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Google Analytics 4: GA4 Guide to Almost Everything

Google Analytics 4 - Guide to Almost Everything


GA4 Introduction

Google’s newest version of its analytics platform, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the new approach to tracking and introducing AI-based predictive data. Built with “privacy first” in mind. GA4 Utilizes Google’s advanced machine learning models to provide deep insight into engagement, users, and conversions. 

In this guide, we are going to cover a wide range of important reports and features of Google Analytics 4. This guide will help your organization be better prepared for the upcoming transition. Here are some of the key takeaways that you will leave with after reading.

  1. GA4 Changes
  2. GA4 Benefits
  3. GA4 Reports
  4. GA4 Goals
  5. Tracking custom events in GA4
  6. Setting up custom reports in GA4
  7. GA4 Bonus tips

GA4 vs. GA3 changes

Here are eight of the largest changes with GA4 from Universal analytics:

1. Event-based tracking

GA4 uses event-based tracking to track user engagement, events/conversions, and more. Universal Analytics (GA3) uses a session based model. The new event-based tracking is beneficial and can provide better insights into how users are interacting with your site. Session based tracking had limitations. Because of session based tracking GA3 was unable to track multiple hits of the same event type by the same user. This led to gaps in data and understanding of how users are actually interacting with the website. 

2. Reporting

Reports built into GA4 are much different than the reports most are used to seeing in GA3. Setting up custom reports, custom dimensions, and conversion/goals have all changed. Reporting is one of the areas marketers and webmasters are facing the biggest hurdles. Understanding what data is still there and what reports/data you will need to create or replicate for your GA4 property will be crucial. 

3. Engagement Rate

Engagement rate is used to show how users are interacting with your website. This was the new version of Bounce rate as GA4 originally excluded the bounce rate metric. Google Analytics 4 brought back the bounce rate metric in July of 2022 (Good job Google)!

4. Data Retention

You can choose to retain data for two or 14 months in GA4. Some reports in GA4 will give insight into data older than 14 months. Universal Analytics lets you retain all historical data with options to set limitation on the time frame. This will be a pretty large adjustment in how we are measuring and storing data. GA4 does not currently have access to your historical data from GA3.

5. App or Website Monitoring

With GA4, users can monitor the performance of their mobile apps. Universal Analytics (GA3) did not allow for tracking across apps. In GA4, you can now track events like downloads, purchases, and more. This allows for better insight into the user journey and the different touch points they are having with your brand. This enhances the data driven attribution capabilities of GA4 by being able to better assign value to all touch points your audience has with your brand.

6. Privacy & IP Anonymization

GA4 was built with a cookieless future in mind. GA4 is a 1st party cookie that is built to comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Google anonymizes your IP address automatically in GA4. This promotes data privacy and addresses recent privacy challenges faced by Google. 

7. Updated Event & Conversion Tracking 

GA4 Conversion/Events look much different. These can consist of automatically collected events, enhanced measurement events, recommended events, or custom events. Later in this article we will cover how to set up Form Submission events to track as conversions in GA4. 

8. GA4 Debug View

GA4 offers a debug report built into the platform to diagnose and validate your analytics configuration right inside of Google Analytics 4. You can enable debug view through Google Tag Manager or via custom code that fires debug value equal to true. This won’t be covered in detail in this article, but a future article will highlight how to use and enable GA4 Debug View.  

GA4 Benefits

Let’s quickly look at some of the benefits that Google Analytics 4 offers to marketers and webmasters. Although it is a large adjustment, Google’s next-gen analytics platform does close a lot of gaps that previously existed in Google Analytics 3.

  1. Machine Learning Models
  2. Enhance Audiences
  3. Enhance User Journey Tracking
  4. Enhanced Visualizations

Here are the top four Google Analytics benefits:

1. Machine Learning Models

GA4 features predictive audiences like ‘likely 7-day purchasers’ to provide advanced insight on how ready users are to convert. GA4 also uses data-driven attribution to assign conversion credit/value to touch points in the user journey on their conversion path. 

2. Enhanced Audiences

Avoid wasting ad spend. Better track audiences and user engagement via Google Analytics 4. Audiences allow you to segment website visitors in ways that give you insight and are meaningful to your business. Read Google’s documentation on creating and editing audiences in GA4. 

