What if Google Analytics v4 (App+Web) was the best thing to happen to Google Analytics in the last 15 years? Will it finally give all the insights? Can I get free access to GA360? Will it cure cancer? Will it revive Steve Jobs?

All I know is that my data is going to be a lot tastier and scalable very soon – provided I add my credit card.

What is Google Analytics v4?

Google just announced the rebranding of its latest version of Google Analytics, its website tracking platform. Until recently, the latest version was called App + Web and adopted a new data model compatible with Firebase, Google’s mobile marketing platform. Until now, Google Analytics was offered as Standard (free) and Premium (aka GA 360) reserved for enterprises.

Google Analytics App+Web is now called Google Analytics 4 to reinforce the principles of continuity with the previous version of the beloved analytics platform.

If you’re not using the new version yet, it’s not the end of the world but you can upgrade at your own pace in order to reap the rewards of the new system.
Fair warning, though: Google will only keep developing new features for V4 and later going forward.

Well, is it any good?

First of all, you need to resist the temptation to judge GA v4 on its user interface.  You will however judge GA v4 on the power of its data model: with GA v4, Google is moving away from a proprietary data model with aggregated data and towards a flat data model where everything is an event and sessions become artefacts from 20 years ago (although they will remain for a while).

With this new data model, we’re now able to measure and process data at a very granular level,  which was impossible unless you were a Google Analytics 360 (née Premium) customer, with access to Google BigQuery, the data… querying and storage service running on Google’s Cloud Platform. 

Starting at a low 6-figure subscription, GA360 includes access to BigQuery. That price tag comes with quite a few bells and whistles (data integration, activation, and more), which meant only enterprises could afford all the features of Google Analytics 360 as well as BigQuery

Still, I wish I could afford 360

I for one have hounded Google for years to make GA 360 available for small and medium businesses, but that never happened from a product offering perspective, despite intermediate tiers. Sadly, many startup accounts racked up lots of traffic, exceeding the dreaded 10 million monthly visits without being able to afford GA360.

Because you’re a savvy data person, you know you can also access BigQuery for your cloud-based big data projects. You may know that all you need is a credit card and Google will bill you for the amount of data you store and process on its cloud platform by using BigQuery and other services.

From Google’s announcement, you will have noticed that Google Analytics v4 data can be streamed automatically to BigQuery.  Note that this feature is not yet generally available but will be eventually.

If you are following my train of thought from the beginning of this article the other shoe is about to drop:  you can use GA v4 with Big Query and suddenly gain godlike data powers by using your credit card for Google Cloud platform billing.

Is this too good to be true?

Almost. Using GA v4 with BigQuery is going to unlock the power of big data, machine learning, data science, and artificial intelligence for only a few dollars/euros per month.

Arguably, this does not make you a GA 360 customer but gets you closer to that goal. For instance, many integrations still won’t be possible (especially with Google Marketing Platform). Before you ask, you can try to build everything over GCP but it won’t be the same. 

Right now, focus on GA v4. It will be made available as a premium360 version but the free version of Google analytics v4 truly becomes a freemium product with the BigQuery option.

What’s next?

What have we learned, boys and girls?

  • Google Analytics adopts a flat(-ter) data model
  • Creates a data structure *finally* compatible with Apps and Web
  • Integrate with Firebase and the Global Site tag
  • Offers exports to BigQuery and GA360-like data access
  • Essentially makes GA v4 a freemium product

Stay tuned for improvements and upgrades from the Google Analytics team (I can’t say more or Sundar will come to my house and slaughter me in my sleep or something) in the coming months:  the best is yet to come.