With the evolution of web analytics, Google introduced the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4), a more advanced platform tailored for a modern digital landscape. GA4 offers many features that, when utilised correctly, can provide transformative insights for small business websites.
However, GA4 (Google Analytics 4) is more difficult to use and requires more advanced skills:
- Intuitiveness and Complexity: GA4 is described as less intuitive and more complicated to set up than its predecessor, Universal Analytics. This makes it challenging for users to locate the reports they are accustomed to.
- Reporting Delays: The GA4 API has a longer delay in reporting. Specifically, the API can take up to 48 hours to fully update, which means the most recent data it provides does not include the data from the previous day. This is a significant change for users accustomed to accessing next-day metrics with Universal Analytics.
- Data Discrepancies: There are inconsistencies in the data provided by the GA4 API. The data sent to user dashboards might not always align with what's displayed in the GA4 dashboard.
- Session Count Differences: GA4 counts sessions in a different manner than Universal Analytics. As a result, most sites will observe a variation in the number of sessions when comparing the two. This can affect specific metrics, making year-over-year comparisons challenging or even unfeasible.
- Data Limitations: Google restricts the data it presents for specific reports in GA4, often grouping detailed data into a generic 'other' category. This limitation affects page-level reporting for more significant sites and hinders users from delving deeper into pages that don't categorise easily.
- Automatic GA4 Property Creation: Google has been automatically creating GA4 properties for sites already have GA4 set up, which can confuse users.
- Change in Analytics Vocabulary: Users have to adapt to a new Analytics vocabulary, focusing on terms like engaged sessions, dimensions, and events, as opposed to familiar terms like bounce rate, demographics, and page views.
These challenges and the mandatory transition from Universal Analytics to GA4 have made the adaptation process difficult for many users.
Here's an essential guide on harnessing the power of GA4 to track your website's performance. However, we recommend using a plugin like Monster Analytics to overcome the complications of GA4.
1. Understand the GA4 Data Model
Unlike Universal Analytics, GA4 employs an event-based data model. Almost every interaction, page view, button click, or form submission is recorded as an event. Familiarising yourself with this concept is crucial as it forms the foundation for all subsequent tracking.
2. Set Up Events
Given the importance of events in GA4, you'll want to set up and customise them based on your business needs. For instance, if you run an e-commerce website, track events like 'add to cart', 'product view', or 'checkout'. GA4 provides both recommended and custom events, allowing for extensive flexibility.
3. Monitor User Engagement
GA4 places a significant emphasis on user engagement. Features like engagement time (as opposed to bounce rate) offer a more in-depth understanding of how users interact with your content. This metric can provide insights into content quality and user interest.
4. Leverage User Exploration
The Exploration report allows for ad-hoc analysis. You can drag and drop various dimensions and metrics to generate custom visualisations. This tool is handy for small businesses aiming to understand user behaviour without deep-diving into complex data.
5. Set Up Conversion Tracking
Conversions are vital actions you want users to take on your site. In GA4, these are called 'Mark as conversion' within the events you've set up. Whether it's a newsletter sign-up, a product purchase, or a consultation booking, tracking these actions will measure your site's effectiveness in driving desired outcomes.
6. Audience Building and Segmentation
One of the standout features of GA4 is its advanced audience-building capabilities. You can create user segments based on parameters like demographics, behaviour, and technology. These audiences can be used for retargeting in advertising campaigns or for personalised content delivery.
7. Understand User Journeys with Path Analysis
The path analysis tool can be invaluable for a nuanced understanding of how users navigate your website. It visualises the common routes users take, from their entry point to conversion or drop-off. This can illuminate potential areas of friction or highlight successful user flows.
8. Track User Sources with Source/Medium Report
Knowing where your users come from — organic search, paid ads, or social media — is fundamental. The source/medium report in GA4 provides this data, enabling you to ascertain which channels are most effective in driving valuable traffic.
9. Embrace Predictive Metrics
GA4 introduces predictive metrics like 'purchase probability' and 'churn probability'. For small businesses, these insights can be instrumental in forecasting future sales or identifying users who might disengage, allowing for proactive measures.
10. Ensure Cross-platform Tracking
If your small business has a presence across multiple platforms, like a website and a mobile app, GA4's cross-platform tracking can offer unified insights. This helps understand the holistic user journey, irrespective of the device or platform.
GA4 is more than just an analytics tool; it's a comprehensive platform that empowers businesses to understand their users better, optimise their digital presence, and drive tangible results. Adapting to GA4 might seem daunting initially for small businesses due to its plethora of features. However, with the help of Monster Analytics Enhanced Reporting or systematic exploration and application, GA4 can offer unmatched insights to guide business strategy and decision-making. Embracing GA4 is not just about keeping up with the times; it's about staying ahead in the digital game.