5 Google Analytics Trends to Watch Out For This Year

Unless you follow a host of digital marketers and developers on social media, you may be missing out on some of the biggest industry trends in Google Analytics right now.

So you could go crawl through their post archives…or you could just read this short post on the five biggest Google Analytics trends right now.

Those big Google Analytics trends:

So let’s dive in!

Exporting Data

Header image labeled “1. Exporting Data”

Previously, Google Analytics was your one-stop shop for web analytics.

Google Analytics does a lot: it gathers, saves, and organizes your data, making it easy for you to segment and analyze. It even displays data in simple dashboards, and newer features recently introduced insights using artificial intelligence.

But many marketers have moved away from Google Analytics as the endpoint for their data—instead using it as one more data source that they can export to analyze further in other tools.

With the introduction of the Google Marketing Platform and other third-party software, there are now far more specialized tools available to digital marketers. 

For example, on the measurement side, we have Google Tag Manager. GTM can send the data into Google Analytics and call it a day, but it could also send your data to a data warehouse like Google BigQuery, which is even more powerful.

You could then analyze your data there or connect Google Analytics directly to Google BigQuery. This allows you to directly analyze the raw data, which means that your analysis will be more precise.

You can also visualize your data in Google Data Studio, which builds far more sophisticated dashboards than the ones available in Google Analytics. This is better for sharing your most recent data with shareholders, collaborators, and clients. 

So Google Analytics can still do everything in one place if you really want—but if you export the data, you can analyze more thoroughly and communicate results more effectively in other specialized tools. 

Spreadsheets and CSV files are a great format for data that you can import into just about any tool. To get started with exporting your Google Analytics data in this way, check out our guide 3 Ways to Export Data from Google Analytics to Google Sheets.

Implementation

Header image labeled “2. Implementation”

How to install Google Analytics on your website?

The most up-to-date implementation is the Global Site Tag (also known as Gtag). You can find it in the admin section of your Google Analytics account.

Google Analytics admin panel with Global Site Tag gtag.js code highlighted

A few years ago, Google had the insight to centralize their code for all their tools. This means that you can install all of your Google-based tools through this Gtag, rather than using a separate code implementation for each tool.

You might be aware that there are many different forms of installing the Google Analytics code onto your website. For example, you could use Google Tag Manager to install Google Analytics (which we recommend if you use several other non-Google tools), you could use analytics.js, or even some of the old codes (which are not recommended anymore) like ga.js or even Urchin.

🚨 Note: For more detailed information on installing Google Analytics on your website, check out our guide on How to Install Google Analytics on WordPress.

Note that an alternative strategy is to import data into Google Analytics via the measurement protocol or by uploading data. There’s no single way to pull data into Google Analytics, but the Gtag is the most current official implementation and will provide the most developer support.

With so many different implementation methods, Google Analytics has become much more accessible. You might need to adjust your approach, depending on the case. Just be aware of what other codes you’re running, what other tools you’re using, and what support is available. 

Privacy

Here we have one of the most concerning trends in Google Analytics.

Header image labeled “3. Privacy”

With the introduction of the GDPR laws here in Europe, CCPA in California, and iOS 14 on Apple products, web analytics and data tracking have been under tight scrutiny.

Different jurisdictions are looking to clamp down on the data, where it’s going, and how it’s being used. There are even some browsers that market themselves as privacy browsers, and therefore have started clamping down pretty hard on tracking codes in general.

In order to comply with new privacy legislation, Google Analytics had to make some adjustments to how it processes data for marketers.

When you sign in to Google Analytics after these changes, you may have noticed some new Data Processing Terms in the Google Analytics Terms of Services.

Google Analytics Terms of Service with Data Processing Terms added as required by GDPR

In addition, there are some new settings regarding data privacy that you can adjust in your Google Analytics interface. For example, you can configure the data retention period to be longer or shorter.

Google Analytics Data Retention settings under Admin, Tracking Info, Data Retention

You can also delete data from Google Analytics directly if you have the client ID of that user. So if a user contacts you and requests that you delete their data, you have that capability. New privacy laws might require it.

You can do this in the Admin section, under Data Deletion Requests, and by clicking on Create Data Deletion Request.