3. Enhanced User Journey Tracking

Google Analytics 4 gives you the tools needed to track and stitch together user journeys more accurately. Exploration reports are recommended to explore how users engage with your website and content. 

4. Enhanced Visualizations

Google Analytics 4 offers enhanced visualization and reporting through exploration reports, custom reports, and more. 

 

GA4 Reports

One of the largest changes with GA4 marketers and webmasters need to get used to is the major change in reporting. Gone are the days of the Landing Page Report (more on how to re-create it in GA4 later in this article). But overall the reporting is much different. GA3 or Universal Analytics used a session-based tracking model. GA4 uses an event-based model that integrates AI and NLP to attempt to better understand user engagement. This leads to a vast difference in the baseline reporting that is available in GA4. This will take some getting used to. As I just mentioned and we will cover later in this article… you are able to create new custom reports to re-create some of your beloved Universal Analytics reports. Exploration reports also covered briefly allow you to dig in deeper into the user journey than GA3 could ever dream of. Let’s take a look at some of the new reports available in Google Analytics 4. 

GA4 Realtime Report

GA4 Realtime report

With GA4 Realtime report, you can immediately and continuously monitor the effects that new campaigns and site changes have on your traffic.

GA4 Acquisition Report

GA4 Acquisition report

The Acquisition reports show you where new and returning users are coming from. For example, you can use the reports to see how many users found your website using Google Search. Similar to Acquisition reports in GA3.

GA4 Engagement Report

GA4 Engagement report

The Engagement report measures user engagement by events and conversions. The report provides insight into the pages and screens with the most engagement. This report is also helpful for better understanding user behavior. 

GA4 Monetization Reports

GA4 Monetization report

The Monetization reports let you see the revenue you generate from sales, ads, or subscriptions on your site. Get insight into the number of customers who view each item you sell, and other data about how your business generates sales.

GA4 Retention Reports

GA4 Retention report

The Retention report shows how frequently and how long users interact with your site after their first visit. See how valuable users are based on the additional revenue generated after their first visit.

GA4 Demographics Report

GA4 Demographics report

The Demographics report classifies users by age, location, language, and gender, along with interests they express through their online browsing and purchase activities.

GA4 Tech Report

GA4 tech reports

The Tech report shows your website traffic segmented by the technology they use. Get data from your site visitors including screen size, operating system, browser, and more.

GA4 Exploration Reports

GA4 Exploration reports

Exploration reports are a collection of advanced techniques that go beyond standard reports to help you uncover deeper insights into your customers’ behavior.

GA4 Conversions

Goals and conversions are another area that has changed in GA4. What conversions (goals) are being tracked has changed with GA4 now using event based tracking. How to set up conversions is also much different than Universal Analytics. Let’s explore how conversions have changed from GA3 to GA4. Then let’s explore how to set up custom events to track things GA4 does not track out of the box. We will be looking out how to track form submission in GA4 conversions but you can follow a similar process to track most events.

It is crucial that your organization have a plan to transition to GA4. A very important part of this transition will be setting up all conversions (previously goals in UA) so you have the same or similar insight into how users are converting. If you need help with analytics services connect with me on social or give us a call so we can help you get prepared for the upcoming transition.

GA3 (Universal Analytics) Goals – What We are Used To

Google Analytics 3 (Universal analytics) goals report and setup screens

In the picture above is our good old friend Universal Analytics or Google Analytics 3. On the left-hand side we can see the familiar goal setup screen. You can find this in the Admin menu under View > Goals. On the right-hand side is the goals overview report (Conversions > Goals > Overview). Here you can view goal completions, conversion rates, drilldown to individual goal performance, and more. 

Those were the days… it will take some getting used to. But believe it or not, GA4 can still provide valuable insights into your website’s performance. 

GA4 Conversions – What Our Data Looks Like Now 

GA4 conversions report and configure screen

Fast forward to GA4, and this picture looks a lot different. On the left-hand side is the Configure menu. Here you can see a variety of events, including custom events, automatically collected events, enhanced measurement events, and recommended events. Enable events to show in the conversions report (more on that later). 

On the right in the above picture you can see the Conversions report in GA4. This is the equivalent to the Goals Overview report and you can drilldown to analyze goal performance. Or, if you really want to gain more insights, create a custom report and add the specific dimensions and metrics that you want to analyze for your website. 

