Top 5 digital marketing metrics to track in Google Analytics 4

Ursula Somers - 20 June 2022

Slowly (but surely), Google Analytics Universal will be replaced by Google’s latest analytics platform: GA4. With just over one year until GA Universal stops collecting new data, it’s almost time to start migrating to GA4. Before that happens, let’s take a deep dive into the capabilities of GA4…

Google analytics on laptop

Will GA4 replace Universal Analytics?

Indeed! Google has announced that from 1 July 2023, Universal Analytics will no longer be processing data in standard properties. This means that you’ll only be able to access and analyse new data from your website or app through GA4 properties.

Google has announced it’s phasing out third-party cookies. GA4 uses first-party cookies to keep data compliant with GDPR.

The new platform is promoted as privacy-centric and has been designed to work with or without cookies. By leveraging machine learning and statistical modelling, GA4 can fill in data gaps as the world becomes less and less dependent on cookies.

So, what is a property in Google Analytics 4?

Properties sit within an analytics account. Google defines a property as “where your company’s online data goes to get processed by Google Analytics.” Basically, it’s where all the important information gets registered in GA. 

One key difference between GA4 properties and GA Universal properties is that GA4 now allows website data and app data to be processed within the same property. In all of the older versions of Google Analytics, these properties had to be separated in an account.

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What’s new in GA4?

There’s still a fair amount of confusion surrounding what’s actually changed in Google’s latest analytics platform. So, here’s a synopsis of the three main differences between the two platforms:

Changes in the measuring models

Universal analytics attributed their measurement model to sessions and pageviews. A session is a group of ‘hits’ on your website that takes place in a given time frame. These sessions can contain a number of page views, transactions or events. 

Google Analytics 4 uses a measurement model that is titled under ‘events’ and ‘parameters’. Actions that users take on a website can be captured as an ‘event’.

For example, ‘hit types’ that are seen in UA such as a pageview, transaction or screen view, are just categorised as an ‘event’ in GA4. This can be slightly confusing as in all previous versions of GA, these events had a category, action and label attached. 

However, parameters have been put into the newest analytics platform to give context to each event. Parameters are sent automatically, but you can also send up to 25 custom parameters with each event. 

someone typing on google analytics on laptop

When you first install the GA4 base code, the main automatic events that are collected include: page_view, first_visit and session_start. There are also some other automatically collected events that you can enable or disable including: scrolls, site search, video views and outbound clicks.

You can also create custom events which you can implement yourself depending on what’s relevant for your site. 

Removal of monthly traffic limits

Another big difference between the old and latest version of Google Analytics is that there’s now no longer a monthly limit of 10m hits. For websites that generate large amounts of traffic, that’s great news! 

Google has now improved this feature in GA4, pushing the limit for the number of events collected to 500. This number of events is more than enough for most brands to monitor a wide range of user activity.

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Free connection to BigQuery

BigQuery was previously only available for GA360 customers (a paid version of Google Analytics). However, GA4s free connection to the platform now means that very large data sets can be queried and categorised quickly.

BigQuery also gives marketers the ability to take data out of GA, find the metrics that matter to them, then analyse without the issue of sampling. 

Key digital marketing metrics you should be tracking in Google Analytics 4

So, now you know the three main differences between the analytics platforms, let’s get into the key digital marketing metrics you should be tracking in Google Analytics 4 – and why each metric is important.

1) Users

Google now labels each unique visitor who comes onto your website with a unique ID. This is so that when they visit your website on different devices, it’ll only count as one unique visitor.

So, why is this marketing metric important? The unique ID allows marketers to accurately measure how many new visitors interact with your website. This, in turn, shows how many new eyes you have on your brand – and ultimately how your marketing efforts are paying off.

2) Sessions

Sessions means visits to your website. 1 visit = 1 session. What’s important here is that if the same user comes onto your website on mobile first, and then on a table (for example), 2 sessions will be recorded.

Why are sessions an important marketing metric in GA4? They allow for thorough analysis of how much traffic is being generated depending on what channel grouping. E.g. through social, direct, organic or paid.

3) Average engagement time

Google registers a session as ‘engaged’ if: it lasted longer than 10 seconds, it resulted in 1 or more conversion events or if it resulted in 2 or more page/screen views.

This evidences how engaging your website content is. You can also analyse the average engagement time per post or page to see how interested users are with certain content.

4) Conversions

‘Goals’ in Universal Analytics are now called conversions. You probably don’t need us to tell you that conversion tracking is one of, if not the most, important action to track on your site. 

Just some of the conversions you can analyse through GA4 tracking are: 

  • Newsletter sign ups
  • Purchase
  • ‘Add to cart’
  • Download. 

So, how do you track conversions in GA4? 

There are a number of ways you can do this: 

  • Mark an event as a conversion in the ‘configure’ section of your account: These have been prescribed by GA4. For example, first_visit, scroll, visitor_sent_a_message. These depend on what’s important for your business. To create new events, this can be set up through Google Tag Manager
  • For tracking internal clicks, you’ll need the help of GTM to set up triggers and tags
  • Create a custom conversion by creating a custom event. If you have a landing page you want to track, e.g. a  thank you page for a newsletter sign up, then you can configure an event based on the URL. 

5) Session by Default Channel Grouping

This is a really interesting metric to track in GA4 as it shows where your potential customers are coming to your website from. From organic social and search, to email and third-party websites, here you can analyse where your marketing efforts are paying off. 

To find out how your specific campaigns are performing, you can add parameters to a URL. This will capture specific reporting data about the referring campaign. 

You can generate a Google Analytics Campaign URL by using the builder here. 

Contact us to get your business noticed on Google

Staying on top of your digital marketing metrics and website performance with Google Analytics is key to helping achieve your business goals. 

If you’re looking to take control of your website rankings on Google in order to maximise your business exposure – please contact our digital marketing experts.