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What email marketers need to know about Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

September 11 - 2023

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In July 2023, the next generation of analytics was officially launched.

Designed for “the future of measurement”, Google Analytics 4 took over from its infamous predecessor, Universal Analytics, after over 10 years. 

But with change inevitably comes some anxiety. With many email marketers concerned over the differences this will cause in their reporting and tracking capabilities.

However, Google Analytics 4 boasts many benefits for email marketers. And at Jarrang we’re getting stuck in! 

In this guide you will find everything you need to know about Google Analytics 4 and email marketing. The benefits of this new platform, set-up processes, and the most useful metrics to track.

What is Universal Analytics? 

We’ll keep this part brief. Because if you’re an email marketer, you’ll likely be familiar with Universal Analytics.

Universal Analytics, also known as UA, is the original web analytics platform provided by Google. Which allowed businesses to track and analyse user interactions on both their website and mobile applications.

Launched way back in 2012, the platform provided essential insights into user behaviour, acquisition sources, and conversion rates. Universal Analytics also offered enhanced tracking capabilities, including cross-device tracking and the ability to track offline interactions. 

However, Universal Analytics was retired in July 2023, making way for its successor, Google Analytics 4.

Source: https://www.litmus.com/blog/ga4-vs-universal-analytics

What is Google Analytics 4? 

Google Analytics 4, also known as GA4, is the shiny new version of Google’s web analytics platform. It was the talking point of many marketing communities and brands during its launch, and whilst it boasts new and exciting features, is taking time for some to get used to.

GA4 offers an impressive understanding of user behaviour across the entire customer lifecycle and multiple digital platforms. It provides a focus on event tracking, which allows users to measure more specific interactions on their website, as opposed to simple website ‘hits’. 

GA4 is a big fan of event-based tracking. So, in theory, almost any behaviour can be set up as an event in GA4, allowing businesses to measure user interactions beyond simple page views.

Source: https://www.litmus.com/blog/ga4-vs-universal-analytics

What are the differences between UA and GA4?

Because GA4 is the shiny new platform, it unsurprisingly boasts a range of features that Universal Analytics simply didn’t have.

Here’s a rundown of the key differences between Universal Analytics and GA4 that email marketers should be especially aware of.

Data model

As mentioned, Universal Analytics traditionally worked on a hit-based data model, while GA4 focuses on an event-based data model. 

Think of Universal Analytics as an individual pageview and event pro, whilst GA4 is all about capturing user journeys, one event at a time. Perfect for email marketers wanting to understand how recipients behave post-email.

Attribution

Every email marketer wants to know the wider impact of their campaigns, so GA4’s focus on attribution is a dream come true.

UA’s default was a classic last-touch attribution mode, whereas GA4 boasts a multi-touch attribution model which reveals how email campaigns truly play a role in website activity and those all-important conversions.

Customisation 

Users of UA may have been frustrated at the lack of customisation options, but with GA4 email marketers can create more custom reports and dashboards in GA4 that are specific to their channel.

Privacy

GA4 knows how to respect personal space, making it a pro at privacy compared to Universal Analytics. With a focus on less personal data collection, more privacy regulation compliance.

This is particularly important for email marketers who need to comply with regulations like GDPR and CCPA.

Is it possible to run UA and GA4 simultaneously?

Unfortunately not.

Since Universal Analytics was retired in July 2023, running UA and GA4 simultaneously is no longer possible. 

However, some properties (such as a website, mobile app, or blog that you are tracking), will continue to process data for a short period after July 1st, as Google stages the shutdown of UA. 

Additionally, Google helpfully allows users to access previously processed data in their UA properties until July 1, 2024.

Setting up Google Analytics 4 for email marketing 

We know you’ll be keen to get cracking with GA4 and email marketing, so here are some steps you’ll need to take to ensure the basics are set up correctly. 

Create a Google Analytics 4 property

Just in case, if you don’t already have a GA4 property, you can create one by going to the Google Analytics website and clicking the “Create Property” button.

Add UTM tracking to your email campaigns

The next step in setting up GA4 Analytics for email tracking hasn’t changed since UA, but still remains essential.

Begin by adding UTM tracking codes (also called UTM parameters) to the URLs within your email campaigns. UTM codes allow email marketers to track what website traffic is being generated by email marketing as a channel, as well as drilling down into specific email campaigns. 