GA4 configure - turn events into conversion

To get one of these events above to show up in the Conversions report (Reports > Engagement > Conversions: Event Name) you will need to create tags.

Google Tag Manager

We are going to set up GA4 events/goals through Google Tag Manager (GTM). GTM makes it easy to set up events and conversions for form submissions, phone calls, and much more. Using GTM to set up your conversions and goals is easier than you think.

Examples of interactions that can be set up to be tracked as events via Google Tag Manager include:

  • Form fills 
  • 3rd party integrations like Mouseflow, CallRail, and more!
  • Click to call 
  • Click of link text, button ID, click URL, etc. 
  • Scroll depth 
  • Custom events 
  • And more!

How to track Google Analytics 4 Form Submission Event via Google Tag Manager?

To set up form submissions to track as conversions in Google Analytics 4, you will need to have already installed Google Tag Manager (GTM) on your website and ideally, you have set up a Google Analytics 4 configuration tag for your GA4 measurement ID via GTM. 

If you haven’t set this up already, we will soon be publishing a guide on how to set up Google Tag Manager and your GA4 configuration tag so stay tuned. For now, you can follow Google’s guide on setting up GA4 via GTM

For this example, we are going to set up tracking for a form submission. We will do this by tracking interaction with an HTML form element via Google Tag Manager. So anytime a user fills out your form, a Google Tag Manager tag will fire an event that indicates the form was submitted. 

Form Submission ID

Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics both use event-based tracking so this makes it quite easy to track form fills via GTM and GA4. If you prefer to learn via video watch the eight minute YouTube video below to see how to get this set up. 

Here are the steps we will follow to get a form submission tracking in Google Analytics 4 via Google Tag Manager:

  1. Log in to Google Tag Manager account
  2. Open the Variables tab
  3. Configure Variables
  4. Select Form ID
  5. Open the Tags Tab
  6. Create new tag
  7. Set up GA4 Event Tag
  8. Select triggering
  9. Create new trigger
  10. Set up new trigger
  11. Save tag and trigger
  12. Open preview debug mode
  13. Submit changes in GTM
  14. QA realtime reports in GA4
  15. Enable event as conversion
  16. View event in conversions report

 

1. Log in to Google Tag Manager Dashboard

Google Tag Manager dashboard

First, log in to your Google Tag Manager account. This is where you will set up your GA4 event tag to fire after the form is submitted. 

2. Open the Variables Tab

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 1 - Click Variables

Click Variables on the left hand sidebar. This will open the variables tab and allow us to configure the variables in the GTM account. 

3. Configure Variables

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 2 - Configure Variables

Click the Configure button in the upper right. This will open the variables menu pop-up and allow us to select some additional variables that we will need to track form submissions in your GTM account. 

4. Select Form ID 

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 3 - Select Form ID Variable and more

For this example, we will need to add the Form ID variable that is found under the Forms options. Take some time to review the other variables. There are many variables available that give you the ability to track a wide range of different events. Events could potentially include scroll depth thresholds, Form IDs, Click text, and so much more. I recommend checking out all the variables available to you. 

5. Open the Tags Tab

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 4 - Go to Tags

Click tags via the left hand sidebar. Once in the tags area  we will start setting up the Form submission tag. 

6. Create New Tag

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 5 - Create new tag

Click the New button in the upper right so we can go ahead and create our new GA4 Event tag. 

7. Set up GA4 Event Tag

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 6 - Set up new form fill tag

Add a name to your tag in the upper left. I named this tag “Form Fill – Get Started.” You can name your tag using your preferred naming convention. Inside the tag fill out the following fields:

 

  • Tage Type = Google Analytics: GA4 Event
  • Configuration Tag = GA4 Pageview Tag (previously set up)
  • Event name = get_started_form_fill 
  • Parameter name = form_fill
  • Value = {{Page URL}}

 

8. Select Triggering to set up Trigger

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 7 - Click to edit Trigger

Scroll down and click on Triggering to set up the trigger that will enable our new tag to fire after a form is submitted.

9.  Click to create new Trigger

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 8 - Click to create new GTM trigger

In the upper right corner select the + icon to create your new Tag

10. Set up new Trigger

First add a new name for your trigger. I named this trigger “Form Fill – Get Started,” but similar to the Tag, you can use whatever naming convention you prefer. 

