20/09/2023 • Tom Berridge
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is here to stay, offering powerful reporting functions and data exploration capabilities, making it a significant upgrade over Universal Analytics (UA). It gives you the power to custom build your reports and navigate data like never before. Find out the top 10 reporting functions, from user acquisition to ecommerce purchases and uncover actionable insights to optimise your online presence. These reports provide valuable information into user behaviour, acquisition channels, conversion rates, and user technology preferences, enabling you to optimise strategies and improve performance.
Love it or hate it, there’s no escaping the infamous world of GA4 any longer. It's been lingering behind your Universal Analytics since October 2020.
Yes, you had nearly 3 years to get to grips with the platform. But seeing as you’re here, I'm guessing you did the same as everyone else — ignored it, slated it and wished it would just go away. Even when our view was festooned with increasingly aggressive warnings and banners, we carried on without a second glance at the dumb younger sibling of our precious UA property.
But the world didn’t end on July 1st 2023, despite 95% of users scrambling to make sure their site was being tracked effectively. Newsflash: you were 12 months too late.
Hopefully by now, anyone visiting your site and completing valuable actions is being tracked through their digital journey with all touchpoints attributed correctly. If not, get in touch; we can help.
But if you haven’t missed the GA4 boat, this article is going to give you the top 10 reporting functions to use to get the most out of your rich data (as well as uncovering some of your much-loved UA reports).
Google Analytics 4 hit us with an abundance of new features and functionalities. You might not want to hear it, but this makes it an even more powerful tool than its predecessor. However, it also makes it difficult for you to identify the most valuable features for your business.
Essentially, while Universal Analytics provided us with a set of predefined reports, on the face of it GA4 offers a lot less, but a far greater ability to custom build your reports and navigation menu to fit your needs.
One of the major upgrades with GA4 is the new reporting interface and data explorations. Some reports are highly technical, while others are not. So we’ve curated a list of the top 10 reports that’ll help you get started:
GA4’s attribution and therefore reporting method is a far cry from Universal. Overall it’s much more flexible due to the cross-channel, data-driven model it adopts. It is inherently more user-centric. So the User Acquisition Report is a great place to start your analyses. It provides a high-level overview of how many users are coming from each channel, how many engaged sessions they’re having (an engaged session is a session that lasts longer than 10 seconds, has a conversion event, or has at least 2 pageviews or screenviews) and the average engaged session duration.
You can use this data to identify your most effective acquisition channels and optimise their performance or uncover opportunities.
The User Acquisition Report is a default report in GA4 that focuses on new users and how they found your website or app for the first time. It differs from the Traffic Acquisition Report, which focuses on where new sessions came from, regardless of whether the user is new or returning.
Suppose you want to understand how new users discover your website or app. In that case, GA4's User Acquisition Report is a powerful tool that provides insights into where your new users are coming from and what marketing campaigns drive the most traffic to your site. To drill-down further, hit the drop-down menu above the first column to pull through a range of other dimensions such as “First user source / medium” and “First user campaign”.
To access the User acquisition report in GA4, select Reports from the left menu then click on Life cycle > Acquisition > User acquisition.
The Traffic Acquisition Report is a default report in GA4 that focuses on where users come from and how they interact with your website or app. Although still very different to Universal Analytics, this report is much closer to the detailed tables you’re probably used to viewing. It differs from the User Acquisition Report, which focuses on new users and how they found your website or app for the first time.
The report includes several metrics that help you understand how users interact with your website or app. These metrics include Sessions, Users, Engaged Session information, Events and Conversions.
You can use the Traffic Acquisition Report to understand which channels drive the most traffic to a website or app. For example, you can use the report to see how much traffic is coming from a specific channel and how users interact with the site. You can then adjust your strategy accordingly to improve traffic and engagement.
To access the Traffic acquisition report in GA4, select Reports from the left menu then select Life Cycle > Acquisition > Traffic acquisition.
Unbelievably (and to the dismay of many marketers out there) the Landing Page report wasn’t even a thing in the first few iterations of GA4. And “Landing page” didn’t become a usable dimension until 2 years after GA4 was launched, with this report finally rolling out in Q4 of 2022.
Anyway, we’re happy it's here. It helps you understand which pages on your website receive the most traffic.
