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5 GA4 features you need to know about

Making the switch to GA4 can be intimidating, but there are 5 new features that will make both your data collection and learning experience easier.

You’ll need to switch to Google Analytics 4 sooner or later, and the sooner, the better. Universal Analytics won’t stop processing data until July 2023, but if you want comparable data from this year to the next you should start using GA4 a full year before that hard deadline.

Learning how to use GA4 when you’re used to UA can be intimidating. Fortunately, GA4 comes with some new features that can make this task less daunting and your data collection and analysis more convenient than ever. 

Here are GA4’s 5 most important features, and how they can help make both your data collection and learning experience go more smoothly.

AI insights

GA4 introduces AI which can use machine learning to overcome some major challenges data collection has faced in recent years. 

Collecting user data via cookies has become increasingly difficult. Many browsers began phasing out third-party cookies years ago and as of 2019 sites are required to present visitors with the opportunity to opt-out of cookies entirely. The effect was massive. Before GA4 came along this led to a 40-60% drop in recorded sessions across many of the sites we report on. That’s a lot of lost data.

GA4’s AI can fill in a lot of the gaps cookies left behind. The new AI can also predict and highlight data irregularities and automatically identify trends in your data. All in all, it’s one of the most useful new features found in GA4.

Example of GA4 AI-driven insights, here indicating that organic search drove a high number of conversions in April 2022
Another example of GA4 AI Insights, showing that the expected number of users dropped, but page views for a certain page spiked on the same date

More specific Google Ads Audiences

Audiences are a specific group targeted by your Google Ads based on their behaviour online.

GA4 has far more advanced options when it comes to defining audiences. Previously, you might have been able to specify that you wanted your Google Ads to target an audience which had visited a certain webpage – useful, but limited. 

Now, GA4 allows you to target audiences based on a greater range and combination of factors. Want your ads to appear to users one week after they visited your site and scrolled over 75% of the page? GA4 allows you to define audiences to this degree of specificity, opening up a world of possibilities and allowing you to send your ads to the people most likely to respond.

Creating a custom audience in Google Analytics 4
Example of creating an audience in GA4, where users are included if they have scrolled at least 75% of the page and visited before a certain date

Exploration reports

Exploration reports give you insight into the actions users take on and around your pages. 

Before GA4 you could create customised reports but they were very limited. GA4 lets you create exploration reports that allow you to dig far deeper – and smarter – into your data. 

There are now three different types of report, each with their own uses: Free Form, Funnel Exploration, and Path Exploration. On top of that, if a user takes an action on your site like filling out a form, GA4 will show you how that user got to that point through the actions they took beforehand. This information can be incredibly insightful, giving you access to a whole new perspective when analysing your data.

Example of a funnel exploration report in GA4, showing the steps taken from first visit to session start to conversion

Built-in events

Events are the actions which users have taken on a webpage. 

Previously, event tracking required you to set up a tag manager or add code to your site. GA4 allows you to track a set of default events straight out of the box, including scroll depth, downloads, interactions on videos, and outbound clicks. 

You can still set up custom events, and you will need to if you want to get valuable insights into conversion actions like forms. These default events, however, will save you time and effort. To understand more about events in GA4 and how to begin migrating your events from UA to GA4, read my article GTM event tracking for GA4

GA4 includes enhanced measurement features, including page views, scrolls, outbound clicks, site search, video engagement and file downloads, so you don't need to set these up yourself

Depersonalisation 

There are restrictions on the personal data you can collect. Any Personally Identifiable Information (PII) like names, IP addresses, and dates of birth, and more cannot be collected.

GA4 helps you remain compliant with regulation by depersonalising a lot of the data it collects – IPs, for example, are made anonymous automatically. Before this, accidentally collecting personal information while collecting data could require you to delete far more data than necessary, or even your entire account. GA4’s additional level of data security doesn’t just protect users visiting sites, it protects your data. 


Learning the ins and outs of GA4 is no small task. Once you’ve wrapped your head around these 5 features, however, it won’t be long before you’ll be collecting more insightful information that can save you time and improve your reporting in the long run. 


More help

For more help making sense of Google Analytics 4 and your website data, email me at [email protected].

Anna

Anna Corbett

Director of Client Success

Anna is responsible for all client delivery, and is our resident data and analytics lead.

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