Fill out your new Trigger with the following information:

  • Trigger type = Form Submission
  • This trigger fires from = Some Forms
  • Fire this trigger after an event occurs and all of the following are true = Form ID equals  

You can use the inspect tool in Google Chrome to find your Form ID. If you right click and then click inspect on your form you will see a Form element that should include a Form ID number. Refer to the screenshot below so you can know what to look for. 

HTML form element highlighted in Chrome inspect tool

11. Click to Save Your Trigger and Your Tag

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 8 - Save GTM trigger

Once you have all the fields set correctly go ahead and click to Save your new Trigger. Then click to save your new Tag. Next, we will use Preview mode to debug your GA4 event tag. 

12. Open Preview mode

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 9 - Preview GTM Tag in Debug Mode

In the upper right, click Preview to open debug mode and test your new GA4 event tag. 

13. Go to the Contact Page and Submit a Form

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 10 - Fill out form in debug mode

Enter your contact URL or any URL that has the contact form on it that you want to track. Fill out your form and submit it.  

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 10 - Fill out and submit form

14. Open Tag Assistant and Check Tags Fired

Back in the Tag Assistant window you should see the Form Fill event has fired. We can see in this example “GA4 – Event – Form Fill” has fired in GTM preview mode. Things are looking good so far!

15. Submit Google Tag Manager changes

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 12 - Submit changes in GTM

Back in Google Tag Manager go ahead and click the Submit button to submit your changes. 

16. Check GA4 realtime for events fired

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 13 - View events in realtime report

In Google Analytics 4 realtime report under the Event report, you should see your new Form Submission event being tracked in this area. 

17. Enable Event as Conversion

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 14 - Turn on Mark as conversion under Configure

Click Configure in the left-hand sidebar. Look for the event you set up and under Set as conversion – go ahead and toggle it on. If it is highlighted in blue, it indicates that you have successfully enabled the event to track as a conversion in GA4.

18. View Form Submission Conversion in GA4 Conversion Report

Google Tag Manager Form Fill Event Step 14 - Turn on Mark as conversion under Configure

After waiting 24-48 hours you should now be able to see your Form Submission events in your GA4 Conversion report (Reports > Life Cycle > Engagement > Conversions) like in the above screenshot. 

Congratulations! This is exactly what you want to see. You have successfully set up your form submission event via GTM to track as a conversion in Google Analytics 4.

GA4 Custom Reports

The baseline reports available in Google Analytics 4 are good. But creating custom reports can take your data and insight to the next level. You can create custom reports in GA4 for a wide range of analysis. Let’s take a look at how to create a custom report in GA4. We are going to try and replicate a beloved report from Universal Analytics – the Landing pages report.

How to Create GA4 Custom Report (Landing Page Report Universal Analytics)?

One of the reports you may have become familiar with and very fond of in the previous version of Google Analytics (Universal Analytics) was the Landing Page report. Located under Behavior > Site Content > Landing Page, this report was jam packed with useful information for marketers and webmasters alike. It was used to gain actionable insights into the performance of their pages and opportunities to improve user experience and traffic. 

Even though the Landing Page report is not included in the baseline reports in GA4, it is extremely easy to replicate this report with only a few clicks. We are going to cover a few simple steps to replicate the beloved Landing Page report inside your GA4 dashboard so you can retain all the valuable insights. 

  1. Edit or Customize the Pages and Screen report
  2. Edit Dimensions for the report
  3. Set Landing Page as primary dimension for new report
  4. Save as new report and add your report name (Landing page)
  5. Open Library from the reports dashboard
  6. Click Edit Collections to edit reports dashboard
  7. Drag and drop new Landing page report under Engagement topic
  8. Click to Save the updates to the Life cycle collection
  9. View your new Landing page report in GA4

 

Step 1 – Edit or Customize the Pages and Screen Report

GA4 Custom Report Step 1 - Click edit icon in pages and screen report

From the Pages and Screens report inside Reports > Engagement > Pages and screens. Click the pencil icon in the upper right corner. 

Step 2 – Edit Dimensions 

GA4 Custom Report Step 2 - Click to Edit Dimensions

Click Dimensions to edit the primary Dimensions for your new Landing Page report.

