Understanding New GA4 Metrics

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Understanding the shift in metrics from GA3 to GA4

With the evolution of Google Analytics from GA3 to GA4, we’re witnessing a shift in how we gather, analyze, and comprehend behavioral data. The transition might seem daunting, but it pushes us toward a more accurate and insightful understanding of user engagement on our websites. Watch our video below or read on to learn more!



Users in GA3 vs. GA4

In Google Analytics 3 or Universal Analytics, a user was counted each time a new session was initiated. However, this approach was flawed as it often inflated user counts due to factors like clearing cookies or accessing the site from different devices. GA4 has addressed this issue by transitioning to a more user-centric model.

It uses multiple identifiers, including the User-ID feature, to unify user activities across devices and sessions. This means that even if a user visits your site from different devices, they will be counted as a single user. As a result, businesses can gain more accurate user metrics. This change underscores GA4’s overarching goal of providing a more comprehensive view of how users interact with websites.


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Engagement Rate vs. Bounce Rate

The key difference between engagement rate and bounce rate lies in the aspects of user behavior they highlight. Engagement rate focuses on the level of active interaction a user has with a website. On the other hand, bounce rate addresses the percentage of users who leave the site without taking any action.

Engagement rate is a robust metric in GA4, calculating the percentage of users who actively interact with your site. Active refers to performing meaningful actions like reading content, clicking on links, downloading resources, or interacting with tools. This metric offers a clearer picture of user interest and interaction with your online content.

Bounce rate, which was initially absent in GA4 but reintroduced as a custom feature, indicates the percentage of visitors who ‘bounce off’ after viewing just one page. While it might seem like a negative metric, the absence of engagement isn’t always a bad thing.

For example, users might leave after finding the information they need on the landing page itself. Bounce rate has become a metric that needs careful interpretation in the context of your website’s purpose and user intent.


Average Session Duration in GA3 vs. Engagement Time in GA4

Another change is how GA3 and GA4 handle the measurement of user interaction time on a website. In GA3, the metric used is the average session duration. It calculates the total duration of all sessions divided by the number of sessions within the selected date range. However, this metric can be misleading as it assumes that the user is actively engaged throughout the entire session, regardless of their actual activity.

GA4 uses the engagement time metric, which measures the total time users actively engage with your website. Unlike average session duration, engagement time disregards periods of inactivity.

Average engagement time offers a more accurate look at how long users are interacting with your website’s content. This shift from passive session duration to active engagement time reflects GA4’s user-centric approach, offering a more realistic perspective on user behavior and interaction.


The shift in behavioral data analysis

GA4’s focus is less on what used to be the old behavior tab in GA3 that tracked landing page engagement and total website page performance. In GA4, this information is housed under the engagement tab. As a result, it’s become more challenging to access and interpret behavioral data.

On the bright side, GA4 offers increased customization, allowing you to filter by specific conversion actions, events, or sources. However, this might prove to be a challenging task for small businesses without the support of a digital marketing agency.


Why did Google migrate from GA3 to GA4?

Google’s migration from GA3 to GA4 was driven by a variety of factors, but one of the most critical is privacy concerns. In recent years, there has been a significant surge in awareness about data privacy. Users have become increasingly concerned about how their online activities are tracked, stored, and used. GA3’s data collection practices often involved extensive tracking, sometimes leading to an intrusion of user privacy.

GA4 has been developed to alleviate these concerns, introducing methods of data collection that are more respectful of user privacy. GA4 has been designed to capture less personal data, focusing instead on delivering relevant data. This shift is beneficial for users who want to maintain their privacy while still receiving personalized online experiences.

Businesses can benefit from this change as they can still gather sufficient insights to understand user behavior and preferences without infringing on privacy laws. Rather than painting a full picture of users as Google did before, businesses are seeing a silhouette instead.


Navigate Google Analytics 4 with a trusted marketing agency

In the transition from GA3 to GA4, we’re not just seeing a change in the naming or calculation of metrics. We’re also seeing a shift towards a more engaged, value-oriented perspective of data analytics.

As we navigate this new terrain, don’t forget that these changes are aimed at offering deeper, more meaningful insights into user behaviors and the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

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Jim Van HornOctober 02, 2023by Jim Van Horn