What Dealers need to know about GA4

Ga4 updates

What Dealers need to know about GA4

Ga4 updates

July 1st Is Coming...Is Your Dealership Ready?

The first of July usually brings thoughts about 4th of July sales events, an extended weekend (for some), and that familiar smell of hot dogs and burgers.  All followed by the fantastic fireworks display and parades.  

This year, a shadow of uncertainty has moved in and plagued the  Dealerships.  Every time they log into Google Analytics they see the reminder that the day is fast approaching.  Originally it was easy to ignore.  Subtle emails, then a flash message at the top of the page…then the countdown began to appear to let folks know the end is near.  

Google Analytics is nearly 20 years old,  not much has happened since it first launched.  New connectors, APIs, and even some cross-device metrics… but nothing that has caused such a shift as we are facing today.  It is one more thing on the to-do list for Auto Dealers and the Managers that lead the teams there.  Many have often looked at Analytics as something they “Kind of understood” but never really got too deep into the weeds.  Undoubtedly, the procrastinators are still pushing the envelope and hoping it will just go away.  

If you have not set up GA4 for your Dealership and need help, just reach out to us and we will assist you for no charge.  We will help you get the basic understanding and get things tracking quickly for you.  

What is different about GA4

The short answer is: Just about everything.  

Now if your experience with Analytics is limited to the Audience Overview tab, then pay attention because that information is not as easy to get to and one of the items is missing completely!  Here are the changes for the infamous seven metrics on the Account overview page.  

Sessions will still be available and can be seen in many of the reports.  Since Google Analytics 4 is now more focused on page level activity, it will be displayed a little differently but the label will remain the same. 

A session will still “time out” after 30 mintes as well. 

Users also will still be available and can be seen in many of the reports.  Since Google Analytics 4 is now more focused on page level activity, it will be displayed a little differently but the label will remain the same. 

This will be kind of the same so it is important to not mistake it as being exactly the same as Universal Analytics.  Now labeled views, this serves as an important directional consideration to the changes Google has made.  The information is designed to be focused on the page level data as opposed to holistic user information.  For that reason it is labeled views as opposed to pageviews.   What is also important to understand is that this is not just page views but also screen views.  

Another Universal Analytics favorite to assess whether or not traffic is “good” or “bad”.  There si certainly merit to this view in that if a traffic source sent thousands of visitors and the average session duration was 5 seconds, then it was easy to argue that it was in fact bad. This will not appear in any of the “out of the wrapper” reports however.  This metric is available but only if you add this metric to your GA4 reports.  

This is a unique one in that it appears to have been added, removed, added, removed and then finally remained gone – yet accessible in reports.  Like Average Session Duration, Google Analytics has hidden this in the long list of available metrics.  So you will not find it unless you know where to look and think to add it yourself.   The real question is whether or not GA4 will continue to support this in the long haul.  The chief reason for this is that GA4 is focused on ENGAGEMENT.  So the new metric is the number of engaged users.  This is like the counterance of bounce rate as a bounced user is an unengaged user.  To count as being engaged a user must complete a event that is flagged as a conversion – or have two page views.  So it is counting who did versus who did not. 

Keeping with the thought process in pageviews, this has become views per session.  Once again, not available out of the wrapper in GA4 but available in the list of additional metrics.  

This is the only one of the infamous seven that is NOT being supported in GA4 currently.  We can see a count of new users and we can even create a custom metric to do the math for us – but certainly not one we will see available in GA4.

The next big change is as it relates to events.  For those that are uncertain, events are a way to tell Google Analytics when a visitor completes an action that is desirable or something that you want to measure. This can be setup by the website provider, by the Partners providing website tools or though special tagging in Google Tag Manager.  

In Universal Analytics, events were sent in with three different levels of information:

Category:  The top level – usually indicates the core function.  This would often be the Partner’s name, or the name of they type of action such as Chat or Form Lead or even phone call.  

Action: The middle level – usually indicates a department like sales/service/parts or also found indicate what the behavior was like form initiated, or chat started.  

Label: The lower level – usually indicated more specific action such as form sent, or closed chat.  

These are sort of like buckets so when they are aligned you could look at the vent actions alone and see all of the forms that were sent and make some effective reports.  For most Dealers this was never normalized so reports were heavily filtered.  

Today in GA4 Events have only two levels.  Event name and Event parameters.  What is helpful is that you can add up to 25 parameters to each event.  That provides a lot more flexibility in design and opens up an endless array of options. 

Is GA4 ready?

As of today, our honest opinion is that they are close.  There is a lot of great work that Google has done.  The downside is that a lot of work still needs to be done.  We have scrutinized the data in hundreds of accounts over the last year.  As the date of execution draws closer, we see data changing and thresholds being applied and removed in what appears to be random ways.  We also see offline events suppression and events that simply do not make it to reporting.  API guides are not published, and connectors to Looker Studios are weak at best.  Those that are available break causing report-level errors and forcing reporters to delete metrics only to re-populate them again without change.  There are more changes happening daily, and with literally millions of businesses dependent upon a successful MVP – we are hopeful they will either launch completely or delay. 

Should I spend money on 3rd Party sites?

This questions brings about the revolving door of agreements for many Dealers.  Once upon a time there was just Cars.com and AutoTrader.com to consider.  Often we heard of Dealerships signing up for one and canceling the other, only to reverse it months later.  It became a lever to pull and perhaps for some just a method to explain reduction in sales.  

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