Step 3 – Set Your Primary Dimension

GA4 Custom Report Step 3 - Select 3 dots next to Landing Page Dimension

If you see the Landing page under the available Dimensions options, go ahead and hit the three dots to the right. If not, click the Add Dimensions button below and add the Landing page as an optional dimension. Then click the three dots and select set as the primary dimension. Once you have done that go ahead and click Apply on the bottom right to save the edits to dimensions in your new Landing Page report. 

Step 4 – Save as a New Report and Add Report Name

GA4 Custom Report Step 4 - Click to Save as a new report and add title

Once you click Save, I recommend being extremely cautious and watching where you click. It is very important that you Save as a new report to prevent updating the current report and losing all the precious data in the Pages and screens report. This will create a new report and it will prompt you to enter a name. I typically name this the Landing page report. 

In four simple clicks, you have created a custom GA4 report that replicates the old Landing Pages report in Universal Analytics. 

But we aren’t done yet. We need to make this report accessible through the reporting dashboard so we will need to make some adjustments to the report Collections. 

Step 5 – Open the Library From the Reports Dashboard

GA4 Custom Report Step 5 - Add to collection (1)

Click Library at the bottom of the GA4 Reports dashboard. Editing the Library will allow us to add our new fancy Landing page report to the GA4 Reports dashboard. 

Step 6 – Click to Edit Collection

GA4 Custom Report Step 6 - Click Edit collection to add to Report Dashboard

Click Edit Collection under the Life cycle collection so we can add this to the Engagement reports. 

Step 7 – Drag and Drop the New Landing Page Report

GA4 Custom Report Step 7 - Add to Engagement reports

On the right-hand side of the screen search for the Landing Page report you just created. Then drag and drop your report underneath the Pages and Screens report in the Engagement collection.

Step 8 – Save the New Report to the Life Cycle Collection

GA4 Custom Report Step 8 - Save Collection

Click Save, and that will update the Life Cycle Collection to include your new Landing Page report. Let’s go check to make sure the update worked. 

Step 9 – Check Out Your New Report in GA4

GA4 Custom Report Step 9 - View new report

Congrats! You have successfully replicated the GA3 Landing Pages report in GA4. Creating custom reports can be fun and easy. I recommend analyzing what data is important to your business and then seeing if you can create a custom report that provides you the insight you are looking for.

GA4 Bonus Tips

Well, you’ve made it this far. Here’s some extra GA4 advanced level bonus tips to make sure this was worth your time.  

Changing Dimensions in GA4

GA4 changing dimension and adding secondary dimension

Hooray! Changing dimensions and adding secondary dimensions is still possible in Google Analytics 4. In the above example, we are viewing the Engagement > Pages and screens report. Adjusting the primary dimension or adding a secondary dimension such as source is just as simple as it was previously in Universal Analytics.

GA4 how to add secondary dimension to report

To add a secondary dimension to a report, click the blue + icon right above the main data table like the picture above. Voila! You can now dig deeper into GA4 reports and analyze the performance of your site.

Google Data Signals

Google Data Signals collection

Google Data Signals offers enhanced Demographics & Interests reporting, Advanced remarketing features, and additional Ad Reporting capabilities. Enable Google Data Signal Data Collection to get deeper insights into your demographics and more. Admin > Data Collection > Turn on Google Data Signals. 

*Make sure you have the proper cookie/consent banners set up in order to collect this data. Before enabling Google Data Signals it highlights what data will be tracked and what type of information you should include in your consent banner to let users know. 

Google Data Signals benefits

 

Get GA4 Setup

setup ga4 today

Retain historical data, don’t lose YOY comparisons. Set up your GA4 property as soon as possible. July 2023 UA (GA3) will no longer collect data and will be deprecated soon after that.

Conclusion

We covered a lot, and I hope you found this helpful and were able to pick up some tips that get you more familiar with Google Analytics 4 and its capabilities. We will be publishing more content around Google Analytics 4 in the future around e-commerce, installation, and much more.

Here is a recap of the topics we covered:

  • GA4 Major Changes
  • GA4 Benefits
  • GA4 Reports
  • GA4 Goals
  • GA4 Custom Events
  • GA4 Custom Reports
  • GA4 Bonus tips

If you have questions about Google Analytics 4, please feel free to comment and drop them below or contact us to chat about how Webfor can help you with your business grow through better insight and a winning marketing strategy. I always enjoy chatting about SEO so please feel free to check me out on LinkedIn or connect with me on Twitter @MPCTheMarketer.

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