iX POV: Get ahead of the game with Google Analytics 4

Alistair Johnstone

Data & Analytics Consultant

Google has introduced the latest version of Google Analytics, which builds on the foundation of the beta version which was released last year (previously called App + Web). It’s a big change from Universal Analytics and is now the default experience for all new customers.

How do I upgrade to Google Analytics 4?

Since the release of the beta version, we’ve been recommending that you create a new property alongside your existing properties, and now Google is officially encouraging you to do the same. This allows you to start gathering data and benefit from the latest innovations as they become available while keeping your current implementation intact.

The sooner you have your new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) property up and running the more historical data will be available to you once you have fully migrated. It also gives you the opportunity to get familiar with the new features and new data model, which is different to Universal Analytics.

What’s new in GA4?

Free BigQuery linking

One of the most exciting features of GA4 is that you can now easily link your analytics data with BigQuery, which was previously a GA360 feature only. This allows for more advanced analysis using the raw, hit-level data. Querying your data in BigQuery bypasses some of the limitations of the Google Analytics user interface, for example you can:

  • Avoid sampling and use 100% of the data in your analysis

  • Combine as many dimensions as you like

  • Create filters for historical data

  • Use this raw data to build your own machine learning models using R or Python.


Predictive analytics

GA4 promises “smarter insights to improve marketing decisions and get better ROI” with new predictive features such as:

  • Churn probability, which calculates the probability of users being active on your site, so you can more efficiently invest in retaining customers.

  • Purchase probability, which will allow you to build audiences that include users who are most likely to purchase, for example “users who are likely to purchase in the next 7 days”.


Customer-centric measurement

GA4 uses multiple identifiers, including User IDs and Google signals to give you a more complete view of your customers, allowing you to track users across different devices and fill the gaps in where cookies or other identifiers fail.


Privacy controls

New data features give you control over how your data is collected, processed and stored. In GA4, IP anonymisation is enabled by default, you can adjust the ads personalization setting for a specific event type or user property.


Future proof

As the technology landscape becomes more and more privacy-centric, tracking users online will become more difficult, however the new Google Analytics is “designed to adapt to a future with or without cookies or identifiers”. It’s not 100% clear how this will work at the moment, but it looks like Google plans to use machine learning to model conversions where gaps appear in the data.

We still have no update from Google on the enterprise version of GA4 but we expect they will be releasing more information soon - and for it to be lightyears ahead of where GA360 is now given much of GA4’s free tier matches current GA360 capabilities.

For the moment, we recommend that you continue to rely on your Universal Analytics implementation for business-critical insights while also creating a GA4 property. As this is a new implementation and a new data model, it's important to get started early to familiarise yourself with this new Google Analytics and to also generate a history of data in this property to run future analysis from.


If you need advice or technical support setting up your Google Analytics 4 property, or have any wider questions about digital marketing, get in touch: results@icrossing.co.uk, we would love to help!

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