April 14 2023


Five Important Changes and a Few Refreshers on GA4

The Ramp Up is Almost Over 

For the past year, we here at TopSpot have been closely monitoring news on Google Analytics 4 (GA4) as it’s one of a handful of data tools we use as part of our integrated strategy. If you’re a Client of TopSpot’s, you likely migrated over to the new platform or are gearing up to very soon. We’ve moved 85% of accounts over so far and data from the new platform will be included in monthly reports soon. For all businesses and marketers, time is ticking as Universal Analytics (UA) sunsets on July 1st, marking one of the year’s  biggest changes in digital marketing. 

Once migrated, the real opportunities begin as the difference between platforms is significant. Courtney Clark, Analytics Department Manager, has broken down the five most important changes to GA4 since our last update and what you need to know for your business. 

First, A Quick Refresher 

Google Analytics 4 is the latest version of the popular analytics tool that brings together Google Analytics (Universal Analytics) for websites and Google Analytics for Firebase, which is used for apps. The data from UA will be accessible for six months after the tool sunsets, meaning you have until the end of the year to export this data

As you get things set up, Google recommended setting up both UA and GA4 and running them in parallel. However, you cannot fully compare the data one-to-one as the two operate very differently. The biggest difference is how “hit types” are handled. 

Measurement difference between UA and GA4. 

Additionally, sessions, a group of user interactions on your website, take place within 30 minutes of inactivity and no longer include midnight or traffic source changes. With less triggers in-place, we are likely to see lower overall sessions in GA4. 

Finally, Google has made its algorithm-focused attribution model called data-driven attribution available to all Google customers (previously only available to 360 customers), where credit is assigned to each touchpoint based on machine learning. This is prioritized in some reports over last-click attribution or where 100% of the credit went to the last touchpoint. Also, first-click, linear, time-decay, and position-based attribution models are going away from reporting starting September 2023

Attribution comparisons in GA4. 

Here are some of GA4’s new features: 

  • New AI-powered insights that predict outcomes like churn rates or potential revenue from a segment of visitors as well as alert to data trends such as surging product demand.​ 
  • Deeper audience integration with Google Ads for insight into detailed conversion behaviors, clearer audience profiles, and a better sense of the customer’s journey​. 
  • Customer lifecycle-framed reporting aims to give a complete view of how customers are engaging with the business across devices and channels​. 
  • Codeless Event tracking with built-in events such as page scroll or PDF downloads (TopSpot utilizes a custom approach)​. 
  • More granular user data controls for additional options to comply with GDPR and CCPA​. 
  • Analytics in a cookie-less future, creating a flexible approach to measurement and will include modeling to fill in the gaps where the data may be incomplete.​ 

Five Important Changes to GA4 

Clients who attended our November webinar may remember a few big changes noted, including: 

  • Privacy and data retention controls 
  • Enhanced cross-device tracking insights from Google Signals 
  • Machine learning and data modeling (in progress) 

More changes have been introduced since we last spoke on GA4 and include five major changes. 

1. There are three fields added to GA4 that allow closer comparisons to UA data, they are: 

  • Bounce rate (the inverse of Engagement Rate) 
  • Views per session 
  • Average session duration 

2. Google removed query data from UA and GA4 last year; we have that information in Google Ads for PPC and Google Search Console for organic. Luckily, Google Ads keyword data is still available in GA4. 

3. GA4 has simplified reporting, meaning fewer reports overall. Feedback from users has brought some missing reports back, specifically the “Landing Page” report. 

4. As of April 12, 2023, Google released a new setting for conversions with the ability to mark conversions as either ‘once per event’ or ‘once per session’. This will allow us to track conversions more accurately and avoid counting duplicate form submissions when a user clicks the submit button multiple times or returns to the thank you page again. Stay tuned as we make this adjustment across all accounts. 

5. Google Optimize, a website testing tool, will sunset on September 30, 2023, and will be integrated with GA4 at a future date. 

While some feedback has been considered, the features still missing but highly requested include: 

  • Annotations 
  • Views (Google rolled out sub-properties for 360 customers) 
  • More enhanced filter options 

Fingers crossed, feedback on the above keeps rolling in, and we hope to see more changes soon. 

GA4 Homepage

The Information that Matters to Business Owners 

You can continue to track users and sessions, but now it’s all about events, which allow you to measure a specific interaction on your website. There are numerous built-in events available with GA4 standard configuration, but TopSpot will configure the following events: 

  • Conversions (Form Submissions) 
  • File download 
  • Outbound click 
  • View search results 
  • Click to call 
  • Clipboard 
  • Social click 
  • Youtube Video (and any other video types) 
  • Mailto click 
  • Purchase (ecommerce tracking, if applicable) 

New to GA4 are engaged sessions, engagement rate, and average engagement time to help understand user behavior. Google is prioritizing four new fields featured on the tool: 

  • Engaged sessions 
  • Engagement rate 
  • Events per session 
  • Average engagement time per session 
Engagement overview in GA4.

Navigating GA4 

To make things easier, here’s a menu of how to access different reports your organization might need. First things first, how do you access GA4? 

How to access GA4.

From the top search bar, navigate to GA4 in the list of properties​. In the sidebar, you’ll then have six options to view:​ 

  • Home – Personalized data based on your behavior in GA ​ 
  • Reports – Predefined reporting area (customizable)​ 
  • Explore – Create custom reporting for deeper insights into behaviors​ 
  • Advertising – Attribution model comparison and conversion paths​ 
  • Admin – Account and property management​; this is also where management of events, conversions, audiences and custom definitions were moved (previously “Configure”) 

Now let’s focus on the reports you’ll want to find. Look for the below menu items on the right with paths to popular reports: 

  • Acquisition > User and Traffic acquisition 
  • Engagement > Events, Conversions, Pages and screens, Landing page 
  • Explore section for custom reporting (advanced feature) 
  • Advertising > Performance > All channels (see Ad Cost from Google Ads integration) 
  • Advertising > Model comparison and Conversion paths (this is like the Multi-Channel funnel reports) 

For TopSpot clients, your Team can walk you through the GA4 reports to best inform marketing decisions as well as create any customized reporting you may need. 

Looking for assistance with your GA4 implementation? Contact us to start getting data that drives great marketing via GA4. 

Tags: , ,