By George Nenni, Founder, Generations Digital

One of the most common questions I heard at the recent Digital Dealer conference in Las Vegas, was around the differences between the new Google Analytics 4, vs. the current Google Analytics (Universal). The current GA has been around for a long time, and many people (myself included) have become accustomed to the current menus and reporting.

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is not only a new analytics version, it is an entirely new analytics platform. This means that if the dealer is not careful, they may not even own their new GA4 installation. Since GA4 is a brand-new installation, many agencies and website companies are setting up dealership GA4 accounts into their corporate master accounts, where the dealership doesn’t own the account. Dealers need to make sure they set up separate GA4 accounts, where they are the admins of the new accounts.

So why all the recent talk about GA4? This coming July 1, 2023, the current Google Analytics Universal will stop collecting new data, and users must switch over the Google Analytics 4. Also, none of the current GA Universal reporting data will flow into the new GA4. So smart dealers are getting their own tracking in place now, so they will have several months tracking data in place when that fateful July 1 date arrives.

The biggest differences with GA4 are around the way the system tracks users and sessions, as well as the significance of tracking events. The current GA Universal is page-based, all about clicks. The new GA4 is focused around events, which are triggers that fire within a website when certain activities occur. For instance, when a mobile shopper selects a clickable website phone number, behind the scenes a Google Analytics event fires so the dealer can track the number of phone calls. Of course, we can not only track the number of phone calls, but we can track the digital source down to the campaign or keyword level. GA4 events allows digital marketers to track the source and quantity of any conversion event. There are also a number of built-in events with GA4, such a page scrolling, video plays and video completions. GA4 makes more extensive use of events, and also passes additional intelligence through the events, such as the year, make, model and trim from the vehicle detail page (VDP). By passing this additional intelligence, GA4 can be made to deliver more automotive-centric reporting, around which vehicles are receiving the most engagement and conversions.

GA4 also does away with today’s website engagement metrics such as bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration. These are all replaced with a single metric called engaged sessions. I like this approach since the other metrics always moved together, and it simplifies reporting. The definition of an engaged session is a session that lasts longer than ten seconds, or that had a conversion event, or had at least two page views. The ten-second setting can be changed in ten-second intervals up to 60-seconds. Note: After repeated requests, Google recently re-introduced bounce rate, but it is actually just the inverse of engagement rate, so there is still essentially one engagement metric.

The last significant difference with Google Analytics 4 is how the system handles sessions vs. users. GA4 reports on both users and sessions, and introduces a new metrics called active users. The concept with GA4 reporting is to measure cohorts of users, from the time they first visit the dealer’s website, through repeat visits, with either conversion or not, over any time frame. If the number of active users from a dealership’s paid Facebook campaign, over the last thirty days is less than those same active users from the prior thirty days, then the dealer would know their shopper funnel is shrinking. There are both user reports, and session reports within GA4. The user reports are focused on first-visit, active users, their shopping behavior and tendency to convert. The session reports are all about traffic volume, the traffic’s shopping behavior, and the traffic’s tendency to convert.

I know a lot of these concepts are tricky at first, so the best advice is to dive into GA4 reporting and start exploring. As with learning any new software, frequency and repetition are the key. Good luck and let me know how I can help you!

About the Author

George Nenni is the founder of Generations Digital, a technology marketing analytics firm that empowers car dealers to eliminate advertising waste and maximize their marketing dollars. He is the author of “A Car Dealer’s Guide to Google Analytics 4”, “A Car Dealers’ Guide to Digital Marketing” and “A Car Dealer’s Guide to Google My Business”.

Author: Christine Corkran

Digital Dealer