Google Analytics 4: Sail Off into the Sunset with New Features

August 2021

Welcome to the summer edition of our GA4 newsletter. We hope to sweeten your day with some new insights and relevant changes related to Google Analytics 4. Whether you read it in the office or at the beach doesn’t matter, just make sure to stay up-to-date with the most recent changes to the New Google Analytics.

If you missed one of our previous three newsletters, we highly recommend you catch up by reading our GA4 blog posts here!

This week we will discuss:

  • How to navigate the updated version of the GA4 user interface
  • How to analyze your customer journeys in-depth in GA4
  • How to adjust GA4’s data processing to make it fit your business

We hope you’ll enjoy this 5 min. read. We extracted the most important information just for you!

Not sure how to get started with exploring your GA4 data?

GA4 Newsletter Series #4: Enhance your customer journey analysis, tailor GA4 to fit your business needs, and learn to navigate the new interface

 

New GA4 Interface – Who dis?

In July, most likely every GA4 user was caught off guard by the significant changes to the user interface. Updates to the user interface of any tool may result in confusion at first, but in our opinion, the GA team has done a great job in simplifying working with the tool and added amazing features to GA4 properties along the way.

In GA4’s left-hand navigation bar, you now have the option to enter 4 different sections:

  • Reports
  • Explore
  • Advertising
  • Configure

Some of these sections introduce new functionalities; others have been rearranged. Let’s have a closer look at the changes and their implications.

Reports

In the prominently placed Reports section, GA4 provides high-level, pre-built reports that allow you to get a quick overview of your users’ behavior. In general, the built-in reports available have not changed. But now, they are organized in so-called Collections. The default collections are:

  • App Developer (reports dedicated to App tracking in Firebase)
  • Life cycle (Acquisition, Engagement, and Ecommerce reports)
  • User (Demographics and Tech reports)

The collections are where the first improvement to the Google Analytics 4 interface comes into play. Under Library, you can now customize existing collections, create your own collections, and build and group custom reports as needed. 

Long story short, GA4 allows for a completely customizable reporting to tailor it to your specific requirements. Compared to the relatively static appearance of Universal Analytics, this can be considered a significant upgrade and allows quick and easy access to relevant reports.

Explore

By navigating to Explore, we arrive at GA4’s Exploration feature (surprise!). Other than the way we access this feature, there have been no relevant updates. In our previous newsletter edition, we provided you with a more in-depth walkthrough of GA4’s Exploration feature. Have a look at Google Analytics 4: More Than Just Reporting if you want to learn more on how to slice and dice your data in a custom way to reveal insights.

Advertising

With the Advertising section, a dearly missed feature enters GA4: Customer journey analysis and attribution. In particular, GA4 now allows you to evaluate your marketing campaign performance with regards to specific conversion events and have a closer look at your users’ customer journeys before a conversion is registered. The reports enabling this are:

  • Model Comparison
  • Conversion Paths

Comparable reports have been available in Universal Analytics within the Multi-Channel Funnels reports. Universal Analytics’ Model Comparison Tool report becomes the Model Comparison report, and UA’s Top Conversion Paths report is GA4’s Conversion Paths report.

Here you can compare your traffic sources’ contribution to your website goals by applying different attribution models. Attribution models help you gain an in-depth understanding of which touchpoints in the customer journey are critical drivers for conversions. Based on these insights, you and your team will make more educated decisions for future marketing budget allocations.

In the Model Comparison reports, GA4 makes a former GA360 feature available for all GA users. In this case, it’s Data-Driven attribution models

Why is this a big deal? Because in the past only static, rules-based attribution models could be selected by users of the regular GA version. Dynamic, data-driven models yield more accurate results, since the attribution rules are customized to your actual user journeys. If you want to learn more about how Data-Driven Attribution works under the hood and why you should be excited about this feature, we recommend having a glimpse at Google’s respective whitepaper.

Configure

Nomen est omen! Configure is where we have access to critical configuration for our data analysis and activation capabilities in Google Analytics 4. In particular, this section allows you to manage custom dimensions/event parameters, conversions, and audiences. It also allows you to access the DebugView. There is nothing new here in terms of features. Once more, the grouping of similar functionalities makes the Configure tab valuable and, therefore, will save us time in the future.

Make GA4 Fit Your Business Model

Not all businesses are alike. GA4 acknowledges that within the initial data collection by providing recommended events tailored to specific industries, but also within the data processing itself. Two critical settings for data processing in GA4 are the definition of a session and the identification of engaged users

In Google Analytics 4, a session is recorded when your web page is loaded or your app is opened in the foreground. The session then ends after a certain period of user inactivity. The default session timeout is 30 minutes. By default, a session becomes engaged if it lasts longer than 10 seconds (or has at least 1 conversion event or 2 or more page views).

Engaged sessions are proprietary to Google Analytics 4 and aim at replacing the flawed Bounce Rate metric. In Universal Analytics, you were also able to configure the Session timeout span. GA4 lacked the ability to adjust the settings for these until recently. Now within the Data Stream settings this becomes possible under Adjust session timeout.

Having complete control over these two settings is vital for any online business. If your website or app requires the users to use your service for a long time because they are playing a game, watching a movie, or filling out a lengthy form, adjusting the session timeout comes in handy. The same concept applies to the engaged session definition where publishers with long articles most likely have a different definition of engagement than an online retailer.

In case you made adjustments to the session timeout settings in UA in the past, now is the time to reflect these in GA4. If you haven’t thought about the impact of this setting until now, you should question whether the GA4 default really matches your needs.

Closing thoughts

One of the significant gains from switching from a restrictive session-based data model in Universal Analytics to a loosely defined event-based one in GA4 is our flexibility when analyzing the data. These gains are becoming more and more prominent in the new GA4 interface. This applies to both analysis (e.g., customizable reports via Exploration and advanced attribution models) and data processing (e.g., engaged sessions configuration).

At IIH Nordic, we hope for further (currently missing) features to be added to GA4 properties. In particular, product-scoped custom dimensions and connectors to the remaining Google Marketing Platform services (e.g., Display & Video 360, Search Ads 360, and Search Console). With the newly introduced features, Google has made a big step towards use case-parity with Universal Analytics which is the ultimate requirement for Google Analytics 4 to become the source of truth for digital analysts.

Please let us know if you are interested in discussing how GA4 would benefit your organization. Even at the beach, we are available at florian@iihnordic.com and gunnar@iihnordic.com. Talk to you soon and enjoy your summer!

iihnordic.com   |   iih@iihnordic.com   |   +45 70 20 29 19

Gunnar Griese

Gunnar Griese

Analytics Specialist, IIH Nordic