By analysing this data, you can identify high-performing pages that are attracting users, for you to then optimise other pages/targeting accordingly. You can also evaluate the bounce rate, average time on page, and conversion rate for each landing page to further refine your strategy.
In the GA4 Landing Page report, you can easily toggle secondary dimensions to see how a landing page stacks up based on where users are coming from or see how a page is driving traffic from users at different stages of the funnel.
For instance, adding “Session source/medium” will allow you to see where a user is currently at in their journey, while “First user source/medium” will show how users first interacted with the site.
To access the Landing page report in GA4, select Reports from the left menu then select Life Cycle > Engagement >Landing page.
The new Funnel exploration feature in GA4 allows businesses to analyse and visualise user behaviour throughout the entire conversion process. From acquisition to conversion. It's different from the traditional funnel analysis you’re used to with Universal Analytics, which only allows you to track predefined paths. With the GA4 Funnel exploration, custom paths can be created to analyse user behaviour based on specific actions or events.
The key takeaway from this visualisation is that Funnel exploration is a powerful tool for you to understand user behaviour, identify bottlenecks, and optimise your conversion process. With Funnel exploration, it’s easy to identify areas for improvement and take action to increase conversion rate and revenue.
For example, let's consider a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that wants to increase the number of sign-ups for. Using GA4 Funnel exploration, they can track custom paths such as "Homepage Viewed," "Pricing Page Viewed," and "Sign-up Form Submitted." Then by analysing user behaviour, they can identify areas where users drop off and optimise each step to increase sign-ups.
To access the Funnel exploration in GA4, select Explore from the left menu then select Funnel exploration.
The GA4 Path exploration report visually represents user paths, including the sequence and frequency of actions taken on your website. In simpler terms, it allows you to visualise and analyse the paths users take on your website, unveiling critical touchpoints and identifying areas of improvement.
The report helps you identify popular paths, drop-off points, and potential blockers in the user journey of your site by tracking interactions, such as pageviews, events and conversions. More recently, you’re now able to drill-down to Page path and screen class to give you insight on specific pages that have triggered events along a convention path.
Leverage the report to compare the effectiveness of different page layouts or user journeys. Splitting your audience into different segments allows you to test variations and track their impact on conversions or other desired outcomes. Use these insights to make data-driven decisions and continuously optimise your business.
To start a path analysis, click Explore in the left navigation and select the Path exploration template. Analytics provides a sample implementation to get you started. If you want to start with a new path exploration, click Start over in the top right of the screen. Then, select the starting point or ending point for your exploration.
Retention is super important for any business looking to scale. The Retention report in Google Analytics 4 lets you measure user retention and engagement over time, giving you valuable insights into user behaviour patterns and loyalty. It displays the percentage of users who return to your site within a selected time frame, providing a comprehensive view of user retention segmented by user type, engagement, and more.
With the GA4 Retention report, you can segment your audience based on engagement levels, such as frequent readers, occasional visitors, or one-time readers. By analysing these segments, you can identify the content that resonates the most with your audience, optimise engagement strategies, and develop targeted content to nurture a loyal readership.
Take advantage of the ability to create custom user segments within the GA4 Retention Report. Track metrics like session duration, page views, event completions, or goal conversions to identify high-engagement user segments in the report. You can focus on retaining and nurturing these highly engaged users through tailored campaigns or personalised experiences.
To start analysing your user retention, head to Reports then click Life cycle > Retention.
The User lifetime report offers valuable insights into each user’s behaviour, such as their initial and most recent interactions with your website. It also uses predictive methods to detect purchase and churn probability.
You can identify the marketing channels that bring high-value users with long-term engagement potential. This knowledge helps you to allocate your marketing budget effectively, focusing on channels that yield the best return on investment. You can also evaluate user retention rates across different time frames. Identify the periods where retention drops and implement targeted initiatives such as personalised emails, loyalty programs or enhanced user experiences to improve user engagement.
If you have users that are constantly churning, you can track their initial interactions and how their journeys led to the churn. Any similar pattern in their journeys can be an indicator. For example, if all the customers churned after you launched a new feature, it can be a sign that it completely ruined the customer experience and should be cut out.
You can find the User lifetime report in the Template gallery when you select Explore in the main left navigation menu.
Google Search Console is one of the most important sources of performance data and information for SEO pros and, just like with Universal Analytics, users can integrate GSC with GA4.
