As charity communicators, we know the importance of good data – after all our work is not done in a vacuum. So, by understanding our data and drawing insights from it we can make sure we are delivering what our audience needs and reaching our goals at the same time.
But one of the most widely used data platforms, Google Analytics, is changing so what do we do? Get ready for it, that’s what. If you’ve been putting off the switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), now is the time to act. And these practical tips will help you quickly understand the basics and provide you with three main areas to focus on.
1. Get set up
The first thing to clarify is that setting up GA4 won’t mean losing your existing Universal Analytics property, or the data within it. Google announced in March that Universal Analytics (UA) is set to stop collecting data in July 2023, so up until that point it can carry on tracking as it always has. GA4 can be set up to run alongside your existing UA tracking, so that when the move happens, you have lots of data already sitting in your new GA4 property.
Setting up GA4 to begin collecting data can take as little as five minutes. The GA4 property set up is helpfully done within your existing Analytics account. Simply go to the Admin section of your UA property and open the GA4 Setup Assistant. Two clicks later and your GA4 property is created.
Once you’ve created your property, you’ll need to implement the GA4 tag on your website for any track to actually happen. There are three options for how you add the GA4 tag to your website:
- Add a GA4 Configuration tag to your Google Tag Manager account
- Add the GA4 tag script to the <head> section of your website code
- Install the GA4 tag automatically if you use one of the GA4 supported web builders, such as Drupal and Wix
For detailed steps on each of these options, Reason Digital has a basic set up guide or go to the Admin section of your GA4 property and click ‘View tag instructions’ within your property’s data stream.
Takeaway: Getting GA4 to start tracking your website can take as little as a few minutes to set up within your existing Analytics account, so what are you waiting for?
2. Events, events, events
If you learn one thing about GA4, it should be this: events are everything. Quite literally. Whereas UA classed user interactions as different types of ‘hits’, all user interactions are now classed as ‘events’ in GA4. There is no notion anymore of ‘Category/Action/Label’ within specific events either – GA4 uses ‘event parameters’ to provide additional information about an interaction.
With all this in mind, it might seem daunting and altogether confusing to approach migrating to GA4. But thankfully the way events are categorised in GA4 means you can tackle this logically. There are four types of events in GA4:
- Automatically collected events
- Enhanced measurement events
- Recommended events
- Custom events
The first two types will start being tracked by default when you set up your GA4 property – easy peasy. These include first visits, sessions starts, user engagement, pageviews, scrolls, outbound clicks, site search, video engagement (YouTube) and file downloads. As a first step, it’s worth taking stock of what is covered by these automatic events before even attempting to consider recommended or custom events.
Since events look so different in GA4, it’s no surprise that goals are also tracked differently. In GA4 the most important events you want your visitors to complete can be turned into ‘conversions’. This is a much easier process than defining goals in UA because you can mark any event in GA4 as a conversion by going to Configure > Events and toggling a switch.
For charities, some new GA4 features make life a lot easier when it comes to tracking conversions (goals). You can create events within GA4 itself based on existing events, where you would previously have had to use Google Tag Manager or ask a developer. For example, if you have a donations Thank You page, you can create an event based on the page_view event and then mark this as a conversion.
There is so much scope for gaining insight and more clearly tracking your impact. You could create conversion events for:
- Helpline number clicks
- Volunteering form downloads
- White paper views
- Fundraising event sign ups
- Donate button clicks
Takeaway: The next step after setting up GA4 is to do an audit of what events are already tracking by default (this might cover more than you expect). These events could be used to form new conversion events. Check out this GA4 Events guide.
3. Reports that matter to charities
In GA4 you will quickly notice that Google has dramatically slimmed down the number of pre-built reports on display. There are still some predefined reports for realtime, user snapshots and lifecycle reporting. These can even be customised using the editing pencil icon on each report view.
But the best thing about reports in GA4 is that you can build the ones that matter to you. Head to ‘Explore’ and you can easily create custom charts and tables to provide you with exactly the insights you need.
You might create:
- Funnel explorations for analysing donations journey drop offs
- Cohort explorations to work out how many people who sign up to your newsletter become regular givers within six months
- User lifetime explorations to identify which social media fundraising campaign brought you the best user engagement
Start by setting up the reports you need for funders and stakeholders. The Freeform exploration allows you to display combinations of dimensions and metrics in different chart styles, and these can be exported when you need to demonstrate your impact.
Takeaway: GA4’s focus is on user interactions rather than sessions so reports will look different to before, but can provide better user insight for demonstrating your impact.
To get free guides, training and bespoke support, head over to Reason Digital’s GA4 Support hub.
If you haven’t already you can catch up on the first blog in this series – Four good reasons it’s time to embrace GA4 here.
And if you are interested in the world of digital comms do be sure to check out the upcoming CharityComms Digital Conference.
Banner image: Sharad Bhat on Pexels