By on August 17th, 2022

Google Analytics 4 Impact on Digital Advertising

Marketers need to prepare for the migration to Google Analytics 4 and learn how to utilize beneficial features of Google's new and improved analytics platform.

Important changes are on the horizon for the world of marketing analytics. Analytics tools are evolving due to the growing demand for user data protection, both on a consumer level and as dictated by state and international legislation. These changes have led major players like Google and Apple to end their dependence on third-party cookies to track user activity on the internet. As the industry shifts towards cookieless solutions, analytics providers have to develop new ways of tracking user habits online and provide predictive information for digital marketers.

That led Google to release Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Google released GA4 in its beta version in 2019, so it's been around for a while. GA4 helped to integrate web and app data into one analytics platform. That gave marketers a more comprehensive view of user behavior online. It also gave them a more accurate picture of where and how to spend their digital marketing budget. Google announced that GA4 will replace their long-running Universal Analytics (UA) program. They announced they'd officially shut down UA on July 1, 2023.

Because it has been around for a few years, many marketing teams have dipped their toe into the GA4 waters but have yet to take the full plunge. Now is the time to dive in, though. By transitioning to GA4 now, you'll have time to understand its capabilities and test them. You'll also be able to understand the impact GA4 will have on your digital marketing plans before you have to say goodbye to UA next year.

See also: Audience Targeting 101: How to Show Your Digital Ads to the Right People

Understanding GA4's Impact on Digital Advertising

Google is serious about forcing companies to switch to GA4 because it's helping them and their users become more GDPR and CCPA compliant. There are significant changes to how analytics will work and how it will protect user data, including:

  • GA4 will no longer store IP addresses. Previously, analytics depended heavily on IP addresses to track users and analyze their online behaviors.
  • GA4 doesn't rely on third-party cookies. This change is in line with Google and Apple's commitment to move away from cookies and marketing identifiers, giving more protection to individual user privacy.

At first glance, marketers may worry that GA4 will give them less powerful user data to work with than UA did. What marketers are actually getting is a much-needed upgrade to how Google analytics currently works. The use cases are already coming out, with brands like Gymshark crediting GA4's data analytics with a 5% bump in their click-through rates.

See also: 4 Ways We're Preparing for Changes in Data Privacy

Analyze the Impact of Digital Advertising Outside of Organic and Paid Search

While organic and paid search metrics are important, you are likely using other marketing and advertising channels to drive traffic to your owned and operated web properties. As part of your comprehensive digital marketing strategy, you may be executing email campaigns, influencer marketing campaigns, paid social campaigns, programmatic advertising campaigns, YouTube video campaigns, OTT/CTV campaigns, and much more. Many times, a bump in traffic to your website from these marketing efforts show up as increases in organic traffic. While you could make an educated guess as to what led to your sudden uptick in visitors, there is no hard data to back up your assumptions. GA4 will give you that hard data by plugging directly into cloud-based data warehouses. It will then use that information and machine learning to create separate analytics channels.

See also: What's In a Programmatic Ad Tech Stack, & How Much Does It Cost?

Direct Integration into Google Ads Arrives at Last

It may seem like an obvious match-up, but it's taken this long for Google to integrate its Google Ads platform with its analytics tools. This mismatch in information was a sore spot for marketing teams, who often saw differing analytic data depending on which platform they analyzed. It’s not uncommon for Google Ads to be generous when attributing clicks on its ads, which causes some marketers to worry about the amount of invalid clicks they may be paying for. GA4 will integrate the two platforms into one data set, providing a more accurate picture of Google Ads' role in your digital marketing. This will likely lead to less or no discrepancy in click tracking and help marketers avoid media waste within Google Ads’ products.

GA4 provides predictive realtime measurement solutions that its predecessor - Universal Analytics - wasn't able to provide.

Why Server-Side Alternatives May Be the Future

GA4 may be far more focused on user privacy than its UA predecessor, but that doesn't go far enough for some international countries. Previously, Google collected user IP addresses in Europe and transferred that data to their servers in the United States before scrubbing it. French courts determined this was a violation of EU law. France and Italy both criticized Google saying it wasn’t doing enough to protect data and privacy. There is concern that more EU countries will follow these rulings. GA4 may not get the stamp of approval for data privacy even if Google scrubs IP addresses before transferring data to US-based servers.

That's why there is growing approval for a server-side solution. A server-side solution would allow marketers to implement Google Analytics on their servers as long as they are responsible for collecting and removing the personal data of users in Europe. Marketing teams can scrub the information before it's sent to Google's servers for analysis, eliminating Google's access to user data.

Server-side integration isn't an easy answer, though. It will require integration between a company's IT department and its marketing team. Moving in this direction could help companies develop faster reporting and implementation of analytics data, so it's a move worth considering. It could also be a way to future-proof your analytics data, no matter what new data compliance legislation emerges.

Are You Ready to Migrate to GA4?

Whether your marketing team decides to stick with GA4 or implement server-side analytics, it's time to start developing your plan and preparing for the July 2023 migration. Your team should begin testing new features so you can understand how they work and adapt your strategies as necessary. You'll also learn more about how you can apply improved site analytics to your digital advertising campaigns to optimize the accuracy, measurement, and insights derived from your site traffic and conversion data.

If you aren’t sure how to start formulating your plan and adoption of Google Analytics 4, our team of digital advertising specialists can help. Get in touch with us today so we can help you implement the right strategy to make better use of Google’s new analytics solutions.

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Our marketing department operates the PrograMetrix blog and is comprised of multiple contributors.