Top Benefits of GA4 for Charities
The time is nigh! The reign of GA4 is officially here, as of July 1st 2023. As such, it’s important to make sure you have your GA4 analytics in order before Universal Analytics (UA) loses its ability to collect data. A lot of clients are asking “is GA4 actually better than UA?” Or in some cases (from die-hard UA users) it’s more of a statement on the lines of “GA4 is so much worse!”.
In reality, a lot has remained the same; it’s still free and it’s not a complete change in functionality. Excluding the odd feature, effectively anything you could do in UA is present in GA4. It also provides a good opportunity to take a step back and review your current conversion and ecommerce set-up, to allow for better donation optimisation and reporting. As someone that believes GA4 will offer some key improvements from UA, I’m here to give you my top five benefits of GA4 for charities.
What is GA4?
GA4 is the latest evolution of Google Analytics. Google analytics is a Google tool which gives website owners a comprehensive breakdown of traffic and user behaviour on their site. It tracks key metrics for charities such as number of sessions, which pages have been visited, engagement rate and different types of key conversions (such as how many people have donated on a particular page).
This vast source of data allows charities to get a deeper understanding of their target audience, whilst monitoring the effectiveness of and optimising various marketing campaigns such as Paid, SEO or email. There are a number of new features in GA4, or reimagining of old features, that should help support you in your quest for cleaner, more meaningful analytics. This includes general tracking all the way to setting-up ecommerce for better donation optimisation and reporting.
1. Accuracy in Metrics
Whilst not all UA parameters and metrics exist in GA4, the overall accuracy of GA4 measurement is a big benefit of the new analytics system. For example, sessions now don’t double count over midnight, and also use unique identifiers to further estimate what should be considered a new session. Though this may initially lead to lower session counts, these two aspects combined have resulted in a greater accuracy of session measurement across nearly all accounts.
One of the biggest changes and perhaps the hardest to convert to is the fact that not all your UA parameters and metrics exist in GA4 and those that do might be reported on differently. Although these new metrics and methods of measuring them may be more accurate, it can be difficult to adjust.
For example, GA4 no longer reports on bounce rate. Instead, it reports on the more app-friendly engagement rate (what is now ‘GA4’ originated from Google Analytics Web+App property which was originally designed to combine app and website analytics). Whilst engagement rate is just the inverse statistic of bounce rate, the new name and measurement is still something to get used to.
All of this is a result of GA4 moving to a more “Active User” approach than UA’s “Total User” approach prior. This is partially to implement one of the main features of GA4, which is the consolidation of websites and apps within a single reporting property. Gone are the days when you have to sift through half a dozen properties and thrice as many views to gain useful data insights. The new one property fits all approach is a great deal slicker!
2. Custom Reporting
Part of the GA4 push for users to have a more bespoke experience within their analytics tool, is the emphasis on building your own reports. Something you may have noticed is that compared to UA, GA4 has less default reports. This is a design choice that encourages users to modify their reports to better suit their needs.
Whether this change is beneficial to you will depend on how you report in the first place. If you report via a dashboarding tool such as Looker Studio, then this change will make very little difference to you. However, if you often investigate your own analytics, then having easy to navigate KPI focused reports within analytics that are completely tailored to you will be extremely useful. You can have all your different team’s reports in one, easily navigable location. You can organise them so your fundraising team can find and analyse their key information and your communications team know where to find theirs for example.
3. Other Explorations
Something completely reimagined and heavily requested prior is improvements when seeing user “journeys”. Through explorations within GA4 you are now able to create your visualisations such as funnel and path explorations. Starting with a number of templates you can now easily construct visualisations that let you see information such how many people made it to the end of a petition form and at which points they may have dropped off. You could also select multiple events and construct Ven-diagrams showing information such as what proportion of people signed up to your newsletter were likely to then go on to donate.
A key point to emphasise is that when we say user journey we explicitly are talking about a collection of users. GA4 was built with privacy at the forefront and as such we are able to see segments but never how someone individually moved about your site. In some cases, GA4 may not display any information at all if Google deems your data to be insufficient for anonymity, such as user demographics. This is vital for charities, especially those that may handle particularly sensitive information.
4. Consent Mode
On the case of privacy, Google still strives to gather as much data as possible, while remaining on the right side of GDPR. One way that this has been done is within Google’s Tag Manager when setting up new GA4 events.
GA4 tags now have the ability to use a feature called Consent Mode. Although it is technically still in beta, there is a decent list of Cookie providers that have partnered with Google in order to use Consent Mode. What it does is effectively still track users who decline or, as the newest regulations sate, not accept cookies but does not gather any information that is identifying and as such would not comply with European GDPR laws. This means Google is protecting privacy, whilst still striving to gather as much data as possible.
This will allow for more useful reporting whereby GA4 will estimate metrics based on similar users. This is something many people may already be attempting to do manually if they find their cookies are excluding a large number of users. Furthermore, this will change the cookie acceptance process in Google Tag Manager from a tedious and error prone method of manually changing each individual event’s triggers to a simple checkbox. Far more efficient in both time and money.
5. Automatic Anomaly Alerts
Finally, we have GA4’s new alerting system. Previously, alerts could be set up if certain metrics dropped or reached certain pre-set values. This is useful to see if your analytics have stopped working, but has no way of identifying potentially if there were anomalies that, however important, may not have been captured. This works on a predictive forecast of what GA4 expects to see on a given day, and if your actual results fall outside of that range then you can set up email alerts so that you are kept in the loop.
These can be extremely useful to alert you to potential issues with your website, apps or if your conversions have unexpectedly dropped off. It also has the added benefit of being able to notify you when particular pieces of content are exceeding expectations and performing beyond expectations. These insights could be really useful to help influence marketing decisions. In any case, knowing when something isn’t quite right, regardless of the reason behind it, it is never a bad thing to keep on top of your analytics.
Bonus Benefit: Enhanced Event Measurement
It’s also worth mentioning enhanced event measurement. This allows for basic events to be configured without the need for additional development of GTM work. This can be a big help for charities with less resources or Google Analytics skills. We would always recommend a more customised tracking approach where possible though.
These are five of my top benefits of GA4, which are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the fantastic features available to users. Whilst this may be new, different and a little bit intimidating, I truly believe that in the long term, GA4 will be a step forwards in analytics. At its core, it offers greater accuracy, active user insights and has a more user-friendly interface compared to UA.
Want to take your GA4 data to the next level?
The Charity Digital Benchmark offers UK charities a private dashboard where they can share and learn from each others data in a secure way to the benefit of the whole industry. Members of this private community can share their GA4 analytics data into a central database which fuels an overview dashboard. This data provides a comprehensive overview of key performance metrics for charities compared to others in the industry. Charities can analyse their data by benchmarking against similar organizations based on size or sector, such as ‘animal charities’ or ‘health charities.’ If you want to enquire about signing up – you can find the contact page here.
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