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A First Look at Your Business's New GA4 Dashboard
Okay, if GA4 was correctly installed on your business website and the data is being recorded properly, it’s time to talk about what you’re seeing.
When you log in to your dashboard, you’ll see four icons running down the left side. The first one, the little house, is your Home page, which is the screen now open.
Home provides you a quick look at what’s been happening, displayed in a series of boxes called “cards.” The top right card is Users in Last 30 minutes. The top left card is a summary of the last seven days with a comparison to the previous seven days for several different stats.
For instance, there is a number under the word “Users” with a smaller number beneath it in red or green and an arrow up or down. The bigger number tells you how many Users there were over the last seven days and the smaller number tells you what percentage increase or decrease there was over the previous seven days. The graph below the numbers is an illustration of the same data.
Other data displayed in that card are Event count, Conversions, and New Users. If you click on any one of those, the graph below will update with that data. You will also pop up a menu with many other choices, which we’ll get into later. Remember that Events and Conversions is how GA4 now measures activity on your website to see how engaged your Users are. Also, keep in mind that Users are identified by device, so one human might be two Users if they access your website by both phone and computer.
Below those two cards is a reminder of which reports you recently accessed, which will be empty if this is your first time looking at your GA4 dashboard. Once you have played around a bit, this will be a quick way to find a report you want to revisit.
Below that you will find some more cards such as Views by Page title and screen class, Users by Country ID, and Sessions by Session default channel group. Users by Country ID is self-explanatory. Views by Page title and screen class shows the website pages or app screens that have been viewed most often during the current reporting period.
The Sessions by Session default channel group has a confusing name, but it is also fairly straightforward. A session is the amount of time when a user is interacting with your website, from the time they land on one of your pages until the time they leave. A session can last seconds or hours, but it will time out after thirty minutes if there is no interaction. As an example, a user may click on the link to read your blog post, but be distracted by an urgent email. The user might leave the tab with your blog post open on their computer, but if they aren’t scrolling or clicking on it, the session will end after 30 minutes. If the user goes back to that tab after thirty minutes and starts interacting again, it is considered a new session.
The session default channel group indicates where your users are coming from, both the source and medium. Google has set up some categories under which they assign incoming traffic by default. There are quite a few channels, but if banner ads and affiliate links are not part of your marketing strategy, you won’t see reports from those channels.
Most businesses will see direct traffic, traffic from search and social, and organic and paid traffic. Direct is when someone types in your URL or uses a previous bookmark. Search can be organic, such as when your site matches what the user is searching for so they click on it, or paid if you are running a pay-per-click campaign. Social includes traffic from all platforms and can include organic traffic as well as traffic from your social media ads.
All of the above cards are listed under “Suggested for you.” This is a perfect illustration of the best and worst parts of GA4. Available to you, for free, are reports that are almost infinitely customizable. But unless you are an experienced data manager, having so much control is just overwhelming. Many articles have been written about how frustrating Google Analytics 4 is for the average small business owner or even for marketing professionals compared with the old Universal Analytics.
There are three more icons lined up under Home, the one we looked at today, but we’ll save them for next time. If you can’t wait, or if GA4 isn’t set up on your website yet, give us a call and let our Sprocket team help.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
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