Used on tens of millions of websites worldwide, Google Analytics is recognized as the most widely adopted of modern web analytics platforms. While there’s no doubt this tool can help businesses understand how users find and engage with their website — and in turn help steer respective inbound marketing efforts in the right direction — the ROI they see is largely influenced by how the tool is used.
When we’re talking about how to make the best use of Google Analytics 4, we can look at this topic through two lenses: how the tool is set up and how it’s leveraged once it is up and running. Part 1 of this blog post series explores best practices to guide your setup.
The first choice to make in configuring Google Analytics 4 is how to deploy the tool. Rather than manually adding tracking code to your website for deployment, Google Tag Manager makes the process far more efficient and beneficial to your website’s ROI.
By deploying Google Analytics 4 through Google Tag Manager, you ensure tracking codes are only added to relevant pages and thus only load when needed. This avoids the common predicament where code is placed in the header section of your website, and thus appears across all pages versus relevant events. In further support of a positive user experience, Google Tag Manager also provides the option to delay tags based on variables like time on page or scroll depth. This allows the key elements of a page to be loaded first, from interactive graphics to videos.
Rather than the classic partitioned views in Universal Analytics, data streams are configured based on platform: rather than three separate views, there’s one web data stream, along with options to add dedicated streams for iOS and Android for better understanding mobile traffic. Filtering and events can be applied from there. We recommend leading with filtering out internal traffic from your streams. Metrics that can include a marketer's or developer’s footprints throughout your site are necessarily skewed.
The advantage to this stream-based approach is that it helps track data across platforms, giving greater visibility into customer pathing. The artificial barrier between, say, mobile app and website use is eliminated and data is more accurate to how real people digitally interact with your brand.
In the legacy version of Google Analytics, limited criteria allowed for limited hits or conversion events. Despite the breadth of data that could be culled from sessions, everything still flattened into a fairly static matrix of conversions.
GA4 recognizes these limitations, providing a more flexible and customizable framework to help provide insight into a broader customer journey. Baked into GA4 are standard events familiar to most people comfortable in the Google Analytics ecosystem, such as page views, user engagement, session start and so on. Beyond that, and depending on your industry, business objectives and type of website, we recommend configuring additional events through Google Tag Manager. It’s your website and your data; tailored events just help make it work better for you.
The result is data that better informs web strategy or sales funnels, lends well to advanced GA4 capabilities like leveraging predictive audiences, can help determine ROI and identifying and correcting possible unforced errors in user experience.
While Google Analytics adds value to your inbound marketing strategy on its own, that value multiples when you pair this tool with other solutions in your marketing toolbox.
Consider your Google Ads account as an example. The seamless exchange of data between these two platforms provides you with added engagement metrics around your ads, such as time on page, number of page views and bounce rate. This can help you assess whether or not your ads are driving the right kind of traffic to your website. You can also use these metrics to help guide retargeting efforts — for instance, targeting a specific group of more engaged, interested users who did not bounce from the website.
The good news is linking your Google Analytics account to Google Ads (and other Google solutions) is a relatively simple process, as they are designed to seamlessly integrate with one another.
As with any new marketing tool, getting off on the right foot with the deployment of your Google Analytics account directly impacts the ROI it delivers to your business. With this Google Analytics setup checklist, our goal is to help guide you down the right path from the start.
Now that you’re off to the races, the next step is to help you stay on track. In Part 2, we’ll discuss some of the (oftentimes underrated) reports and features within Google Analytics you can use to gain more in-depth insights from your data.