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Google Analytics and its Updates - A Simple Guide

Google Analytics and its Updates - A Simple Guide

Jul 05 2021

If your website has been giving out positive signals lately, it is important to improve these numbers. This will increase your profits, sales, and service. But identifying the reasons behind such changes require insights and data about your website performance. Google Analytics is here to serve that purpose as the hub that provides you with information about all digital traffic.

The free tool is used by millions of businesses who wish to understand customer preferences and improve their experiences. While helping websites to track their digital marketing effectiveness it provides a holistic view of their campaigns. Although users have already adjusted themselves to the traditional google analytics, the mothership has set the new version of the tool as default. This helpful guide is based on the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) which presents itself with a lot of new features, marketing itself very different from the traditional tool.

What is GA4?

According to Google, GA4 is the next-generation approach to “Privacy-first” tracking, x-channel measurement, and AI predictive data. Just like the former version, GA4 continues to be a free tool. It is supported by Google’s advanced machine learning models, which helps it to build data for website traffic and user behaviour. The upgrade is built on the same “App+Web system” from 2019. Its main goal is to shift the way data is shown to focus on users.

GA4 prioritizes “Events”. Events provide users with insights into what goes on in your website. Reported areas include user actions, system events, and errors. Google Analytics is presented with three types of events. They are Automatically called events, Recommended events, and Custom events.

The global site tag sends automatically called events to Google Analytics. No additional configuration is required for this event data to appear in the user’s reports. Recommended events. Recommended events serve common measurement scenarios that need additional context to be more meaningful. They are not sent by the global site tag due to this requirement of additional context. Events that are not automatically collected or recommended. They do not show up in most standard reports. Therefore, they are more suitable for meaningful analysis.

Machine-learning processing is another important aspect found in GA4. It deals with gaps that businesses find hard to understand. These gaps are formed because users choose to avoid cookies and data collection. The free tool uses this technology mainly to generate Google Ads forecasts based on the probability of conversions, detect anomalies in reports, and present customer outflow predictions to effectively invest in retaining customers.

What Separates GA4 from the former GA?

The updated user interface is on top of the new differences. Users of the former version may not be able to find default reports and some features at their usual spots. Secondly, the data collection of the new GA carries a different aspect since it is updated with new terms and elements. Let’s go through some of these new concepts former users have to get familiar with.

  • Events - Similar to page views, button clicks, and user actions, the term “Events” represent user interaction within a website. These events do not require adding customized codes into the on-site analytics tracking code. Some of these events are measured by default.
  • Parameters - Parameters can be used to define various aspects including the value of a purchase or to provide context into where, how, and why the event was logged. They represent bits of information that give certainty to each event. Parameters can include titles and article IDs.
  • User property - Describing user segments, user properties function as attributes of the users who interact with a website or an app. These properties include location, gender, and other demographics. GA4 automatically logs user properties.
  • User ID - User ID is mainly used for cross-platform user tracking. It is a unique, persistent, and non-personally identifiable ID string used by GA to represent a user. The user ID also enables the analysis of groups of sessions across devices.

According to Universal Analytics, an event has a Category, Action, and Label and its own hit type. GA4 defines an event as a hit giving no more distinctions. They are all treated equally in GA4.

The sessions found in GA4 are lower when compared to the former GA platform. This is based on the way that hits are processed. According to Google, “some aspects of session counting differ between two platforms. For instance, in Universal Analytics, a new campaign will start a new session regardless of activity, however, a new campaign does not begin a new session in GA4. This may lead to lower session counts in GA reports.”

Differences in the way delayed data is handled can also cause differences in the business data with the new GA. Hits are processed if they are processed within 4 hours at the end of the day in the traditional GA. GA 4 processes events that arrive up to 72 hours later.

GA4 does not display the URLs and URIs of parameters prominently like they were in the former version as platforms. They are now treated as parameters carrying titles like “page_location.” This difference is created by the platform to push marketers into thinking of these events in terms of “Screens” and “Page titles” since it is much easier when crossing over between mobile sites, desktop sites, and apps than going with “URL” or “Website”.

Setting Up GA4

Businesses can set up a property of this new version of Google Analytics, which was formerly known as “App + Web property”. This has to be set up in the domain section of their existing accounts. Setting up GA with the existing version will require following the steps listed below.

Step 1 - Sign in to the Analytics account with your website’s existing property.

Step 2 - Navigate the admin section.

Step 3 - Go to the Account column and select the account you need to create the property.

Step 4 - Go to the Property column and select the desired Universal Analytics property of your website.

Step 5 - Select “Upgrade to GA4” and follow the prompts. (If this option is not available, select “Create Property” and follow the steps to create a new property for Web + App. This will lead to a new GA4 property by default.)

Once these steps are completed, it is important to “Enable data collection”. This can be done in two ways. You can either connect the existing tracking data from your traditional Analytics or start with new tags that you can add to your website similar to the way tags were added in the older versions of Analytics. If the website already uses the gtag.js tag, the option will be available for data collection using existing tags.

