Transitioning to GA4: Where to start
- 28 April 2023
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will soon become the default Google Analytics platform. From 1 July 2023, Universal Analytics (UA) will no longer process new data, meaning marketers are running out of time to switch to GA4. In this article, CIM’s Jonny Tuddenham explains what he’s learned whilst making the transition to GA4 and CIM Course director, Gavin Llewellyn, offers some top tips and advice for marketers.
Having been in operation since 2012, moving away from the familiarity of UA is a daunting prospect for many marketers. I started this transition by attending our GA4 training course, which provided important learnings about migrating to GA4, the differences between UA and GA4 and practical insights that could be immediately put into practice.
Learn the essentials of migrating to GA4, how to manage the switch and gain an overview of GA4’s capabilities with Gavin Llewellyn’s new two-hour short course, GA4 Report and Dashboards.
What's new in GA4?
GA4 is an event-based analytics platform
The major difference between UA and GA4 is that whilst UA is a session-based data analytics system, GA4 is event-based. Session-based analytics platforms tell marketers how many sessions a certain page has received. How long does a visitor stay? What is a page’s bounce rate? How is web traffic finding your site?
A platform that is event-based focuses on creating a more joined-up picture of a customer’s journey. Whilst UA can give you data on how many sessions a page has received, GA4 can track a user’s specific clicks, scrolls and other website interactions. By piecing together hits into one user journey, GA4 helps marketers understand the user experience and provide a more holistic view of user behaviour across devices and platforms.
The Google Analytics reporting dashboard is different
One of the immediate differences marketers will notice is that the reporting dashboard in GA4 is different from UA. For a start, GA4 has introduced a new interface, designed to be more intuitive and user-friendly. The interface is broken into three main sections: Reports, Explore and Advertising. Each section starts with a snapshot page giving you an overview of that section.
The reports in the "Report section" are also grouped in a way that provides more insight into the customer lifecycle; from Acquisition and Engagement, through to Monetisation and Retention. This gives marketers a better insight into campaigns and user activity.
Another big difference is that GA4 includes more sophisticated machine-learning insights. For example, within the ‘Insights’ report, GA4 can highlight if a page is loading unusually slowly or if you experience a significant increase in traffic from a lead source. The system automatically detects these anomalies without the need for you to set them up.
Learn more about new reports, insights and events within GA4 through our GA4 training course.
GA4’s emphasis on engagement
UA’s “Bounce rate” measurement has been replaced in GA4 with “Engaged sessions”. Bounce rate, which gave a percentage for the number of single-page sessions where there were no interactions on the page, has been replaced by “Engaged sessions”.
An engaged session is the number of times a session has lasted more than ten seconds, or when a conversion event has occurred on a page. Ten seconds is the default time, although you can change this to a different number depending on what you consider to be an engaged session result.
GA4 also provides analytics data displaying the performance of embedded YouTube videos. Events such as “video_start”, “video_progress” and “video_complete” give insights not only into how many people are viewing embedded YouTube videos on your website, but also if they’re reaching a threshold percentage or watching the full video. There are several other events centred around video performance, giving marketers another way to analyse user engagements.
Campaign ROI is more evident through new events and conversions
Another change from UA is that “Conversions” has been replaced by “Goals”. New events such as “Scrolls” helps to report on user engagements, whilst there are also events to record the customer journey from the first to last touch in a user’s experience on your website. Events we consider to be more important than others can be configured to “Conversions”, which helps highlight what’s most important to the organisation.
Two new events that will help track form submissions are “form_start”, which shows the first time a user interacts with a form in a session. And “form_submitted”, highlighting when a form has been completed. Having both event figures give marketers an insight into the quality of their forms by showing the conversion rate from when users start filling in a form, to when they submit it. In this instance, we may place more value on a form submission than a form start, in which case it’s possible to make this event a conversion – making it easier to view what ROI value a campaign or specific page is generating.
Discover more new events in GA4, gain a deeper understanding of tracking specific events and conversions, and how to set up events that track your current conversions with our GA4 training course.
Discover more user behaviour insights through Explorations reports
GA4’s “Explore” section provides a way to create a deeper insight into user journey through segments, filters and audiences, which gives you quick access to the analytics that have the highest value for the organisation.
"Explorations" are versatile ways to dig deeper into the data using a variety of display methods to highlight findings that can’t be done in the “Reports” section. Building these customisable Explorations reports gives marketers a way to display the results most relevant to organisational focus points and conduct ad-hoc analysis to get more from their data.
If you've already started to use GA4, book your space on our Google Analytics 4 (GA4) Advanced course and develop a greater understanding of how to improve tracking performance, set up advanced reports, generate insights into brand awareness and more.
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