In the second post of our three-part blog series on GA4, we’ll look at key website metrics to track with GA4. For more background, read up on the differences between Universal Analytics and GA4. Once you know what metrics you want to track, read about your options to create website metrics reports in GA4.
In March 2022, Google announced that Universal Analytics will no longer collect new data as of July 1, 2023. Additionally, you will only be able to access your old data for 6 months after that point.
Because of the differences between Universal Analytics and GA4, you will not be able to easily compare data between the two systems. In addition, due to these structural differences, Google is not providing a mechanism to import old data from Universal Analytics into GA4.
GA4 Lifecycle Metrics
In GA4, metrics are arranged based on the customer journey (awareness, consideration, purchase, retention). These are labeled as Acquisition, Engagement, Monetization, and Retention in GA4. For each one of these phases, you will want to choose which metrics best support your strategic goals.
Use acquisition metrics to learn about users who are in the awareness phase of their journey. GA4 provides views to see which channels, campaigns, or ads brought the most users to your site. For a simple, high-level view, “First User Default Channel Grouping” may give you all you need. If you are using UTM tags in your social and email marketing, you’ll want to choose First User Campaign. If you are running Google Ads, you can view new users by network type, group name, or group ID from Google Ads.
If you are focused on SEO, you can connect your GA4 and Google Search Console accounts to see directly within GA4 which search terms are driving the most traffic to your site.
During the consideration phase, customers are looking for more information about your products and services before they make a purchase. Which metrics tell you if they are progressing down that path? If you look at the users, views, conversions, and revenue for your top pages, is there a page that is getting traffic but not generating revenue at the level you want it to? If so, work on optimizing that page until you achieve the results you want.
Speaking of conversions, you will want to define and create custom conversion events in GA4 that represent specific user actions (sometimes known as micro-conversions) that indicate a user is progressing on their journey to a purchase. Maybe this is signing up for your newsletter or downloading a white paper. By tracking these events, you can run a remarketing campaign targeted at those who have completed these micro-conversions to encourage them to make a purchase.
The Monetization metrics provide data about the purchase activities on your site. Which data is most relevant for tracking progress to your strategic goals in this phase? GA4 can easily show which purchases are a result of ads, the average purchase amount per user and which products get added to the cart and purchased most frequently. From a marketing perspective, it’s worth tracking which campaigns and ads resulted in the most purchases. You could also consider doing some audience segmentation to see which micro-conversions correlate to the most purchases or if logged-in users (ie. club members) spend more than general users.
The most important metrics here will help you see patterns and trends so you can target your efforts in a way that helps move more users to the purchase phase quicker.
It’s been said that it costs 5-to-7 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. GA4 provides retention-based metrics that can be segmented by different “cohorts” or user audiences. Depending on what’s important for your organization, you can build audiences based on how they first came to your site, which micro-conversions they’ve completed, their demographic data, and their technology data and then track how often members of these audiences return to your site.
Avoid “Vanity Metrics”
GA4 provides many different ways to segment and analyze your data to find meaningful trends and patterns that will help you more effectively market your products and services. However, there are also “vanity metrics” that look important but don’t give you any truly valuable insights.
As the nature of online engagement changed, the bounce rate in UA became one of these metrics. You had no way of knowing if your bounce rate was high because your content was not what the user was looking for, or if it was exactly what they were looking for and they did not need to continue to another page.
The overall Event Count in GA4 is another metric that looks important but doesn’t necessarily give you actionable information. Since everything is an event in GA4, this number will always be high, which may make it tempting to use. But which events are contributing the most to this overall count and are they the events you care about the most? If you are going to use event count data, focus on the count for individual events where that number has more meaning.
Data and Analytics Services
Switching to GA4 is a great opportunity to re-evaluate which website metrics to track that are most important for your marketing efforts and search for new insights that have not been available previously through Universal Analytics. Learn more about our data and analytics services.