GA4 is a bit like an unwanted dinner party guest, we all knew it was coming but couldn’t do anything about it.
And now here it is, staring at us from across the table and making things difficult for everyone.
It does seem like the Big ‘G’ has made the changeover from Universal Analytics unnecessarily complicated. For example, why change the name of certain metrics just enough to make you doubt you are looking at the same thing?!
Why remove ‘last month’ as a selectable date range in favour of ’28 days’? Who on earth wants a 28 day report?? We don’t and our clients definitely don’t!
Why would you do that Google? Why? Why? WHY!?
(Sorry, lost it there for a moment).
Of course, these and other common frustrations are already well-documented in blogs, forums and podcasts a plenty. Recently, we’ve seen feedback classics such as “Did they find this software in a Christmas cracker?” and “Google should be ashamed, it is an absolute mess.”
Whilst it’s nice to not feel totally alone in your struggles, we think there are also plenty of positives to be found in GA4 as well – increased privacy, better attribution, more indepth reporting (even if some of it is hidden behind a terrible UX) and a better understanding of customer/client journeys.
To try and ease some of the initial pain, we thought we’d share a few of our GA4 tips and discoveries, along with some answers to our most commonly-asked GA4 questions from clients, plus a few reliable resources to help you along your own GA4 journey.
1. GA4 Event Names over 40 characters long cannot be counted as conversions.
Discovered when a client asked us to investigate why an event they had set up was counting as an event but not as a conversion despite being toggled on. Even the ‘esteemed’ Google Tech Support (2nd tier) couldn’t answer that one but we stumbled on the answer in a blog somewhere, shortened the event names and voila, conversions started tracking.
2. If you have low data volumes, the default reporting identity might be hiding some information from you.
This is especially true if you are using Google Signals, as this will pass more personal info that may be identifiable. If you see the little triangle icon (shown below) over your report cards in GA4 then you are being Threshold-ed (a new word we made up – you saw it here first).
You can get around this using a setting called Reporting Identity. There are 3 choices and GA4 defaults to the 2 more complex ones but these are more likely to mean thresholding will be applied. You can manually switch to the 3rd option of ‘Device Based’ by following the steps in our short video guide.
This will remove thresholding but does have some limitations (although these are similar to limitations we already had in Universal Analytics). You can find a really good guide to identities from the good folk at Measure School here: https://measureschool.com/ga4-reporting-identity/.
3. Metrics, even those that have stayed the same, have changed.
So Google basically ripped up how Analytics tracks ‘stuff’ and made it Event Based rather than Session Based. Even the UA metrics that still exist in GA4 are probably counted in new ways – so UA and GA4 will not match exactly. No need to stress about that though, especially if you set up GA4 a while back, and are probably used to the variance in the numbers.
What’s really annoying though is that there are several metrics that still exist but have a completely new name in GA4. So ‘Pageviews’ in UA for example are now simply ‘Views’ in GA4. There are too many of them to mention here but the ever helpful team at Supermetrics built an excellent guide to UA metric names and their equivalents in GA4, along with handy explanations of what each of the metrics are. Find a copy here
4. What is meant by ‘Engaged User’ in GA4 and how does it affect Bounce Rate?
GA4 measures ‘engaged users’ differently to UA and the way it does this also affects ‘bounce rate’ – a UA metric commonly used for assessing how engaged people are onsite.
In UA a ‘bounce’ was someone who basically did ‘nothing’ before leaving the landing page they arrived on. The trouble was if someone spent 5 mins reading the blog they landed on and then left the site, they still counted as a bounce – as they had not taken any action Google could measure. So the old bounce rate was not really a great indication of engagement!
In GA4 an ‘engaged user’ is defined as someone who has either spent more than 10 seconds on the site, or has triggered an event, or at least 2 page views. That person who spent 5 minutes reading your blog would no longer be considered a bounce – nice! However, this does potentially mean your bounce rate will be much lower in GA4, so it could be worth comparing the new number with the old.
There is also a new GA4 metric called ‘engagement rate’ which tells you what percentage of site visitors qualified as ‘engaged’. Bounce rate is then calculated as the inverse of engagement rate – a 60% engagement rate means a 40% bounce rate. This feels like a metric that actually make more sense in it’s new form.
However, one of the comments we’ve heard a lot is that a 10 second site visit is hardly indicative of an ‘engaged’ user. The good news is that you can actually change this definition to a longer time-frame in GA4, although you may need a map and a miners helmet to find out where to do this. Or, you can follow our handy video below to see where it’s hidden. Aren’t we nice?
5. Where is the Google Ads campaign report in GA4?
Nice and easy to find in Universal Analytics, hidden away like a a disgraced family member at a wedding in GA4. Thankfully this trusty report still exists and can be found via the Google Ads card in the Acquisition Overview report. Another of our short video ‘how to’ guides here if you need some help navigating to the right place.
6. Moving away from last click attribution is great but with some big learnings ahead for clients
The ability to see conversions properly attributed across channels is amazing. It should mean the numbers seen in GA4 and other platforms (already using other attribution models) will be closer than previously seen. For example most people never got used to seeing such big differences in their numbers between Google Ads and Universal Analytics.
However one BIG drawback for e-commerce sites is that some metrics like Revenue are no longer trackable in ‘real time’. Got a big sale on and want to see how channels are doing as you progress through the day? Sorry, not do-able anymore with GA4. Black Friday and you want to see how the numbers are looking at lunch time in GA4? Nope, out of luck.
It’s also worth remembering that the default attribution in GA4 is 90 days. This means the revenue or conversions reported daily against each channel can change for up to 3 months. Overall GA4 should provide a much clearer and more detailed picture of how each channel contributes to conversions. However it will be a big change for many clients who are used to seeing a revenue or conversion number in Universal Analytics and it not changing from that point forward.
The GA4 journey continues…
It’s clear that there is lots to get used to with GA4, even though we’ve had access to it for over a year. It will still feel like a massive change to most people. If you have any specific frustrations or eureka moments of your own then we’d love you to share them with us.
Are you struggling to find your way around in GA4 or can’t find the metrics or reports that you were used to in UA? Then please reach out to us with your questions. We will be creating more GA4 quick-fire ‘how to’ videos in the coming weeks.
We can also provide 1 to 1 and bespoke training either online or in person if you need additional support – please get in touch.