Updated January 2023
Google Analytics is a powerful application that allows you to track and report web traffic, and it’s the most widely used analytics tool out there. In 2019, Google released a new version of Analytics referred to as GA4 , changing the way we view our traffic.
So, what’s changed? Quite a bit actually, and not just in the way it looks.
Here we’re going to cover a few of these changes in terms that are easy to understand, as well as give you a quick tutorial on setting up our most common conversion: How to set up a destination goal.
What’s different in GA4
You’ll see many of the same features you’ve grown accustomed to in the previous Analytics, or GA3, plus a few new additions.
You’ll still see the current number of active users on your site along with a number of familiar cards Google feels you should know. However, the menu to the left is where you’ll start to see the real differences. This is because you have to understand a little more about how the new GA4 works compared to previous incarnations.
The core reporting behind GA3 was based upon the A-B-C Model or Acquisition-Behavior-Conversion. This was the basis of a lot of your general reporting.
Just to review, the source/medium of your traffic was found in the Acquisition tab. User activities, such as page views, were in Behavior, while your goals were under Conversions. This was the user behavior model Google has used since the early days of Analytics.
This was because GA3, also known as “Universal Analytics,” was based upon page views and sessions, and each time a user interacted with your site, it was referred to as a “hit.”
With the new GA4, everything is based upon events and parameters. And I do mean everything.
All of your original hit types are now counted as events.
If you’ve been active in Analytics in the past, then you may be familiar with event tracking. Originally, events consisted of the following components: Category, Action, Label, and Value.
These components were usually hardcoded or placed on your site using Google Tag Manager to record events, such as video plays or document downloads. Recording such events were vital to your marketing campaigns but were sometimes difficult to implement without the use of a developer.
Now, many of these events are already measured in GA4. This is because for every event triggered, we get a wide range of parameters that are already built into the new Analytics.
For example, if we navigate to our Events tab in GA4, we can see a list of events Google is tracking on our site. Even though Analytics has the ability to track a good number of events, what you see here are only events that were triggered on our site:
With all of these active events, you could just as easily tick the “Mark as Conversion” selector and call it a day, but what will happen is that every time one of these events is triggered, a conversion will be counted and that won’t help us manage our campaigns properly.
So what we need to do is define a parameter. A parameter in GA4 is an additional piece of information that adds further context to an event. For example:
- A page view event is triggered each time a person loads a page.
- A parameter of this page view could be Page Location or Page Referrer.
This, in a nutshell, is how the new Analytics operates, with events and parameters. This is important because you’ll need to have this basic understanding in order to establish your goals in GA4.
How to Create Goals in GA4
There are two ways we can create goals in GA4:
- With Google Tag Manager
- In the GA4 dashboard
Today, we’ll be setting up our goals directly in the dashboard under the Events tab.
1. Navigate to “All Events.”
2. Select your preferred GA4 property
3. Click “Events.”
4. Click “Create Event”
5. A new window will appear. Click “Create.”
6. Here is where we will add our parameter. Give your event a name.
7. Next, under Matching Conditions, select your parameter from the dropdown. Since this is a destination goal, we’ll select the page_location parameter.
8. Next, select your operator. We are going to use “Contains (ignore case)” here.
9. Finally, input your value, which is the ending text of your destination URL. In our example, we are going to use “thanks,” which is the end of our URL.
10. Click “Create” in the upper right-hand corner.
11. Now you should see your goals listed under Custom Events.
A very important detail: Even though we’ve created our custom event, it will not appear as an existing event until it is triggered. Once triggered, then we can mark it as a conversion.
So don’t forget that once the event happens — in our case, someone fills out our “Contact Us” page — we’ll need to go back into GA4 and toggle it as a conversion. Now that our conversion has been established we can view the results in our Conversions tab (in Reports under Engagement).
And that’s it!
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