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Beginners guide to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

Are you ready to unlock the power of data-driven insights to improve your website? 

Whether you run a purpose-led business or a charity, this no-nonsense guide is designed to help you harness the potential of Google Analytics 4. Let’s dive in and thrive together!

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is an analytics service that enables you to measure traffic and engagement across your websites and apps.  It replaces Universal Analytics (UA), which will be discontinued July 1st 2023.

To make best use of this guide, you should already have GA4 tracking installed on your website and some data to interpret. Need help setting up your analytics? Book a Power Hour

GA4 vs Universal Analytics

If you have previously used Google Analytics Universal, I would encourage you to approach this GA4 with a completely fresh perspective.

As you transition from UA to GA4, remember that GA4 tracks website data differently. Some aspects may have similar names, but GA4 operates with its own unique approach.

Although there are some cross-overs in terms, there are some things that share the same name but are actually completely different. 

A focus on engagement statistics 

GA4 cares about a different set of measurables than UA. It has some amazing features, especially its emphasis on tracking engagement. From scrolling and video watches to file downloads and form fills, GA4 captures more user interactions than ever before.

Some great things GA4 tracks automatically

GA4 tracks much more as default that Universal Analytics did:

  • Scrolling
  • Video watches 
  • File downloads
  • Form fills 
  • E-commerce measurements such as Add to cart, checkout starts and completions
  • External link clicks 

Tracking conversions 

Tracking conversions has got a whole lot easier!

Say goodbye to “Bounce Rate”  

Bounce rate is now gone as a stand-alone metric in GA4. Instead, GA4 prefers you to report on “engagement rate”, intended to show you the percentage of quality site visits.

Customisable dashboards

GA4 is all about building your own reports so you can make the most of it. Personalise your reports with GA4’s customisable collections and tailor your analytics experience to suit your needs.

How to set up GA4

Before diving into reporting, it’s essential to understand how GA4 collects data about your website through events tracking.

How to find the events your website is tracking in GA4:

Admin > Under the Property Column, Click Events

Events

GA4 collects all user actions on your website as “Events”. Events measure user interactions on your website, and uses the data to create reports.

Automatically Collected Events

EventTriggered by…
first_visitthe first time a user visits a website or launches an Android instant app with Analytics enabled
session_startwhen a user engages the app or website
scrollthe first time a user reaches the bottom of each page (i.e., when a 90% vertical depth becomes visible)

click

(web)

each time a user clicks a link that leads away from the current domain

file_download

(web)

when a user clicks a link leading to a file (with a common file extension) of the following types:

  • document
  • text
  • executable
  • presentation
  • compressed file
  • video
  • audio
form_startthe first time a user interacts with a form in a session
form_submitwhen the user submits a form
video_startwhen the video starts playing (only for embedded YouTube videos that have JS API support enabled)
video_progresswhen the video progresses past 10%, 25%, 50%, and 75% duration time  (only for embedded YouTube videos that have JS API support enabled)
video_completewhen the video ends (only for embedded YouTube videos that have JS API support enabled)
view_search_resultseach time a user performs a site search, indicated by the presence of a URL query parameter

Ecommerce Events

EventTriggered by…
Add to cartsItems added to cart
CheckoutsItems checked out
Item-list click eventsItems clicked in list
Item-list view eventsItems viewed in list
Item view eventsItems viewed
Promotion clicksItems clicked in promotion
Promotion viewsItems viewed in promotion
PurchasesItems purchased
QuantityItem quantity
RefundsItem refund

Other Events

You may also notice other Events not listed above. This can be if you have integrated third-party code or software, such as embedded forms, chat widgets and more.

Creating your own Events

You can create a your own events based on an existing event and then trigger it on specific conditions.

Conversions

A conversion is any user action that’s valuable to your business; for example, a user purchasing from your store, filling out a form, or booking a consultation.

The primary way to measure a Google Analytics conversion is to create or identify an event that measures the important user interaction and then mark the event as a conversion.

Too mark events as a conversion follow this guide:

GA4 Dashboard: Home

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Your homepage shows an overview of your analytics based on what Google thinks you want to see. It isn’t particularly customisable but can be useful to get a snapshot of your website stats. 

Things you can do on this page:

  • Change the time period on each graph by clicking the “Last…days” label
  • Click on each individual stat to show it on the graph
  • Change what is being measured by clicking on the labels such as “Users” or “Average engagement time”

GA4 Dashboard: Get insights quickly

GA4 has “Insights” which can help you get answers to specific questions quickly. It uses something it refers to as “Analytics Intelligence”.

