Google Analytics 4: What You Should Know

Web analytics have come a long way. Learn more about the history of analytics, the start of Google Analytics, and Google Analytics 4 below....
Google Analytics 4: What You Should Know
Written by Brian Wallace

Data analysis services like Google Analytics are critical for millions of businesses worldwide to understand their customers. It’s also a lucrative industry; by 2028, the data analytics market is expected to be worth $550 billion. The field has come a long way since the early days of the internet.

The History of Web Analytics

Web analytics is almost as old as the internet itself. Just 3 years after the internet came into existence, hit counters became available for use. Hit counters are familiar features to most internet users. They consist of simple code that displays the number of page views. Hit counters can be used without any kind of IT expertise.

Slightly more complicated is log analysis, which helps people interpret server logs and identify traffic sources to their website. Yet as websites morphed from plain text to images, audio, and video, log analysis developed gaps in its data. That’s because caching, or temporarily storing a file in the system to avoid multiple HTTP requests was a common occurrence that wouldn’t show up on the log. Eventually, the gap was filled by JavaScript, which followed user behavior using a tag-based system. JavaScript could track more than just hits, which moved analytics into the field of marketing. 

The Dawn of Google Analytics

By this point, marketers were able to create targeted advertisements, optimize website copy, and more. Yet there were limits; in the late ‘90s, large companies could take as long as 24 hours to process their website’s data. Along came Urchin, a web analytics company that could process the same data in as little as 15 minutes. At one point, Urchin worked with 1 in 5 of the Fortune 500. Urchin continued its upward trend until Google bought them in 2005 for $30 million, giving birth to Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a service that ties in directly with Google’s web marketing offerings. They offer in-depth, tag-based data that focuses on the quantitative side. For the past decade, their most popular offering has been Universal Analytics, which launched in 2012. Universal Analytics lived up to its name by enabling the tracking of users across multiple devices and platforms. It can monitor offline behavior, and it combines demographic data with real-time monitoring for the most detailed consumer insights possible.

Google Analytics 4 is Coming

The expansive reach of Universal Analytics made it one of the targets of certain governments as they passed online privacy laws. One of the most well known laws of this nature is the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR for short. In part as a response to the new regulatory environment, Google launched Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in October 2020. GA4 is in compliance with the GDPR in that it only uses first-party cookies and has a Consent Mode that adjusts data collected on users based on said user’s permissions. At the same time, GA4 has all the insight capacity of its predecessor.

In Conclusion

GA4 has added new features like debugging mode, consistent collection methods for mobile and web data, and cross-platform reporting opportunities. Is your website ready to switch?

History & Future of Web Analytics
Source: InfoTrust

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