Decoding GA4: Metrics, dimensions and other concepts explained
Understand the differences between metrics, dimensions, calculated metrics, recommended events and conversions
In the realm of digital analytics, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has replaced universal analytics and emerged as a powerful tool for understanding user behaviour. While GA4 offers a wealth of data and insights, it’s important to understand the fundamental concepts that form the basis of its functionality so you can benefit from the possibilities, such as increased flexibility, privacy, reporting features and more. Gaining a deeper understanding can help in optimising your marketing strategies and reducing advertising costs.
This article delves into the key terms, such as metrics, dimensions and custom dimensions, calculated metrics, and recommended events – and, hot from the press: why main events are replacing conversions.
Metrics: Numbers that Matter
What is a metric in Google analytics?
Google analytics metrics are the quantitative measures that provide information about user behaviour and website performance. They are the foundation of data analysis, allowing you to track and evaluate key aspects of your online presence.
Most Common metrics
Some of the most common metrics that can be used in reports to gain important business insights are for example:
- Page views: The number of times a specific page on your website has been viewed.
- Unique visitors: The number of individual users who have visited your website within a specified timeframe.
- Bounce rate: The percentage of visitors who leave your website after viewing only one page.
- Average session duration: The average amount of time users spend on your website per session.
- Conversion rate: The percentage of visitors who take a desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.
In October, Google also announced it is introducing ‘Calculated metrics’ into the platform. Where you previously had to use an external data visualisation solution in order to do your own magic with your metrics, you can now do some simple calculations with existing metrics within the platform to combine and transform your data and answer your business questions.
Dimensions: Organising your data
Now you might be thinking: What is a “dimension” in Google Analytics 4?
Dimensions, on the other hand, are qualitative attributes that help categorise and segment your data. They provide context and structure to your metrics. For example, the dimension ‘Country’ allows you to analyse user behaviour based on their geographical location, while ‘Device Category’ lets you understand how users interact with your website or app across different devices.
Most common dimensions
Some of the most used dimensions in GA4 reports are:
- User demographics: Age, gender, location, and language preferences of website visitors.
- Device usage: Type of device (desktop, mobile, tablet) used to access the website.
- Traffic source: The origin of website traffic, such as organic search, social media, or direct visits.
- Page title: The title of the webpage being viewed.
- Campaign parameters: Identifiers used to track the performance of specific marketing campaigns.
What is a “secondary dimension” in Google analytics 4?
A secondary dimension in Google Analytics 4 is an additional dimension that you can add to a report to further break down your data. This allows you to see how a particular dimension affects the values of another dimension. For example, if you have a report that shows the number of page views for each page on your website, you could add the secondary dimension “Country” to see how the number of page views varies from country to country.
Dimensions can, just like custom metrics, be adjusted to your specific business needs by implementing ‘custom dimensions’. They are user-defined attributes that are a flexible way to collect data that is not available through the standard dimensions provided by Google Analytics.
Using custom dimensions to combine data from multiple sources is an advanced way of making the most out of GA4’s capabilities, such as your website, app, and CRM system. This can give you a more complete view of your users and their behaviour.
Custom dimensions are a great start in creating custom reports that are tailored to your specific business needs. They can help to identify trends and patterns in your data that you may not have been able to see otherwise, allowing you to understand what works, and what doesn’t.
Main Events: Replacing Conversions
Google has announced to rename conversions to main events in November.
Why? I hear you thinking. The change was made to reflect that conversions are not just a type of event, but are also the most important events that you track in GA4. They say that the new definition is chosen because it is more accurate and more consistent with the terminology that is used in other Google products, making it easier to understand the relationship between GA4 and other products.
Main events, previously known as conversions, represent significant user interactions that align with your business goals. They are the actions that you want users to take on your website or app, such as:
- Completing a purchase: Completing a transaction in an e-commerce store.
- Submitting a form: Filling out a contact form, newsletter signup, or registration form.
- Downloading a file: Downloading a whitepaper, ebook, or software update.
- Watching a video: Engaging with a video tutorial, product demo, or explainer video.
- Making an appointment: Scheduling a consultation, booking a service, or reserving a table.
By tracking main events, you can measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, identify areas for improvement, and optimise your website or app to encourage desired user actions
See our article with real-life examples here.
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