For digital marketers, using Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has been a learning process. n this article, we reveal the difficulties they faced during the switch from its predecessor, Universal Analytics, and how they tackled them.
From changing how they measure things to understanding complicated data, GA4 required marketers to be flexible and quick to adapt.
A significant advantage of GA4 is its strong reporting features. Google Analytics and SEO experts can now present data in a way that clients find useful and easy to act upon.
To find out more opinions about GA4 we hired Minuca Elena to reach out to 14 internet marketers and ask them the following question:
What are your top three tips for digital marketers that need to effectively adapt to the introduction of Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?
Keep reading to see what they had to share.
Stephen Hockman – SEO Chatter
Focus on engagement rate, not bounce rate
An important change to GA4 is the introduction of the engagement rate metric, which replaces the bounce rate metric in most reports.
The engagement rate is the percentage of engaged sessions on your website or app which lasts longer than 10 seconds, has a conversion event or has at least 2 pageviews or screenviews.
The engagement rate is, essentially, the complete opposite of the bounce rate which was used to measure user activity in UA. Focusing on the engagement rate helps you calculate the percentage of visits that involved some form of meaningful engagement.
If you want to continue to measure the bounce rate, you can do that by creating a custom report. However, the bounce rate is not displayed by default in GA4.
Configure events and track goals
Another thing you need to know about GA4 is that it uses an event-based reporting model that logs every user interaction on your site as an event. These interactions include initial page loads, scroll depth, video views, and link clicks.
This model allows GA4 to track user engagement with websites and apps more accurately and comprehensively than UA, which used a session-based and page-view-based model. This matters because you need to define which events are conversion events to track your top goals effectively, such as partner referrals or newsletter signups.
However, GA4 does not enable these events by default, so you need to take some extra steps to ensure proper goal reporting occurs for the events and goals you want to track on your site.
Integrate GSC with GA4
If you’re serious about measuring and tracking your website’s performance on Google, then you need to integrate Google Search Console (GSC) with GA4.
By integrating with GSC, you can analyze how your organic search campaigns affects your site on Google directly from the GA4 dashboard.
For example, you can see the queries that your site ranks for in the search results, which keywords lead to clicks, and how those clicks relate to user behavior, such as which landing pages engage users more and how many users convert.
To create the integration with GSC, you need to link a GA4 web data stream and a Search Console website property together. After that is complete, you’ll be able to see the GSC data in the Acquisition Report.
Juliana Weiss-Roessler – WR Digital Marketing
Overall, my top tip would be to invest in training. Understanding your analytics is important to ensuring your marketing efforts produce business results. Reading quick tips and strategies can help you inch along in your understanding of using this new tool. But the best shortcut to mastery is education, so find a course that’s suitable to your experience level and dive in.
In the meantime, here are three additional quick tips as we all get used to the new analytics reality:
Ensure all your clients are moved over.
This is a very basic tip but so crucial. At this point, it’s not optional to switch over, so you should review every website you manage to make sure GA4 is properly set up. Otherwise, you’ll be flying blind.
Make use of the search bar.
You don’t have to dig around in the menus to find what you need anymore. Instead, type in what you want to know: mobile users during the last week or what’s my most popular page. Like magic, GA4 serves it up for you, saving you time and hassle.
Update the event data storage time.
The default is set to only 2 months, which isn’t a long window. Many marketing strategies take 3-6 months to even begin seeing results. If you go to Admin > Data Settings > Data Retention, you can increase that time to 14 months, which is a much more reasonable time frame.
Remember, investing time and effort into mastering GA4 will pay off in the long run, empowering you to make data-driven decisions and achieve better marketing outcomes. So carve out time to make it a priority.
Jacquelnyn Tolksdorf – The Unglitch Inc
We’re all going to have to make the switch to GA4 (Google Analytics 4). There are many differences between the soon-to-be old Google Analytics and the new version of Google Analytics (GA4), and not all of the features are present in GA4. What should we expect? Don’t worry, it’s easy to migrate and adapt!
The first task is to address your properties and launch them immediately in GA4.
All you’ll have to do is create the new GA4 property and add the new GA4 tracking tag to your site.
There will be slight to large differences in the data that GA4 tracks.
Poke around once you’ve migrated to see what your Google Tag Manager is tracking and not tracking anymore.
For eCommerce accounts, it’s going to get a bit more tedious. You’ll need to reconnect your Google products’ links to your new GA4 properties.
Select each of your Google products, like Google Ads, and connect your new GA4 property(ies).
David Zhao – Coda Strategy
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is not new. It came out in 2020. However, Universal Analytics (UA) will phase out in July 2023, which means that everyone needs to upgrade to GA4, if they haven’t already.
However, upgrading is only the first step. To get the most out of GA4, I recommend three tips:
The advantage of GA4 is that it provides much more granular data than previous iterations of Google Analytics. However, that means there’s more data to sift through.
