How to Use GA4 to Power Marketing Decisions in 2024: Part 1
 

How to Use GA4 to Power Marketing Decisions in 2024: Part 1

By Desire’e Martinelli, Esq. , Jeff Lantz, Esq.
May 02, 2024 | 8-minute read
Communications Interactive and Digital Marketing
Technology Management
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In the ever-evolving digital landscape of law firm marketing, Google Analytics has become essential for many in powering insightful marketing decisions.

Google launched analytics in 2005 and had been operating under the Universal Analytics (UA) platform since then. Website owners could create a free Google Analytics account and add their UA account number to their website code to track visitor metrics.

In 2023, Google stopped using UA as the basis of analytics tracking and replaced it with Google Analytics 4 (GA4).  As a result of this change:

  • UA stopped tracking user metrics as of July 1, 2023;
  • Website owners formerly using UA will need to download their historical data by July 1, 2024, if they want to keep such data (Google will delete this data after that date); and
  • Website owners wishing to continue receiving Google Analytics will need to create and install GA4 tracking to receive Google Analytics metrics.

In Part 1 of this two-part article, we’ll explain the fundamental differences in collecting and displaying information between UA and GA4. In Part 2, we’ll describe how law firms can use new GA4 metrics to understand user behavior better and evaluate the benefits of marketing initiatives. 

Using Google Tag Manager to Install GA4

Law firms and legal marketing specialists should install GA4 using Google Tag Manager (GTM) because it offers a streamlined, efficient way to manage website tracking. GTM simplifies the integration of various tracking codes—such as analytics, conversions (also called “key events” in GA4) and Google Ads—into a single, manageable tag. This consolidation saves time and reduces the complexity associated with managing multiple tracking codes and enhances website security by minimizing potential vulnerabilities linked to plugin use.

Key Differences Between Universal Analytics and GA4

UA and GA4 differ significantly in their approach to data collection, analysis and reporting. 

Data Model

  • UA: UA utilized a session-based data model by grouping user interactions within a given time frame (a session) and tracking such interactions as a sequence of hits (e.g., page views, events, transactions).
  • GA4: GA4 is based on “events.” It treats every interaction as an event and segments the client journey into three distinct phases: acquisition, engagement and monetization. This model differs significantly from the session-based tracking of previous versions, allowing for a more nuanced understanding of user behavior on websites and apps. Here are examples of how GA4's event-based tracking provides deeper insights:
    • Scroll Depth Tracking: GA4 can track how far users scroll down on a page, measured as percentages (25-100%). This event-based tracking offers insights into content engagement, showing how much of the content is being consumed by the audience.
    • Video Engagement: GA4 can monitor interactions with video content, such as starts, pauses, completions and viewing percentages. This allows for a detailed understanding of video engagement and effectiveness, helping content creators and marketers refine their video content strategies based on user behavior.
    • File Downloads: GA4 can track file downloads as events, providing insights into the types of resources (e.g., PDFs, white papers, legal documents) most valuable to users. This information can guide content creation and resource allocation.
    • Outbound Link Clicks: By tracking clicks on links that lead away from your site as events, GA4 offers insights into how users interact with external content and resources. This can influence partnership and external content strategies, highlighting opportunities for collaboration or areas where additional internal content might be needed.
    • Site Search Tracking: GA4 allows for tracking site search queries as events, offering insight into what users are looking for on your site. This can guide content strategy, navigation improvements and search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, ensuring that users find the information they need.
    • Custom Events: GA4 allows for the creation of custom events tailored to specific actions or interactions that are unique to a website or app. This flexibility ensures that businesses can track the metrics most relevant to their goals, offering insights tailored to their specific needs.

Sessions vs. Engaged Sessions

  • UA: Counts all sessions, with a default time-out after 30 minutes of inactivity.
  • GA4: Introduces "engaged sessions," which are sessions that last longer than 10 seconds, have a key event (formerly referred to as a conversion event) or have at least two page views. This focuses on user engagement rather than just site visits.

User Metrics

  • UA: Tracks new and returning users but can sometimes inflate user counts due to the way sessions are defined and rounded. Specifically, sessions would reset at midnight. Additionally, any change in campaign source, medium or other UTM parameters during an ongoing session would start a new session. This often led to inflated session counts.
  • GA4: Uses a different (and more accurate) calculation for users, potentially leading to lower counts. GA4 does not restart a session at midnight or due to changes in UTM parameters. This change leads to a more continuous and cohesive tracking of user interactions within a single session, which can result in lower, yet more representative, session counts.

Bounce Rate vs. Engagement Rate. 

GA4 wants you to stop focusing on bounce rate and instead focus on engagement — what users are (or are not) doing when they visit your site. 

  • UA: Bounce rate was a key metric in UA, calculated as the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e., a website user leaves the website after only seeing a single web page).
  • GA4: Replaces the focus from bounce rate to engagement rate and engaged sessions, emphasizing the quality of visits.

