Knowing how to use Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is necessary for marketers looking to optimize their digital campaigns. But first, you need to get some basic considerations nailed down.
When gathering information, journalists ask six classic questions:
And you can also use this framework to figure out how to best use GA4 within your organization.
To make the most of the analytics platform, you must be able to answer at least six of the following seven questions:
- Who are our company or client’s target audiences?
- What events should we set up on our website?
- When should we measure micro conversions?
- Where do we need to customize our reports?
- Why is integrating Google Ads with GA4 the first step?
- How should B2B marketers use GA4?
- How should B2C marketers use GA4?
This article explores a framework for maximizing GA4 to improve your digital marketing strategy.
Who are our company or client’s target audiences?
Even within the same organization, “audiences” may mean different things.
The advertising team may refer to audiences for remarketing.
SEO, social, content or digital PR teams might say that audiences refer to a segment of users from their site who have generated similar behavioral data, share demographic data, or are important to the brand in other ways.
Since these teams typically report their acquisition traffic by channel (e.g., organic search, social, or referral), they rarely segment their audiences by behavior, demographics or conversions.
However, GA4 has several suggested audiences you might want to use for segmentation. This includes users who:
- Conducted item searches.
- Started watching a video.
- Finished watching a video.
- Did not complete a tutorial.
- Completed a tutorial.
- Provided an email address.
- Are potential business leads.
GA4 lets those with Editor or Marketer roles create audience triggers when users reach key milestones like initiating X sessions, reading Y articles, or crossing Z conversion thresholds.
With these features, you can:
- Discover what different audiences are searching for and engaging with.
- Learn how users are moving through the customer journey unexpectedly.
- Explore what this means for optimizing the company’s digital marketing strategy.
Plus, if most of the traffic to your site comes from default channels like organic search, organic social, organic video, organic shopping, referral, and audio (e.g., podcast platforms), then why let advertising get all the credit for remarketing to audiences that are not “paid”?
What events should we set up on our website?
Most events showing your contribution to the bottom line are collected automatically when you set up GA4. But they are not reported and cannot be used to create audiences until you enable enhanced measurement.
Here are seven of the automatically collected events that SEOs may want to enable for enhanced measurement:
- File_download: When a user clicks a link leading to a document, presentation, or audio file.
- Form_start: When a user interacts with a form in a session for the first time.
- Form_submit: When the user submits a form.
- Scroll: When a user reaches the bottom 90% of each page for the first time.
- Video_start: When the video starts playing.
- Video_progress: When the video progresses past 10%, 25%, 50%, and 75% duration time.
- Video_complete: When the video ends.
Once you have determined which events are worth measuring, go to Admin, click on Data Streams > Web and slide the switch On under Enhanced measurement to enable your choices.
You should also consider adding several recommended events, including:
- Generate_lead: A user submits a form to request information.
- Login: A user logs in.
- Purchase: A user completes a purchase.
- Search: A user searches for your content.
- Share: A user shares your content.
- Tutorial_begin: A user begins a tutorial.
- Tutorial_complete: A user completes a tutorial.
You can also set up custom events, but I will not even try to guess what you might want to create.
This is because GA4 uses event-based data instead of session-based data. So, now you need to measure specific interactions after users come to your site and which default channel they used to get there.
When should we measure micro conversions?
You probably know that micro conversions measure important steps to completing macro conversions.
But executives only seem interested in macro conversions. So, setting up micro conversions was not worth it – until GA4 came along.
In most cases, the process is as easy as going to Admin, clicking on Events, and selecting the toggle under Mark as a conversion.
For example, you might want to measure the following micro conversions:
- Scroll to 90% of a blog post or article.
- Play at least 50% of a product video.
- Complete a tutorial.
- Download a white paper.
- Complete a registration form.
- Register for a service.
- Add merchandise to the shopping cart.
If you can associate monetary values with your micro conversions, then more executives will think that they matter.
Let’s say 10% of the people who sign up for a newsletter go on to become customers, and your average transaction is $500. Then you might associate $50 (i.e., 10% of $500) as the monetary value of a newsletter sign-up.
To add a value when someone has completed a registration form:
- On the left, click Admin > Events.
- Click Create event to see the table of custom events.
- Click the event to modify.
- In the Parameter configuration section, click Add modification.
- In the Parameter field, enter currency.
- In the Value field, enter a currency type (e.g., USD).
- Click Add modification.
- In the Parameter field, enter the value.
- In the New value field, enter a value (e.g., 50 for $50).
- Click Save.
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Where do we need to customize our reports?
GA4 offers different report collections based on the information provided during setup.
The first default set of reports you might see is the Life cycle collection, which helps you understand each stage in the customer journey – from acquisition to engagement to monetization to retention.
It is replaced by the Business objectives collection if someone selected “Raise brand awareness,” “Examine user behavior,” “Generate leads.” or “Drive online sales” during setup.
There is also a User collection, which helps you understand the people who use your site, including their demographics (e.g., age, location) and the technology they use (e.g., browser version, app version).
You can also:
- Change the primary dimension in a report.
- Add a secondary dimension to a report.
- Apply a filter to show a subset of your report data.
- Adjust the date range in a report.
And check out Explorations, which is a set of audience discovery and comparison tools that help you uncover deeper insights about your customers’ behavior. This includes:
- Funnel exploration: See where users abandon the customer journeys that you have laid out on your site and identify how well they are succeeding or failing at each step.
- Path exploration: See the paths your users take as they interact with your site.