Similar to UA, there are two reports in GA4 associated with Search Console:
The Search Console reports are unpublished by default. In order to view the reports, you will need to:
While the reports in GA4 won’t be able to completely replace the level of organic reporting found in GSC, there is value in having the data on one platform. The biggest of which is that site owners can see how organic visitors engage with the site as it pertains to specific landing pages.
How is that different to the long awaited Landing page report from earlier? The Google Search Console report offers a comprehensive understanding of landing pages and your website’s visibility in the SERPs.
It provides detailed metrics such as impressions, clicks, click-through rates, and keywords, which are crucial in driving organic traffic to your landing pages. In comparison, the Landing page reports within GA4 offer a broader perspective by analysing various traffic sources, including organic search, direct traffic, and referrals.
While both reports offer valuable insights, the Google Search Console report specifically focuses on the visibility and performance of landing pages within Google’s search results.
One of the most valuable aspects of Universal Analytics was to track the key actions people take on your site, like making a purchase or filling out a lead form. These valuable actions were known as Goals but are now called Conversions in GA4.
Tracking conversions in GA4 is based on events that are created automatically by the GA4 system. There are 43 (seriously) automatically created events, here’s a few examples:
However, you can create your own events that are specific to your website or business objectives. Once these events are tracking in GA4, we can switch them to Conversions to see which channels, campaigns, locations, devices etc. drive the most action on-site or in-app. With this data we can put more focus on the areas that drive most conversions and de-prioritize campaigns that are less effective by spending less time or money on them.
Conversion metrics are available in the User and Traffic acquisition reports. There’s also a summary of all Conversions under the Life cycle > Engagement > Conversions Report.
Understanding your user’s technology might not seem like the most important part of data analysis at first. But the truth is, tech details can be essential to making sure your user’s experience is smooth and engaging, which means a whole lot to every website out there.
The Google Analytics 4 Tech details report tells you all about your audience’s technology. It lets you know what browsers your users prefer, their screen resolution, and much more.
So, why Is the tech report Important? There’s a whole host of reasons why you should be interested in your GA4 tech report. The most evident is to make sure you’ve optimised the platforms your visitors are using. User experience matters.
You can dive into your tech report in detail to see where your site is falling short. For example, if you see a particularly low engagement rate on a certain browser, you know there’s a compatibility issue. The same goes for your mobile apps. If users aren’t resulting in engaged sessions on your mobile app, there could be an issue with how your app is functioning.
You can also view your conversions in your tech report. If you see your users are not resulting in conversions on a particular browser, they might not be able to engage with your site properly.
Another detail you should monitor is screen resolution. You’ll want to make sure your site is set up to cater to the majority of your visitors, so it makes sense to format your site so it pairs best with the most popular resolution.
To jump into your Tech details report, select Reports from the left menu then select User > Tech > Tech details.
With the rollout of ecommerce dimension and metrics into the custom report builder, it seemed criminal not to offer up an overview of Ecommerce purchases in GA4.
This details report can provide in-depth information about how your customers are buying products, the kind of items they’re purchasing, how they behave on your website, when they leave and why. In short, it’s a gold mine of data.
This report shows you the performance of two of the most common ecommerce actions: items views and add to carts. As well as detailing total purchases and revenue by item. As with all details reports in GA4 you can drill-down further by adding secondary dimensions.
The default view shows you the performance by item but you can easily change that to show performance by Item ID, categories or brands etc. Essentially, everything that is contained in the GA4 Items Array can be viewed in this report.
You can get to this report by heading to Reports then select Life cycle > Monetisation > Ecommerce purchases.
Despite initial reluctance from many users, Google Analytics 4 has become an inevitable part of the digital analytics landscape since its launch. It offers exciting new features and custom reporting options that can take our data analysis to new heights. With its new reporting interface and customizable features, GA4 offers more flexibility and power than its predecessor and by utilising these reports, you can gain a deeper understanding of your website or app performance, user behaviour, and conversion patterns.
Armed with these insights, you’ll be able to make data-driven decisions to optimise strategies, improve user experiences, and achieve business goals more effectively. Embracing GA4 and harnessing its reporting functions will prove to be a valuable investment in unlocking the potential of rich data analytics for business growth and success.
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