Access pre-set insights

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To access Insights click the icon that looks like this, usually found top right of your screen
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This will bring up a panel to the right of your screen to explore stats about your website.

Here you can access quick information about your site with pre-set questions Google Intelligence.

Ask Google a question

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Click on the search bar at the top of google analytics and you can ask a question. Try and be as specific as possible.

For example:

“What countries do my users come from?”

“How many users came from organic search in the last 30 days?”

“Compare conversions from organic vs direct channels”

Google will then bring up the “Insights” Panel on the right of your screen and try to answer your question.

GA4 Dashboard: Reports

Reports are where all the magic happens! 

GA4 has a set of pre-built reports, but the key here is to build the reports that you want to see. 

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Access reports by clicking this icon on the left of screen. 

Reports snapshot

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When getting started with Google Analytics, you will see a Reports Snapsnot report, a Realtime report, and a number of predefined reports that Google thinks are right for you.

Everyone with access to your analytics account will see the same set of reports on the left.

Build your own report collections

Reports can be organised into Collections that will then appear on the left of your Report Dashboard screen. 

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To see the full set of reports available to you, click the "Library" button on the left of screen. 

You can make use of the existing collections or create your own

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Using the customise collection screen you can:

  • Create your own topics to arrange collections into
  • Drag and drop reports from the right column to the left column.
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Recommended collections for GA4 beginners

1. Audience

Create a brand new blank collection and name it “1. Audience”. Use the ‘Customise collection’ tool to add the following Topics and Reports

Topic nameReports to add
User Attributes
  • User attributes overview
  • Audiences
  • Demographic details
Retention
  • Retention overview
Tech
  • Tech overview
  • Tech details

2. Acquisition

Create a brand new blank collection and name it “2. Acquisition”. Use the ‘Customise collection’ tool to add the following Topics and Reports

Topic name Reports to add
Overview
  • Acquisition overview
  • User acquisition
  • Traffic acquisition
  • Landing page
Search
  • Google organic search traffic
  • Queries

3. Engagement

Create a brand new blank collection and name it “3. Engagement”. Use the ‘Customise collection’ tool to add the following Topics and Reports

Topic name Reports to add
Overview
  • Engagement overview
  • Events
Content
  • Pages and screens

4. Conversions

Create a brand new blank collection and name it “4. Conversions”. Use the ‘Customise collection’ tool to add the following Topics and Reports

For businesses without e-commerce features

Topic name Reports to add
Overview
  • Conversions

For businesses with e-commerce functions

Topic name Reports to add
Overview
  • Monetisation overview
  • Ecommerce purchases
  • User purchase journey

Customise and build your own reports

To customise your report collections even further, you can edit and build your own reports based on your Google data. You can then save these to collections. 

In the Library screen scroll down to the reports section. Here you will see all the available reports that you can currently add to Collections. 

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To edit a new report, click the 'Create new report' button
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To edit an existing report, click the three dots and select "edit".
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You can then edit your report with the right-hand panel by adding data, filters, charts and cards.

You can either ‘save changes to existing report’, which will overwrite your existing report seen in collections. Alternatively, you can save this as a new report.

Need help setting up custom reports? Book a consultation

Explorations

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Access Explorations by clicking this icon on the left of screen. 

Explorations is a collection of advanced techniques that go beyond standard reports to help you uncover deeper insights about your customer’s behaviour.

There is a template gallery to make use of, or you can create a report from scratch. 

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Things you can do with Explorations:

  • Create complex data tables and filters
  • Create funnels
  • See the paths users are taking across your website
  • Analyse audience behaviour in depth
  •  Explore individual user activity

… and MUCH MUCH MORE.

Need help setting up custom Explorations? Book a consultation

Conclusion

Google Analytics 4 is an indispensable tool for understanding website performance and user behaviour when customised properly. 

Implement the tips shared in this blog post and start leveraging the power of Google Analytics to make informed decisions that drive growth and success for your website.

As you embark on your Google Analytics 4 journey, remember to embrace experimentation and continuous improvement. Don’t be afraid to explore different features and track metrics that align with your specific goals.

We’d love to hear about your experiences and successes with Google Analytics. Share your thoughts and any questions you may have in the comments below or drop us a message.

Remember to subscribe to our newsletter for branding and website tips.

Happy tracking!

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Emily Jones

Founder of Two Shoes Creative
Helping ethical businesses and charities grow through powerful branding and websites.

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