It uses the best user data it has, meaning that as identifiers become less stable if you can give GA4 a logged in user ID, it will still work perfectly
  3. It's much faster and the sampling limit is much higher

The Bad

  1. You can't use all the UTM breakdowns you previously could, so complex tracking structures need to be re-thought
  2. It doesn't have 'views' a GA filtering staple, so you might be applying more filters to get to what is relevant for you
  3. There is a learning curve with the metrics as you can no longer make like for like historical comparisons

The Part that will change your advertising for the next decade…

GA4, in its free version, allows you to export the data you have to Google Big Query. We know what you are thinking "why does that matter?" even among the paid Google Analytics customers only a few used the Big Query export, and even less got value from it. The answer is that when you pass your site user ID to Google Analytics the result being stored in Big Query is the perfect data allowing you to truly understand your audience and segment them into different tribes to be marketed to.

In a 'with-cookie' world, this is a nice-to-have. It provides better audiences for advertising to be based on (either directly or as lookalikes). However, it is vital in a 'post-cookie' world, where accurate custom audiences will be the differentiating factor between successful and less successful social campaigns. 

We are not saying building the segments off this or pushing them to your advertising is going to be easy - although we have built the platform to make it easy - but if you don't have the data in the first place you won't be able to do anything and you can collect it for free! Storage in Big Query does have tiny costs but nothing worth talking about.

So why is GA4 the most valuable tool you can get for free? In our opinion,  it's not because of its consent mode, its speed/lack of sampling, rather it's the ability to use it to collect individual level data on every logged in user. The value of this first-party data cannot be overstated as other data sources become less reliable. The meaningful segments it creates will be the fuel for marketing success.

Collecting the data alone however, doesn't give you a competitive advantage only using it does. Check out our platform to make building audience segments quick, easy and impactful - it's why we built it.

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