Deleting data from Google Analytics under Admin, Data Deletion Requests

The Google Analytics team is savvy. They’ll continue keeping up with trends to make sure that you can solve any problems within the tool. You need to stay on top of these trends so that you’ll know how to use the new workarounds correctly.

🚨 Note: Depending on your jurisdiction, you may need to determine if and how you can use Google Analytics at all. You may want (or need) to use other tools that extract only necessary pieces of data or that remove Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Google Analytics 4 (App + Web)

Here’s one of the biggest trends in Google Analytics, app plus web. 

Header image labeled “4. App + Web”

This is probably the biggest shift over the last few years in Google Analytics products: Google Analytics 4 (formerly called App + Web properties).

When Google Analytics was first imagined, developed, and released, its primary goal was to track websites. Therefore, it tracked website-specific, desktop-centric metrics like pageviews and sessions.

However, a huge chunk of internet traffic today is from mobile devices (including mobile apps. They didn’t design the original Google Analytics structure for this kind of user interaction.

So how did Google Analytics adjust to this?

The web is much more standardized, whereas mobile apps are more customized by individual developers and teams. So first they attempted a Google Analytics just for apps. Then there was Universal Analytics, and later came Google Firebase (which is more of a developer suite than an analytics product, but had some analytics included). 

But even that was still specifically built for mobile. There wasn’t a single catchall analytics tool.

And then came a new property type in Universal Analytics called Apps and web, which allowed you to track data from your website and your mobile apps. 

New property Apps and web feature in Google Analytics

This was essentially the beta version of what would later be released as Google Analytics 4.

What makes Google Analytics 4 so different?

The new data model behind it isn’t based on pageviews and sessions; instead, it focuses on events. This data model is much more open since you can customize events to fire for just about any user action.

You can also attach a huge variety of parameters. These parameters aren’t tied to the old Universal Analytics ones like category, action, and label. You can customize your parameters entirely to track exactly the amount and type of data that you need. 

Google Analytics 4 also introduced some auto-tracking, so it will still track pageviews automatically.

At the same time, since the data model changed quite a bit, the interface changed quite a bit as well. You can learn more about these changes and others in our post 4 Biggest Changes in Google Analytics 4.

New Google Analytics interface

With this interface, we have new tools and even artificial intelligence to analyze our data. It will work quite differently than the standard reports we had in Universal Analytics before.

Google Analytics 4 is not quite finished yet and doesn’t quite have all the features that we have in Universal Analytics, but it’s getting closer and closer.

This is one trend that is certainly worth keeping a close eye on!

💡 Top Tip: If you want to switch over to Google Analytics 4 and start learning the new system, check out our guide How to Upgrade to Google Analytics 4.

Artificial Intelligence

Header image labeled “5. Artificial Intelligence”

Yes, I know “artificial intelligence” is an overused term—it’s a bit of a buzzword right now.

But we’re not just talking about general AI here. We know that Google is heavily investing in machine learning for marketing and analytics purposes.

Just think of projects like Google Assistant or Waymo

In our Google Marketing Cloud, we have also seen updates to Google Ads. It is now powered by powerful algorithms that create automatic campaigns for you. 

Slowly, this technology is also coming to Google Analytics.

Did you know that you can ask Google Analytics a question now? Ask, and Google Analytics will try to find the right report for you or give you a direct answer.

Asking Google Analytics a question and receiving an answer

They also have smart goals and intelligent events (we also have a handy guide on How to Create an Event-Based Goal in Google Analytics).

Google Analytics 4 also recently introduced predictive analytics. It gives you a peek at how your analytics might look in the future according to current trends and data. Two metrics included in this feature are purchase probability and churn probability. 

Google Analytics is going away from just displaying our data and making it searchable and analyzable; we’re moving towards the tool actually crunching the numbers for us and then coming up with insights.

What we can see with this new introduction is that machine learning is something in the future that will be implemented into Google Analytics. 

It will take a few years to get to a fully-functional insights machine that dishes out interesting facts about our website or our application—but the technology is developing, and it’s exciting to watch.

Summary

These are the five major trends you need to watch in Google Analytics. Each of these trends is going to change and develop significantly in the next few years, so pay attention! Changes will occur so quickly that if you tune out for a second, you could get left behind.

Did I miss anything big? Where do you think Google Analytics is going? Let us know in the comments down below!

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