The latest version of Google Analytics has arrived, and with a new focus on users’ privacy and events that are triggered throughout the user journey, things are going to look a little different.
We know the move to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) might feel like a big change, which is why at Forward Action we’ve worked hard to understand what the transition will mean for our partners, and how we can use GA4 to boost engagement across the sector.
In this blog, the first of our two-part GA4 series, we’ll focus on on-page events and the changes we made to enhance the data being collected. Part two will focus on other exciting features to help you maximise opportunities following our upcoming GA4 free webinar.
What is GA4 and why has Google built it?
First things first, what is GA4 all about? And why has Google built a new analytics platform, requiring their millions of existing customers to make the switch or risk losing the ability to track visitors on their sites?
GA4 was built with two major considerations in mind:
- The need for an analytics platform that tracks across both websites and mobile applications.
- A heavier focus on user privacy.
These considerations come as a response to the vastly different landscape of the online world since Google’s last major analytics platform release (Universal Analytics in 2012). The introduction of GDPR and heightened privacy laws, along with a change in how users are interacting with their devices (especially the huge increase in mobile browsing) has meant that Google needed a fresh approach to analytics.
GA4 is meant to do just that. Some of its benefits include:
- A focus on the user journey, tracking across-platform and device
- Automatic event tracking on common user behaviour (eg. clicks, scrolls, transactions)
- A new customisable reporting view
- Making it easier to anonymise user data and to remove it completely
- Moving away from 3rd-party cookies
Google’s move from using 3rd-party cookies (which track users across multiple sites) to 1st-party cookies (which only track on the site where the cookie was set) has meant it must also now rely more on machine-learning algorithms to fill in gaps in user data that it previously had access to.
The above changes required a completely new platform, and as GA customers have now transitioned to a new way of collecting user data (or are in the process of doing so), there are also opportunities for gathering more insightful data, especially when it comes to on-page events – and that’s what our focus at Forward Action has been.
What we’ve done in-house
Here at Forward Action, we manage platforms for many different partners at any given time – and one of our key products, our very own form builder ‘Blueprint’, was a focus of ours when we began thinking about how best to transition to GA4.
We wanted to make sure we could easily make the move to GA4 without any loss in data, but also to try and improve the data we were collecting.
We decided to use Blueprint as our testing ground, and initially made updates to our platform template that we could then roll out across our existing partners Blueprint platforms as well.
At this point you should already have a GA4 account set up, but maybe you’re still unsure of how best to configure it. The following steps give an insight into what we did at FA and can be easily adapted to your own needs.
Step 1: Setting up a GA4 account
We began by setting up a GA4 account, and chose the option to link it to our existing UA account. It’s not a necessity but certainly made the transition easier as we were also able to copy across configuration settings with minimal effort. This also meant we could track the data in both GA4 and UA by using the same tag which was invaluable in helping us see the differences in how data was captured by the two platforms.
One significant insight was seeing how differently events were handled. The classic UA events consisted of 4 elements:
- Event Label
- Event Action
- Event Category
- Event Value
In GA4, Event Action was redefined as Event Name, and the other three elements became defunct, but could be included as custom event parameters. This allowed us to reconsider how we were firing analytics events on Blueprints, and what needed to be captured in order to maintain and improve our levels of reporting.
Step 2: Configuring on-page events
As mentioned above, one of the key changes in GA4 is how on-page events are both fired and captured. While some user behaviour events are now captured automatically (such as clicks and scrolls), it’s still necessary to define custom events for on-page user interactions that you want to track – especially for conversions.
Our Blueprint platform is built on modular pages, each with built in conversion events, such as signups, donations and opt-ins, but the platform also allows admin users to create custom events that fire on button clicks. This required the most consideration during the transition, as we decided the switch to GA4 was a good opportunity to give admins more control over how these button events were handled.
We added a new field named ‘Event Type’, so that admins could define what the purpose of the button was. The following options are available:
- Share Ask
Along with the ‘Event’ field (previously ‘Event Label’ as per the old UA naming convention), Blueprint is now able to easily categorise buttons based on their purpose, which reduces discrepancies in naming conventions from page to page.
You can see an example of all default GA4 events that our Blueprint pages fire here.
This has made our ability to report on our pages much more efficient, and has led us to creating a custom reporting template that can now be rolled out for any GA4 account connected to our Blueprint pages.
Step 3: Setting up custom reporting
Once our events had been configured, we decided to take advantage of GA4’s custom exploration reporting views. One of the key changes in GA4 is a much more simplified way of viewing data, and while custom reporting existed in UA, it often required skilled analytics professionals to set up and analyse these reports.
In GA4, events-based reporting is prioritised and for Blueprint, we wanted to take advantage of this.
We got to work thinking about how best to display this data, prioritising making it as easy as possible for our project teams to navigate these reports and pull out insights that would help us make better strategic campaign decisions for our partners.
The result was a multi-tab exploration report that breaks down Blueprint data into various views relevant to the campaigns we run for our partners. It segments data by user behaviour, by campaign, and by traffic source.
So, what’s next?
As you can see above, we’ve been putting the changes in GA4 to the test, and there’s many more that haven’t been mentioned here.
So, whether it’s changes around user data storage or updates to the way cookies are used, understanding these updates is key to ensuring your organisation is set to make the most of GA4.
Our free webinar will share the opportunities to look out for, the things we’ve done at Forward Action to support our transition, and finally, the tips you’ll need to maximise impact for your own organisation.
Book your place at our next webinar – it takes 2 minutes.
If you can’t make the webinar and would like to chat about how FA can offer specific support, you can get in touch with us directly at email@example.com.