Events

  • UA: Custom events can be set up, but they require more configuration.
  • GA4: Any interaction can be tracked as an event. GA4 also has automatically collected events, enhanced measurement events (like scrolls and video views) and allows for custom events without additional coding.

Conversion Tracking (Key Events)

  • UA: Conversions are generally tied to goals that can be set up by a website owner. It counts only one conversion per session for each goal.
  • GA4: Any event can be tracked as a “conversion” or “key event.” Google is gradually replacing the term “conversion” with “key event.”

Cross-Platform Tracking

  • UA: Offers separate views for app and web data.
  • GA4: Provides unified tracking across apps and websites within the same property, offering a comprehensive view of user behavior across platforms.

Machine Learning and AI

  • UA: Limited predictive analytics features.
  • GA4: Integrates machine learning to offer predictive metrics, such as potential revenue from a segment of users, and automatically identifies trends and anomalies in data.

Privacy and Data Retention

Reporting and Analysis

  • UA: Standard reports are available for analysis, with limited customization.
  • GA4: Introduces "Explorations” that can be accessed by clicking the “Explore” tag for more complex and customized reporting. GA4 Explorations are customizable, in-depth analysis tools within GA4 that allow users to explore their data interactively and derive detailed insights by segmenting and visualizing data across various dimensions and metrics. Explorations will be discussed in more detail in Part 2.

What Do You Want to Track as a Conversion Event or Key Event?

Even though GA4 is less than a year old, it is already making an important change — re-labeling the terms “conversion” and “conversion event” with the term “key events.”  Google is gradually making this change to user accounts, so if you still see conversions in your account, be aware that this metric will soon be replaced with key events.

Originally, by default, GA4 counted a wide variety of events as conversion events, including:

  • A form submission (e.g., a contact form, newsletter signup)
  • Completion of a purchase (signaling a completed transaction)
  • Sign-ups or new account creations
  • Engagement with a chatbot on your site
  • Starting a new first visit
  • Scrolling down a page for a certain amount of time
  • Clicks on a call-to-action button
  • Downloading a file, such as a whitepaper or a legal document template
  • Time spent on a page that exceeds a certain threshold
  • Watching a video on the site for a specific duration

Most law firms will not consider many of these events (such as a page scroll) to be conversion events. As a result, under this default setting, users needed to disable many events from being counted as conversions. If your account shows that GA4 is counting conversions, you will need to click the cog in the lower left corner of your admin console, then click on “Events” under “Data display” and then turn off the items that you don’t want to be counted as conversions (like page scrolls).

Likely in response to having too many events counted as conversions by default, Google developed a new metric — “Key Events” — that takes the place of conversions. To set the key events (conversions) for your firm, click on the cog in the lower left corner, and then click on “Key events” under “Data display.” Make sure that only the events that you want to track as conversions are turned on.

GA4 Conclusions

GA4 offers a better understanding of user interaction and engagement than UA and the ability to customize reports more effectively. However, like most changes, GA4 will require users to spend time getting used to both the new metrics sections and the new analytics layout. 

Stay Tuned for More Valuable Insights on GA4

In Part 2 of "How to Use GA4 to Power Marketing Decisions in 2024," we will delve into the practical aspects of filtering out noise and focusing on the data that matters, as well as guide you through utilizing GA4's advanced features, such as pre-formatted reports, custom filters and GA4’s critical Exploration function.

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Desire’e Martinelli, Esq.
Esquire Interactive LLC

Desire'e Martinelli is the director of marketing and analytics at Esquire Interactive. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Mississippi School of Law with a concentration in business law. Following graduation, Martinelli worked in private practice as a business and intellectual property attorney, where she represented clients in business, employment, trademark and patent matters. In addition to her work with Esquire Interactive, Martinelli is also an entrepreneur, strategic advisor and part owner of two non-legal businesses.

Martinelli is also passionate about helping lawyers succeed. She finds that the biggest hurdle in attorney success is that most attorneys have no background in marketing or business management, and that attorneys often do not know what to do or even how to get started.

Martinelli leverages her business background by helping attorneys develop personalized strategic business and marketing plans, navigate the unique marketing challenges law firms face and drive strategic initiatives to completion. She also is a frequent presenter at Bar Association events and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminars on law firm marketing matters.

Jeff Lantz, Esq.
Esquire Interactive LLC

Jeff Lantz is an attorney and the CEO of Esquire Interactive LLC, an interactive digital marketing agency that has served hundreds of attorneys and in-house law firm marketing professionals since 2009, and the developer of ePRESQ™, the leading WordPress website platform for law firms.

Lantz is also an ABA book author (Internet Branding for Lawyers: Building the Client-Centered Website). He has given dozens of presentations and written numerous published articles about law firm marketing.