Google Analytics 4 is much more helpful for product managers than Universal Analytics.
Until recently, product managers primarily used Mixpanel for advanced product analytics. However, since GA4 has much better product features, parallel use of Mixpanel and GA4 should be a way to go for product managers.
In this article, I’ll only stick to Google Analytics 4 and its product and user analytics features. In other words, I’ll review the key differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics related to product management.
So, here they are:
- Higher-level measurement model
- A platform for both website and mobile app
- Better engagement tracking
- More custom dimensions and metrics
- Predictive analytics
- Improved user’s journey
- Better visualization
I’ll review each difference in this particular order.
Higher-level measurement model
Google Analytics 4 tracks events instead of sessions and page views, which was the case with the “old” version.
You can also pick the events you find more beneficial to your business, which makes this model much more flexible.
For example, there is a feature called “enhanced measurement.” It allows you to measure interaction with your content by enabling events you can see in the photo without any additional code changes.
Finally, GA4 has a much better event tracking setup.
In the previous version, all events had to follow a classic schema – category-action-label-value. On the other hand, in GA4, you can modify and create new events via parameters.
However, with Google Tag Manager, you can use many of the same triggers and variables for Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 event tracking.
A platform for both website and mobile app
A considerable advantage of Google Analytics 4 compared to the old version is that you can now use it for the website, mobile app, and even both.
So now, instead of using Universal Analytics for websites and Firebase for mobile apps, you can gather data from websites and mobile applications in one property.
It also means that you now have roll-up reporting, aggregating the overall performance from all your company’s websites and mobile apps, with no additional coding.
Such reporting is much more accurate since it uses the same schema for tracking all user activities.
Better engagement tracking
Tracking user engagement within your website and apps is crucial for product managers. That’s what Google Analytics 4 allows you to do instead of just having page views and bounce rate metrics (which is the case with Universal Analytics).
As you can see in the photo, there are four engagement metrics that’ll help you get more accurate tracking results.
Also, the engagement tracking is now much better aligned with browsing behavior.
We all know that people often navigate between different tabs while browsing. For instance, people might come to your website, leave it to do some other work, and get back in a few hours.
The problem with “old” GA was that it didn’t capture such user behavior correctly. It would show this example as only one session with a 100% bounce rate, which is inaccurate.
On the contrary, GA4 would count it as two sessions – one with page views and the second with user engagement. The second session starts when the user returns to your website, which is the only accurate counting.
More custom dimensions and metrics
Even with an advanced setup in Universal Analytics (excluding 360), you could configure up to 20 custom dimensions and metrics. In GA4, that number rises to 50.
So, if you want to measure user characteristics that don’t belong to any default dimensions, you can create up to 50 custom dimensions in GA4.
Click on the Configure menu and then choose custom definitions. Then select either custom dimensions or custom metrics.
Keep in mind that, in GA4, a custom dimension is an event parameter (we discussed it in the first section). It can be custom, automatically set up parameters, or user property.
Also, you mustn’t send personally identifiable information (PII) since it’s against Google’s terms of service.
There are two variations of custom dimensions – event-scoped and user-scoped. We’ll talk more about these subcategories in our future articles.
Unlike Universal Analytics, which could track only past data, GA4 comes up with a super cool feature – predicting future behavior – which is obviously based on machine learning.
So, how does it work?
Thanks to the algorithms that measure conversion progress, you can identify users and their actions on your app and website. Based on these results, you can predict their future actions (retention, churn, etc.) and create a predictive audience. It’s a target group similar to your existing users who are likely to make a purchase or subscribe.
At the moment, in GA4, we have three predictive metrics:
- Purchase probability
- Churn probability
- Revenue prediction
Improved user’s journey
This section is essential for both product managers and marketers.
The user ID feature was available in GA3. However, if you wanted to adopt user ID tracking in GA3, you had to create a separate user ID view, and that data was available only there. With Google Analytics 4, thankfully, that is no longer needed.
GA4 is more user-centric than Universal Analytics since you can now measure user activities and interactions throughout all platforms and get a complete view.
Nowadays, more and more users complete their purchases parallelly on desktop and mobile. In GA4, you can gather all activities from the same user, regardless of which platforms they used.
However, keep in mind that you need to create a unique customer ID to have a complete user journey.
Data visualization options and capabilities are far better in GA4 compared to the previous version.
The realtime overview is the best example.
As you can see, instead of having to pick a separate category (first photo), now, in GA4, you can see all the categories in one view, with a super clean look.
It’s clear that Google Analytics 4 is a “new paradise” for product managers. So let’s quickly recap all the improvements you can utilize in the new GA version.:
- Track, modify, and create events with multiple parameters instead of category-action-label and value.
- Use GA4 for the website, mobile app, and even both together.
- The engagement tracking is now much better aligned with user behavior
- Create up to 50 custom dimensions and metrics in GA4.
- Predict future behavior based on machine learning.
- GA4 is more user-centric.
- Data visualization options and capabilities are far better suited to product analytics in GA4 compared to the previous version.