A Guide To Google Analytics 4 – The One Report To Master

Google Analytics is a free website analytics tool that can help everyone, from digital marketers to small business owners, understand their website. It primarily deals with all traffic sources, including organic search, paid search, social media, and more. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version, launched in 2023.

But it does more than just tell you how users found your site – it also details what actions they’ve taken there. Together, such information is crucial for optimising your digital marketing strategy, helping you to prioritise high-traffic sources and tweak your website to improve visitor engagement. That’s how businesses maximise conversions.

One of the most powerful features of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the Traffic Acquisition Report, which pulls data from every visitor, letting you know where they’ve come from.

Understanding the Traffic Acquisition Report

The Traffic Acquisition Report is a pre-made detailed report that lets you know where your website and app visitors are coming from. That’s not just new visitors – it tells you where you’re seeing repeated visitors. This report shouldn’t be confused with the User Acquisition Report, which exclusively shows where new users come from. 

Why does this information matter? Well, say you’ve just launched a social media campaign, hoping to funnel your sizeable social media presence onto your website. The report would let you know if it’s making a difference – you could see how many people arrive on your site from social media and when they came. That helps optimise marketing campaigns and allocate funds effectively.

Some of the key metrics in the report include:

  • Sessions: The total number of visits to the site, including repeat visits by the same user.
  • Users: The number of unique visitors to the site.
  • Bounce Rate: The percentage of visitors who leave the site after viewing only one page.
  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of visitors who complete a desired action, such as making a purchase or filling out a form.

Taken together, these metrics provide a detailed look at where visitors come from and what they do. It tracks every stage in the buyer’s journey, from first arriving on your site to performing the desired action. You can then identify any bottlenecks or problems with your strategy. 

Navigating the Traffic Acquisition Report

Pulling the report from Google Analytics is simple. Follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to Google Analytics.
  2. Navigate to the left-hand menu and click on Reports.
  3. From the left-hand menu, select Acquisition, then choose Traffic Acquisition.

Inside the report, you’ll find a table containing all the relevant information. The table is ordered row-by-row by the traffic source channels, e.g. paid search, display, and cross-network. The columns are the different metrics relating to how visitors from each traffic source behaved, e.g. number of unique visitors, total number of sessions, and average engagement time per session. 

You can add a filter (or build your own) to look at specific parts of your traffic data or compare data over time. For example, review what changes have occurred over the last 28 days. 

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Interpreting Data in the Traffic Acquisition Report

If you’re new to acquisition reports (or GA4 more generally), it’s a lot of information. But it’s not as complicated as it looks once you get the hang of it.

How to Read and Understand the Metrics

When you open the report, you’ll see a table that lists various traffic sources. The columns next to each source display the essential metrics:

  1. Sessions: This metric shows how many times your website was visited. For instance, if your site had 500 sessions from organic search, it means 500 visits were originating from search engines.
  2. Users: This indicates the number of unique visitors. If there are 400 users under social media, it means 400 different people came to your site via social media platforms.
  3. Bounce Rate: This is the percentage of visitors who leave after viewing only one page. A high bounce rate from a particular source might indicate that the landing page needs improvement.
  4. Conversion Rate: This tells you how many visitors completed a desired action, like making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter. For example, if the conversion rate from email campaigns is high, it shows that your email marketing is effective.

Use this information to get a clear picture of how people are behaving. Note down unusual trends or statistics. If you notice a high number of sessions and users paired with a high bounce rate, there may be an issue with your landing page’s content or relevance. On the other hand, the reverse indicates that users like your website but aren’t being funnelled to it from a particular source. 

Imagine you see a spike in sessions from social media; your bounce rate is high, but your conversion rate is low. Such a combination suggests that your social media posts are attracting visitors and that your landing page matches their expectations. The problem is that you’re not turning that interest into actions. You could add more call-to-action (CTA) buttons, deliver a clearer message, or rethink how you funnel users to an action. 

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Using the Traffic Acquisition Report for Actionable Insights

The Traffic Acquisition Report contains crucial information for identifying growth opportunities and optimising your marketing strategies. 

Perhaps the best feature is simply knowing where your traffic is coming from. Maybe you’ve spread yourself too thin across multiple channels, but your organic search ads are performing the best. That could mean you pull resources away from poor-performing channels and invest in content creation.

On the other hand, you’ve got to look at the details. Tons of traffic from organic search is fantastic. However, if social media marketing results in a much higher conversion rate, you could see more revenue from that channel. 

There’s no right or wrong answer. It all depends on the metrics and circumstances. You’ve got to learn, experiment, and be willing to try different things, monitoring the results. 

Speak with our team by booking a free consultation.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

We won’t pretend this is easy – it’s not. Everyone, from small business owners to marketing teams, grapples with these metrics, which is why many choose to hand it over to a professional agency. That being said, there are a few common mistakes you can avoid:

  1. Misinterpreting Data. Take the time to familiarise yourself with the definitions of key metrics like sessions, users, bounce rates, and conversion rates. That way, when you make a conclusion, you can be sure it’s reflective of the data.
  2. The Danger of Small Samples. Statistics is a numbers game. A sample of 10 tells us nothing about the behaviour of 1,000 users. Be cautious when interpreting data from small sample sizes, as they can show big swings which are not representative of overall trends.
  3. Overlooking Important Metrics. There’s a tendency to pick your favourite metrics. Marketers tend to hang on to the number of visitors and conversion rate, ignoring valuable metrics like bounce rates or average session duration. However, these metrics connect the two together.
  4. Not Keeping the Big Picture in Mind. Get a clear picture of how the metrics and specific data points connect together. Think about them in the context of the buyer’s journey, and work to remove bottlenecks to conversions.
  5. Ignoring Trends Over Time. Focusing too much on the short-term means you miss the wood for the trees. Trends indicate something that demands action. It’s an opportunity to double down on growth or fix areas needing improvement.

Tip for Beginners to Get Comfortable with Google Analytics

Learning Google Analytics for the first time can feel a little like wandering into a cockpit. Puzzled by all the features, metrics, and more, it’s understandable to feel daunted. Try these tips:

  • Set Up Custom Dashboards: Customise dashboards to show important metrics like sessions, bounce rate, and conversions so you can quickly access key data.
  • Regularly Review the Traffic Acquisition Report: Check this report often to see where your visitors come from and how they interact with your site, helping refine your marketing efforts.
  • Utilise Google Analytics Academy: Take advantage of free courses covering everything from basics to advanced techniques, making it easier to master Google Analytics.
  • Experiment with Views and Segments: Explore different views and create custom segments to analyse specific data sets, helping you understand your audience better.

We understand if this all feels too much. Maybe you don’t have time to commit to poring over reports and delving into Google Analytics. That’s where we come in. Book a free consultation with our team to explore your website and how we can help.

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Carl Darnell
Founder and Director

My passion lies in helping growing businesses achieve their goals by leveraging the power of digital channels. I strive to bring a fresh perspective and innovative strategies to the table to help brands reach new heights.

Carl Darnell
Founder and Director

My passion lies in helping growing businesses achieve their goals by leveraging the power of digital channels. I strive to bring a fresh perspective and innovative strategies to the table to help brands reach new heights.

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