Fortunately, Google provides an easy, intuitive way to explore that data, called Explorations. They allow digital marketers to tell a story while exploring the data. This means more time uncovering insights and less time fiddling with reports.
Understand how events work, to define custom events
Another advantage of GA4 is that it defines events at a much more granular level than before.
However, if a digital marketer doesn’t take advantage of that, then those events just become noise. After building insightful explorations, the next step is to define custom events, and patterns that indicate interesting customer behavior.
Then, we should build new explorations based on those custom events, uncover deeper insights, and iterate.
Connect GA4 to your external analytics sites
At the end of the day, Google understands that GA4 only provides one data source. A company has dozens of data sources. Therefore, Google has made it easy to connect GA4 to external analytics sites, such as SEO engines, CRM’s, external marketing platforms, and more.
However, the onus is still on the digital marketer to connect these platforms, and then to discover useful insights from combined data sources.
Data analytics platforms like Snowflake or Databricks are specially designed tools that can help with that task.
Familiarize yourself with the new features and capabilities of GA4
The first step in effectively adapting to GA4 is to gain a comprehensive understanding of its new features and capabilities. This includes familiarizing yourself with the new data model, events, and audience builder. By doing so, you can optimize your marketing strategies and campaigns to align with the new platform.
Reevaluate your measurement strategy
With the introduction of GA4, it is essential that digital marketers reevaluate their measurement strategy to ensure it aligns with the new data model. This includes identifying new key performance indicators (KPIs) and creating custom reports to measure and track them.
Invest in training and education
Finally, investing in training and education can help digital marketers effectively adapt to GA4. This can include attending webinars, workshops, and courses to gain a deeper understanding of the new platform and how it can be used to improve marketing efforts.
Overall, adapting to GA4 requires a proactive approach that involves gaining a comprehensive understanding of the platform’s new features and capabilities, reevaluating your measurement strategy, and investing in training and education. By doing so, digital marketers can leverage GA4 to optimize their marketing strategies and campaigns.
Jeff Mains – Champion Leadership Group
I have been closely following the introduction of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and its impact on the industry. Here are three unique tips for digital marketers looking to adapt to GA4 effectively—
Leverage the power of machine learning in GA4 to uncover valuable audience insights and predictive analytics.
Explore the audience discovery and predictive metrics features to understand your target audience better and optimize your campaigns for maximum impact.
By harnessing machine learning, you can enhance your targeting efforts, personalize experiences, and optimize conversion rates.
Embrace the event-driven data model of GA4
GA4 shifts the focus from pageviews to events, allowing marketers to track user interactions more comprehensively. To make the most of this new model, it is crucial to identify and implement suitable events that align with your business goals.
By defining and tracking events such as clicks, video plays, form submissions, and purchases, you can gain deeper insights into user behavior and optimize your marketing strategies accordingly.
Utilize GA4’s upgraded cross-platform tracking features
This feature will help you acquire a more comprehensive perspective of user journeys across several devices. You will be able to optimize your marketing techniques and adjust your messaging as a result of this.
Colton De Vos – Resolute Technology Solutions
Ensure all integrations and data streams are connected properly
Many tools feed into Google Analytics to make it a useful data and reporting hub for the website, organic search, and paid search statistics. When transitioning to GA4, ensure that Google Search Console, Google Ads, Tag Manager, and any other tools are properly transitioned to your new version.
Keep your old Google Analytics and statistics tools running in parallel
When upgrading to a new version of any tool, there can be anomalies in the data until the right level of filtering is applied. Keep a secondary trusted tool running to collect website and search data to sort out any discrepancies in the data.
Update your conversion goals to align with your organizational goals
Switching to GA4 is the perfect time to review your website conversion goals to see if they still align with what you want to track as success metrics for your business.
Consider tracking and categorizing different actions on your website as conversions including email newsletter signups, contact form fills, PDF downloads, calls through the website phone number, engaging with specific call-to-actions, and more.
Adam Stewart – Digital Bond
GA4’s model is event-based rather than session-based.
This means it tracks the visitor’s actions rather than sessions.
So we need to start thinking in terms of ‘events’ and ‘parameters’ instead of just ‘page views’ and ‘sessions’. Identify key actions that users take on your site and set them up as events in GA4.
Spend time exploring the new interface and reports.
This is even tough for me, but the GA4 interface is different and can feel a bit overwhelming initially.
For example, you’ll find ‘Engagement’ and ‘Demographics’ under ‘User’ in the ‘Explore’ section.
Use Looker Studio or other software like AgencyAnalytics to help put the data together.
I personally do this for my own business and clients. You can then make the data work for your needs and display this in a user-friendly dashboard. Also being able to schedule the reports out can be very beneficial.
Matthias Kupperschmidt – Blue River Mountains
Customising standard reports
A long sought-after feature in Google Analytics was the ability to edit standard reports, and now it’s finally here! In most reports, you can simply click the pencil icon in the top right corner to ‘customise the report’. For instance, you can add the ‘hostname’ dimension to the ‘Pages and screens’ report. It will allow you to swiftly check which domains are sending traffic to your GA4 property.
