Explore our step-by-step guide to Google Analytics 4. Learn how to set up GA4, customize reports, and understand segments, dimensions, and metrics.
Google Analytics 4, often referred to as GA4, is the latest version of Google’s web analytics service. It’s a tool that helps website owners understand how visitors are interacting with their site.
Brief overview of GA4
Imagine you own a physical store. You’d naturally want to know how many people come into your store, what products they look at, what they buy, and perhaps even what they say about your store to their friends. GA4 is like a super observant store manager who keeps track of all this information for a website.
- Visitor Count: GA4 can tell you how many people visit your website, just like a store manager would know how many people walked into the store.
- Behavior Tracking: It observes what pages your visitors look at (like what products people are looking at in a store), how long they stay (how long they spend browsing around), and what they interact with (like what products they pick up for a closer look).
- Purchases: If you’re selling something on your website, GA4 can track what items visitors add to their cart and purchase, similar to a store manager keeping track of sales.
- Marketing Insights: GA4 can also tell you where your visitors came from, whether they clicked on a link in a Google search, followed a link from another website, or came from a social media post. This is like knowing if people saw an ad for your store, were referred by a friend, or just walked by and decided to come in.
- User Journey: One of the new features of GA4 is its ability to track a user’s journey across devices. So if a person first visits your website on their phone and later on their laptop, GA4 can recognize that it’s the same person. It’s like a store manager who recognizes a customer whether they come in during the morning jog or an afternoon shopping trip.
Importance of Customizing GA4 Reports for Business Needs
- Tailored Insights: Focus on metrics that matter to your business.
- Data-Driven Decisions: Highlight trends and patterns for informed decision-making.
- Efficiency: Save time with relevant data in an easy-to-read format.
- Competitive Edge: Gain deeper insights for a competitive advantage.
- Goal Tracking: Monitor specific business goals and KPIs.
- Cross-Platform Analysis: Understand user behavior across web and mobile.
- Audience Insights: Learn more about your audience for effective marketing.
- Conversion Focus: Identify what’s driving conversions and optimize.
Understanding GA4 Interface
When you first log into GA4, you’ll land on the Home page. This provides a snapshot of key metrics like users, sessions, and conversion. It also shows trends over time and user demographics.
This section is present inside the report section. It shows what’s happening on your site right now. It includes active users, their locations, the pages they’re viewing and the device being used by them.
This section is divided into several reports: Acquisition, Engagement, Monetization, and Retention. Each report provides insights into different stages of the user journey.
This section includes Demographics and Tech reports, providing insights into the characteristics of your users and the technology they use to access your site.
Differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics
|Data Model||Session-based model.||Event-based model.||In UA, a session starts when a user visits your site and ends after 30 minutes of inactivity. In GA4, instead of sessions, every action a user takes (like page views, button clicks) is logged as an individual event.|
|Cross-Platform Tracking||Separate properties for web and app tracking.||Unified tracking for both web and app.||In UA, you’d need to create separate properties to track a website and a mobile app. In GA4, you can track both in the same property.|
|User ID||User ID needs to be manually set up.||Automatic tracking of users across devices.||In UA, you’d need to manually set up User ID to track a user across devices. GA4 does this automatically.|
|Events||Limited to predefined categories, actions, labels, and values.||Flexible event tracking.||In UA, event tracking might be: Category (Videos), Action (Play), Label (Product Video). In GA4, you can define any event, like ‘video_play’, without needing a category or label.|
|Conversion Tracking||Limited to 20 goals per view.||No limit on conversion events.||In UA, you can only set up 20 goals (like form submissions or purchases) per view. In GA4, you can set up unlimited conversion events.|
|Reporting||Standard reports with limited customization.||More flexible and customizable reporting.||In UA, you have standard reports like Audience, Acquisition, Behavior. In GA4, you can create custom reports based on any metric or dimension.|
|Machine Learning||Limited machine learning capabilities.||Advanced machine learning capabilities.||In GA4, machine learning can predict future actions, like churn probability or purchase probability, which are not available in UA.|
|Privacy||Less focus on user privacy.||More privacy-centric.||GA4 is designed with future privacy regulations in mind, offering features like data deletion requests and consent mode, which are not as robust in UA.|
Setting up GA4
- Create a New Property:
- Log in to your Google Analytics account.