Marketers can also use this information to understand how recipients go on to engage with the website post-click. 

View your email marketing data in GA4

Once you have started tracking your emails, you can view all of your data within your GA4 account. To do this, go to the “Behaviour” section of your report and click on the “Email” tab. 

Simple!

For more information on setting up email tracking in GA4 you can check out this handy guide

Reporting and optimising in Google Analytics 4

Now we’ve covered viewing key reporting information, let’s dive into some more advanced ways to effectively report and optimise your email campaigns with GA4.

Traffic acquisition

Source: https://www.litmus.com/blog/ga4-vs-universal-analytics

To gain a high-level understanding of how email campaigns impact their website, email marketers can use the traffic acquisition report to track the traffic sources that drove visitors to their website, including email campaigns. They can also explore how email campaigns performed compared to other traffic sources.

Email marketers can also view the number of sessions, pages per session, and average session duration for each traffic source.

To find the traffic acquisition report, go to Behaviour > Acquisition > Traffic acquisition. 

Engagement

Source: https://www.litmus.com/blog/ga4-vs-universal-analytics

The engagement report in GA4 is the perfect way to track how engaged recipients are with your email campaigns. 

The report lets email marketers explore metrics such as open rate, click-through rate, and average time spent reading an email. And once again, they can view how these metrics performed compared to other email campaigns.

To find the engagement report, go to Behaviour > Engagement > Email.

Exploration reports 

Source: https://www.optimizesmart.com/how-to-track-email-campaigns-and-traffic-in-ga4/

For email marketers, exploration reports are an interactive (and kind of fun!) way to explore data and find hidden insights into the performance of their email campaigns. 

The exploration reports will show you a variety of different ways to explore your data, including:

  • Charts: The perfect way to visualise your data and see trends over time.
  • Dimensions: Dimensions are the different ways that you can slice and dice your data. Such as the location of your recipients.
  • Metrics: In short, metrics are the measures of your data. For example, you could use metrics to see the open rate or click-through rate of your email campaigns.

To find exploration reports, go to Exploration > Email. 

The best metrics for email marketers

As an email marketer, you know that tracking the right metrics is essential for understanding the performance of your campaigns as well as making improvements. Fortunately, GA4 offers a range of handy metrics for email marketers.

Thanks to GA4s UTM and tracking pixel capabilities, email marketers can measure their basic (but essential) email metrics within the platform, this includes:

  • Email open rate: An old favourite, the percentage of recipients who have opened your email.
  • Click-through rate (CTR): Another staple, the percentage of recipients who have clicked a link in your email.
  • Conversion rate: The percentage of recipients who took a desired action (such as visiting your website or making a purchase) after clicking on a link in your email.
  • Engagement rate: How engaged recipients are with your email, calculated by dividing the number of unique opens by the number of total opens.
  • Unsubscribe rate: The often-dreaded metric that measures the percentage of recipients who unsubscribed from your email list after receiving your email.
  • Bounce rate: The percentage of recipients who opened your email but did not click on any links. 

As an email marketer, you’re likely very familiar with metrics. So, in addition there are a few other pro metrics that can be particularly helpful:

  • Sessions: The number of sessions that recipients had with your website after clicking on a link in your email.
  • Pages/session: The average number of pages that recipients visited on your website after clicking on a link in your email. The more pages they view, the more they’re loving your website!
  • Average session duration: The average amount of time that recipients spent on your website after clicking on a link in your email. The longer the session, the more engaged they are with your content. 
  • Conversion value: And finally, the biggy, the total value of conversions that occurred after recipients clicked on a link in your email.

In conclusion

The migration from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 caused a lot of worry in the email marketing community.

And we get it, change can be daunting. It’s evident that many marketers have had to invest significant effort in adapting to the new platform due to its substantial differences.

But with this change comes lots of great benefits! GA4 provides far more accurate, cross-channel insight than ever before, which is ideal for email marketers wanting to delve into attribution. 

And Google has learned from its past mistakes making setup and tracking easier than ever, ensuring the platform is far more user-friendly to wider audiences.

If you’re looking for support in ensuring you are tracking and measuring your email campaigns effectively. Or if you’d like to discuss how you can boost your campaign effectiveness, then we can help.

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