Beware of thresholding
Occasionally, you may notice a red warning triangle next to the report name. This signifies that Google Analytics has applied thresholding to the data, meaning you are only viewing a subset of the data (akin to sampling in Universal Analytics).
To remedy this, you can either reduce the time range of the analysis or, as a last resort, create your own report in the ‘explore’ section. This latter option is not subject to the same reporting constraints.
If you’re using Google Ads, you now have the possibility to share your custom ‘Audiences’ (previously known as segments) in Google Analytics with your linked Google Ads account, allowing you to display targeted messages to your visitors.
To create an audience, navigate to Admin > Audiences and select from pre-existing templates like ‘seven-day inactive purchasers’, or you can choose to create an audience from scratch!
In the ‘explore’ section, you can construct any report with the dimensions and metrics of your choice. Then simply right-click on the chart to establish a ‘segment’, and subsequently create an audience based on it.
Ethan Benge – Social Benge
Take time to understand the new features
GA4 is more than a small update to universal analytics – it’s a complete overhaul, with new features and capabilities that can take some time to understand fully. I would recommend taking some time to explore the new features and what they mean for your business before making any significant changes.
Revisit your goals and kpis
With the introduction of ga4, it’s crucial to revisit your business goals and key performance indicators (kpis). Look at how your data is currently being tracked and measured, and assess whether ga4’s new features will help you achieve your goals more effectively.
Prepare to adjust your marketing strategy
GA4 introduces a new way of looking at data and tracking user behavior. As such, it is essential to prepare to adjust your marketing strategy in line with your analysis of the new data. Observe trends and patterns as you build up your data and optimize your campaigns based on the insights you gain from the new ga4 reports.
No one wants to learn a new tool; every digital marketer rolls their eyes when they hear that, but sometimes you have to, and that’s what everyone did in their relationship with Google Analytics 4. It took me a while to accept it and embrace it. Here are my two cents:
See this as an opportunity for a clean slate
Many accounts have been live for years and changed campaign managers and agencies; they each left a view or a filter or an event that no one knew what it is or why; here’s a chance to remove all the garbage.
GA4 has some built-in reports, but you can create your own collections
By doing so, if you are a beginner, you will better understand your website visitor’s journey and how GA4 operates overall. There are plenty of free resources available.
Jaden Oh – Traffv
As a CMO and entrepreneur, I understand the importance of effectively adapting to new technology, particularly when it comes to analytics.
Here are my three key tips that digital marketers should keep in mind when making the transition.
Firstly, it’s important to review the new features and understand how they can be used to track data and analyze user behaviour.
Secondly, it’s important to review all existing data sets and determine how they can be migrated to the new system.
It is equally essential to take advantage of the new features offered by GA4 to create personalized experiences for users.
By following these tips, digital marketers will be able to successfully adapt to GA4 and ensure that their businesses are able to reap the rewards.
Sara Lyon – Bloom Digital
Make sure your GA4 property is set up correctly.
When your Google Analytics 4 property is automatically generated, a blue informational banner will appear at the top of your Analytics account. To access the Admin portion of your new Google Analytics 4 property, click Open Setup Assistant. On your Google Analytics 4 property, the Setup Assistant walks you through the extra features and settings you may configure.
Enable enhanced measurement
GA4 offers enhanced measurement, automatically tracking user interactions such as file downloads or scroll depth. Think of enhanced measurement as a set of sensors that automatically detect user interactions on your website. You don’t have to install them or configure them manually; they do the hard work in the background and collect data for you.
Implement event tracking
Events are user interactions you want to track, such as clicks on specific buttons or links. Event tracking can be seen as a way of adding custom labels or tags to user interactions that you want to track more closely. You can use them to highlight specific actions or behaviours relevant to your business goals.
Cary Haun – Twelve Three Media
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably missed the opportunity to transition to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) before the July 1 deadline. However, it’s not too late to get started and still ensure a smooth migration.
When creating a new GA4 property within your Google Analytics account, the first and easiest steps to follow are those of the setup assistant. More importantly, though, you should pay close attention to all available configuration options.
If you didn’t set up GA4 earlier, it is then crucial to safeguard your Universal Analytics (UA) historical data. This way, you can maintain a comprehensive view of your website’s performance and make comparisons within a reasonable level of confidence based on your previous UA account and property setup.
Take the time to carefully review the GA4 and UA fine print warnings. Familiarize yourself with the differences and limitations of GA4 to avoid any unwanted automatic overwriting of your GA4 property.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Google guidelines are notoriously vague and habitually ephemeral. Reading between the lines is key, and thereby important for making sustainable decisions that have built-in fail-safes just in case Google changes the rules on the fly.
Thank you so much to all the experts that have contributed to this expert roundup! Please share this article with your friends and followers on social media.