“Data streams” can be added within the GA4 property by selecting Data streams in the property column of the admin area. Then select “Add stream” for the type of data that you wish to add. Most businesses may select “Web” by default. Entering the correct domain is the next step. Give it a name and click “Create stream”. It is important to make sure that the “Tagging area” is properly connecting tagging information for a new Google Analytics 4 property.

GA4 Reports

The simplified reporting interface of GA4 makes it easy for marketers to spot key trends and irregularities in data. The platform uses overview reports in summary cards rather than long lists of pre-defined reports. More information can be viewed in these summaries simply by clicking on the scorecards.

When first logged into GA4, it can be seen that the homepage summarizes all overall traffic, conversions, and revenue of that property. The homage will answer the questions of,

  • Where do new users come from?
  • What are your top-performing campaigns?
  • Which pages and screens get the most views?

This is simply a quick check to make sure that everything is in order as expected.

Realtime Reporting

This is the next default report found in the left navigation. It shows the events that have happened within the last 30 minutes. This reporting feature can be used to confirm track coding is working, view Effects from a YouTube video, view New Product Drop happening in real-time. You may also notice the new “View user snapshot” feature in the right top corner of the Realtime Report. This gives a snapshot of a single user once clicked. The information of the snapshot will include the user’s device, location, and real-time engagement with the site or the app.

Life Cycle Reporting

Life Cycle Reporting shows the funnel of acquiring, engaging, monetizing, and retaining users. It helps marketers to arrive at an idea of how users enter the conversion funnel and how they behave once they are in it.

Going down the reports section, GA further provides marketers with access to Demographics, Technologies, Conversions, and Events.

Explorer Reports - Analysis

The new GA4 Analysis Hub can be considered as the most powerful addition to the platform that will be found very beneficial by the marketers. It gives marketers access to several advanced techniques and a template gallery that cannot be found anywhere else while the default reports help with monitoring key business metrics.

The following three-step process has to be followed when creating a new analysis.

Step 1 - Log in to your Google Analytics account.

Step 2 - Click Analysis.

Step 3 - Select the technique you wish to use for analysing data.

The reports presented by the Analysis Hub contain a variety of sections that require the user’s attention.

  • Variables column - This is where you can select the data that you would like to use in the analysis. Eg: Segments, Metrics, Dimensions, and Date Range.
  • Tab settings column - This section helps in specifying the analysis technique. It can be used to add dimensions, metrics, and segments.
  • Segments - Each segment represents a user group. Different user groups can be dragged and dropped on the report to compare and contrast their behaviour.
  • Dimensions - These are areas that marketers wish to analyse. They can be dragged and dropped as rows or columns in the Tab settings area. Some of the commonly analysed dimensions are event accounts, active users, transactions, etc.
  • Metrics - Metrics can be added to the Values area in tab settings. It provides the numbers in an analysis.
  • Visualization - This helps users to decide what the report will look like. For example, the options may include pie charts, line graphs, and more.
  • Tabs - An analysis may contain up to 10 tabs. They display your visualizations. A new tab can be added by clicking the plus icon.
  • Display - Interact with the data by right-clicking a data point in the visualization.

Types of Analysis

Here’s a quick go through of GA4’s Analysis types.

  • Exploration - This was also available on the previous GA. Exploration provides more control over data visualization. Users may find a lot of configuration options under exploration that will help them uncover new insights, and represent data in a way that is easy for other team members or clients to understand. The “Anomaly Detection” found under exploration automatically flags any data points that are outside of the expected outcome.
  • Funnel Analysis - The GA Funnel Analysis report will answer the questions of, “How do website visitors become one-time shoppers?” and “How do they become repeat customers?”. Marketers can use this funnel to visualize the steps shoppers take to complete an event and see how they succeed or fail at each step.
  • Path Analysis - This is similar to the behaviour flow reports in universal analytics. Path analysis visualizes the event stream in a tree graph. An event stream is the series of events passed by users in their path. This technique helps marketers to uncover looping behaviour which may indicate users becoming stuck.
  • Segment Overlap - This analysis involves previously discussed segments that can be found in GA4 properties. Marketers can build segments based on multiple conditions and arrange them into a condition group. If a segment represents a specific group of site users, it may contain users from a specific city or ones who share an interest in the same product category.
  • Cohort Analysis - A group of users with a common characteristic is considered to be a Cohort. Marketers can create a cohort report to see how long it takes people to settle down in a specific marketing tactic.
  • User Lifetime - The user lifetime report helps marketers to create reports sourced from driving users the highest lifetime revenue. It helps to uncover the marketing campaigns that acquire the most valuable clients with the highest purchase probability. And lowest churn probability.

Better insights result in better marketing decisions. GA4 is simply the best upgrade of Google Analytics yet. The above-mentioned features are uniquely designed to support sound decision making. We hope the information you found in this guide will help you get started with GA4. Good Luck!

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