- Segment overlap: See if different segments of users overlap with each other. Use this technique to identify new user segments that meet complex criteria.
- User exploration: Analyze the users that make up the segments you create. You can also drill down into individual user activities.
- Cohort exploration: Discover insights about the behavior and performance of groups of users that are related by common attributes.
- User lifetime: Examine user behavior and value over their lifetime as a customer.
Why is integrating Google Ads with GA4 the first step?
GA4 also provides direct integrations with a variety of platforms.
One is Google Ads integration. This lets you see the full customer cycle, from clicking on ads to completing micro and macro conversions. This step also enables remarketing in Google Ads using lists based on the Analytics audiences that SEOs and marketers create in GA4.
But Google Ads integration is just the first step.
SEOs need their companies and clients to integrate Search Console with GA4 so they can analyze organic search traffic to the site.
This integration lets you see:
- Where your site ranks in search results.
- Which queries generate clicks.
- How those clicks translate into user behavior, like which landing pages engage more users and how many of these users go on to convert.
And B2B marketers may need to integrate Salesforce Marketing Cloud with GA4. This integration lets you track and analyze customer journey activity through your GA4 property.
But these sound like plumbing projects. How can you turn critical data from these integrations with GA4 into strategic insights to optimize your digital marketing strategy?
You might want to follow Avinash Kaushik’s advice:
“I’ve come to learn that this desire to overachieve also comes at a very heavy cost—it drives sub-optimal behavior. Instead, I recommend this as the #1 goal for your company: Suck less, every day. Whatever you do today, consciously suck less at it.”
Although I gasped when I first read his article five years ago, I now realize this is precisely how to use GA4 to optimize your digital marketing strategy today.
How should B2B marketers use GA4?
B2B CMOs may not want to tell the rest of the C-suite that their digital marketing strategy is to “suck less every day,” and re-brand this approach by calling it the “flywheel marketing” or “digital transformation” strategy.
But whatever it’s called, this approach will enable marketing teams to harness the insights that Analytics Intelligence will soon start displaying on the home page of GA4 to nurture audiences, subscribers and leads.
Analytics Intelligence uses machine learning and conditions that you can configure to highlight unexpected opportunities and threats.
Analytics Intelligence uses a statistical technique called anomaly detection. To detect hourly anomalies, the training period is two weeks.
To detect daily anomalies, it is 90 days. And to detect weekly anomalies, the training period is 32 weeks.
But here is what B2B marketers will want to focus on: Analytics Intelligence uses a statistical technique called “contribution analysis” to identify the user segments (a.k.a., audiences) contributing to anomalies.
Then, it calculates the “anomalous metric value” for each user segment. Finally, it surfaces user segments on “anomaly insight cards.”
A non-profit organization in Pittsburgh named 412 Food Rescue needed to recruit more volunteers to deliver food from retailers to people experiencing food insecurity.
As you’ll learn by watching “Google Analytics: 412 Food Rescue Case Study,” automated insights showed them that weekends tended to be a little bit slower in terms of volunteers and engagement.
So, they adjusted the social media campaigns driving traffic to their website.
They also cut their reporting time by 50%, freeing up their limited staff to expand to new cities.
How should B2C marketers use GA4?
But how can the country’s top 100 advertisers, which are all B2C companies, use GA4 to optimize their digital marketing strategy?
Fortunately, GA4 offers a new way to measure online video advertising campaigns through engaged-view conversions (EVCs), which indicates that someone watched your YouTube ad for at least 10 seconds and then converted on your website within three days of viewing it.
This new KPI leverages consumer behavior. It turns out that people have a strong intent to watch the content that they have come to YouTube for. So, they tend to stay on the platform even when seeing an ad during their viewing session.
People often do not act immediately after viewing a YouTube video ad. Instead, they often wait to act until after they have finished their full viewing session.
This is also where EVCs come in and explains why 70% of YouTube viewers say they bought a brand after finding it on YouTube.
EVCs have been available since September 2020. But three announcements at Brandcast, YouTube’s 12th annual advertiser showcase, which was part of the Upfronts 2023, give the top 100 advertisers in the U.S. even more reasons – and more screens – to start using this nerdy KPI.
First, YouTube CEO Neal Mohan said:
“We’re seeing a seismic shift in the way people consume content. More and more, viewers are tuning into YouTube on the biggest screen in their home. According to Nielsen, YouTube is the leader in streaming watch time on TV screens in the U.S.”
YouTube reached over 150 million people on connected TVs in the United States, according to Nielsen data. That’s a much bigger audience than advertisers can reach during the Super Bowl.
Second, YouTube Chief Business Officer Mary Ellen Coe said:
“No one does sports better than YouTube. We give you access to all the content fans love with live and on-demand and across league partnerships like the NFL, the NBA, and more. And we’re the number one sports destination for Gen Z fans.”
Gen Z (18-24) YouTube viewers rank YouTube as the #1 video platform they need to engage with things they are passionate about, according to Archrival.
Third, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said:
“The fact is, millions of football fans are on YouTube to catch all things NFL. This past year, NFL content on the platform gained a 27% increase in watch time year-over-year, with 1.9 billion views.”
All this gives you new reasons to use GA4 to optimize your digital marketing strategy before Sept. 10, 2023, when YouTube debuts as the new home of NFL Sunday Ticket.
The day after this “big game,” you don’t want to face tough questions about why you stayed on the sideline while other advertisers reached football fans across YouTube’s entire array of NFL content.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.