Johari Lanng, our Performance Analytics Product Lead, spoke at State of Social in 2023 about leveraging Google Analytics 4 (GA4) for deeper insights and more effective marketing campaigns. This post is an adaptation of his presentation.
Click on the names below to download the resources mentioned during Johari’s presentation:
- GA4 Technical Setup Checklist
- UTM Builder Template
- Measurement Framework Template
- Looker Studio Template
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) represents the next great shift in data measurement. Understanding GA4 and performance measurement imparts three significant benefits:
- Your decisions will be more effective – When you’re backed by clear, comprehensive data, your decisions become informed and confident, leading to more effective outcomes and better marketing performance.
- The way you think about marketing will change – By understanding data-driven insights, your approach to marketing evolves from reactive to proactive. This shift enables you to craft strategies that not only respond to customer needs but anticipate them, positioning your business for long-term success.
- Your stress will reduce – Clear metrics and data-driven insights make it easier to communicate your marketing initiatives to key stakeholders. With an established measurement framework and actionable narratives, you can provide transparency and clarity, reducing stress and improving communication across your organisation.
In this article, we’ll explore the anatomy of excellent performance measurement frameworks and explain how your organisation can make better decisions, more confidently with data.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4 is Google’s latest web and app analytics platform. It succeeds Universal Analytics (UA) and aims to offer marketers a more modern and flexible data analytics package. Where UA centred on sessions, GA4 emphasises events, which capture user actions more comprehensively than sessions.
Understanding Your Metrics
Before establishing your measurement framework, you need to understand the metrics you’ll be using to evaluate the data you collect. Our focus for the rest of the article will be on performance metrics, the quantifiable indicators that mirror a business’s performance, however, it’s important to understand the broader context that performance metrics fit within.
There are four types of metrics to consider:
- Vanity Metrics – While often impressive at first glance, these numbers might not correlate directly with key business goals. Think likes, shares, or page views. Important for brand awareness, perhaps, but they don’t necessarily translate to revenue.
- Lagging Metrics – These are the after-the-fact indicators. By the time you see them, the action has taken place. Revenue from the past quarter, for example, can provide insights but doesn’t directly impact the future.
- Leading Metrics – The forward indicators. They give insights into future performance. For instance, the number of demos scheduled or trials started can be a strong predictor of next month’s sales.
- Coincident Metrics – Also known as comparative benchmarks, these metrics cast a spotlight on your business in relation to the broader external ecosystem. Examples include market share, industry growth rate employee turnover rates.
The performance metrics you should be tracking (e.g. revenue, gross margin, cost of goods sold) typically fit under the Lagging Metrics type.
By distinguishing between these metric types, you can ensure you’re not just gathering data, but establishing actionable narratives from them.
Units of Measurement in Google Analytics 4
The next step to constructing your measurement framework is understanding the key units that affect how GA4 measures and evaluates data.
- Attribution Models. These models determine how much credit a marketing channel or touchpoint receives for a sale or conversion. For example, Last-Click Attribution assigns 100% of the credit for a conversion to the last channel a user engaged with before making a purchase. GA4 also offers the algorithmically governed Data-Driven model.
- Dimensions and Metrics. In the simplest terms, dimensions describe data, and metrics measure them. Dimensions could be the browser a site visitor uses, while metrics would be the number of pages viewed by that user.
- UTM Tracking. Leverage URL parameters to discern traffic origins—whether from an email campaign, a specific social media post, or a partner site. This is essential for gauging the effectiveness of varied campaigns.
- Channels and Campaigns. Channels are the paths or sources where traffic originates, like organic search or paid social ads, while campaigns are marketing endeavours to promote a product, service, or cause. A campaign typically includes multiple channels. GA4 allows you to segment data by both channels and campaigns, as seen in the table below.
Make sure you’re aware of which attribution model your GA4 property is using and understand the different ways to segment and explore data. Next, we’ll look at the different platforms that form your measurement framework.
Establishing Your Measurement Framework
The following blueprint is the foundation for all measurement frameworks. While individual needs might require the inclusion of additional integrations and software, the core components shown below remain essential to all effective frameworks.
- Channels and Sources. Understand the origins of your traffic. This could be through organic search, paid ads, social media, or referrals. Each channel offers distinct insights and requires specific tracking techniques to gauge the quality and volume of traffic they contribute.
- Your Website. The architecture and functionalities of your website play a pivotal role. Your website not only passes source information through to GA4 but also collects data as users navigate through it. Defining user actions as events in GA4 allows you to gather detailed insights into on-site user behaviours.
- Google Tag Manager. This integration works as a repository for all of your tracking code and event triggers. Google Tag Manager makes it easy to quickly update your tracking codes without needing to update the code of your website directly.
- Google Analytics 4. The collection point for all of your user data.
- Looker Studio. To go beyond the basic visualisations of GA4 you need to integrate a third-party data visualisation tool. Looker Studio is Google’s solution and it integrates directly with Google Analytics 4, making data transfer simple.
- Additional Data Sources. Depending on your organization, you may also benefit from integrating additional platforms into your measurement framework. Here are a few common platforms that you might want to include:
- Point of Sale Systems. Indispensable for businesses that operate physical outlets, allowing you to merge in-store behaviours with online data.
- Content Management System. To track the influence of content updates on user engagement.
- Call Tracking. Quantify the success of online initiatives in driving offline calls.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Platform. Combining CRM data with GA4 presents a comprehensive view of customer touchpoints throughout their interaction journey.
Reporting and Data Visualisation
Data is only as valuable as the insights it imparts. Reporting and data visualisation tools breathe life into raw numbers, transforming them into comprehensible narratives that can inform strategy. There are three reporting options worth considering in GA4:
- Basic Reports – These are the standard, pre-packaged reports available in Google Analytics 4. They cover a wide range of metrics, from user behaviour to site traffic. Basic reports are easy to set up and can give you a quick, general overview of your data. They’re particularly useful when you need a quick snapshot of your performance. Find Basic reports under the Report heading in the sidebar.
- Exploration Reports – Exploration reports in GA4 take your data analysis to the next level. They allow you to dive deeper into your data, creating custom tables, charts, and segments to explore specific metrics and dimensions. With Exploration reports, you have greater control and can tailor your analysis to your specific needs. Find Exploration reports under the Explore heading in the sidebar.
- Looker Studio Reports – Looker Studio goes beyond what’s possible with GA4, offering advanced data visualisation and reporting capabilities. With Looker Studio, you can create highly customised reports, dashboards, and visualisations that pull in data from multiple sources. Its robust features and integration capabilities make it ideal for complex data analysis and for organisations that need to combine multiple data sources into one comprehensive report.
Establishing a robust measurement framework is the linchpin to making informed decisions. While tools like Google Analytics 4 provide the means, it’s the framework that turns raw data into actionable insights. Harnessing this power leads to clear, precise, and impactful strategies, ensuring that every decision rests on a solid foundation of data and research.