- Click on “Admin” in the lower-left corner.
- In the “Account” column, make sure you’ve selected the correct account where you want to create the new property.
- In the “Property” column, click on “+ Create Property”.
- Enter a name for the property, select the reporting time zone and currency, then click “Next”.
- Fill in the “About your business” section and click “Create”.
- Set Up a Data Stream:
- Once the property is created, you’ll be prompted to set up a data stream. Choose between “Web”, “iOS app”, and “Android app”.
- If you choose “Web”, enter your website URL and a stream name (usually the name of your website). Click “Create stream”.
- Install the GA4 Tracking Code:
- After creating the data stream, you’ll see a “Web stream details” page.
- Find the “Tagging Instructions” section and click on “Global site tag (gtag.js)”.
- Copy the provided code and paste it into every webpage you want to track, just before the closing </head> tag.
- Configure Basic Events:
- Scroll down to the “Enhanced measurement” section in the “Web stream details” page.
- Here, you can toggle on or off the automatic tracking for certain types of user engagement, like page views, scrolls, outbound clicks, site search, video engagement, and file downloads.
- Set Up Additional Tracking (Optional):
- If you want to track additional events, you can use the “Event tags” feature to set up custom events. This requires additional coding and is usually done by a developer.
- Verify the Setup:
- Visit your website and perform some actions.
- Go back to the “Realtime” report in your GA4 property to see if these actions are being tracked.
Creating Custom Reports in GA4
Step 1: Access Explorations
From your GA4 property, click on “Explore” in the left-hand menu. This will open the Explorations workspace.
Step 2: Choose a Template:
In the Explorations workspace, you’ll see a variety of templates like Free Form, Funnel Analysis, Path Analysis, etc. Click on the one that suits your needs. For a general custom report, “Free Form” is a good starting point.
Step 3: Set Up the Report:
At the top of the workspace, within the variable section you’ll see options to name your exploration report and select a date range.
Step 4: Add the required Variables
The variables consists of three sections – segments, dimension, and metrics. Click on the plus icon to select and import the additional set of variables within segments, dimension, and metrics.
|Segment||A subset of your data based on certain criteria. It allows you to isolate and analyze specific trends in your data.||A segment could be users from a specific country, users who made a purchase, or users who visited a specific page on your website.|
|Dimension||A descriptive attribute or characteristic of an object that can be given different values. Dimensions are used to help specify the data you want in a report.||For dimensions, think of characteristics such as the city where a user is located, the page a user visited on your site, or the type of device a user is using.|
|Metric||Quantitative measurements of your data. Metrics are typically the numerical values that you’re measuring.||For metrics, think of numerical measurements like the number of users visiting your site, the number of page views, or the average session duration.|
NOTE: In Google Analytics, these terms will help you filter, categorize, and analyze your data.
Step 5: Tab Settings – Drag and Drop the Variable
In the Tab Settings section, you can set up your rows, columns, and values. Drag and drop the dimensions and metrics you defined in the Variables section.
Step 6: Save and Share the Report:
Once you’re happy with your custom report, don’t forget to click “Save” at the top. You can also share the report by clicking on “Share” and choosing an option.
In the realm of data, understanding is power. With this comprehensive guide to Google Analytics 4, you’re now equipped to harness that power. From setting up GA4 to creating custom reports and understanding key terms, you’re ready to transform raw data into actionable insights. Remember, the journey doesn’t end here. Continue exploring, learning, and customizing to ensure your GA4 setup aligns with your unique business needs. Happy analyzing!
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