For the last 15 years, the data from Google’s Universal Analytics (UA) has enabled you to track the changes in your audience effectively. Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the latest version of Google’s tracking platform, presents data for both web and app analytics in one place. The same information you were used to looking for in UA is still available in GA4 through different access points.
Along with that data, the flexibility of reporting and data exploration in GA4 introduces new layers of information. Those new layers of information mean that looking for the information you want (and then knowing what to do with it once you find it) can cause some anxiety, something you may have already experienced.
Here’s the good news: when set up and managed correctly, GA4 can be an upgrade for marketing professionals in the insurance industry.
GA4’s Event-Based Data Presents a Shift in Thinking
User sessions drove the numbers behind UA, and when one of your main objectives is growing a client base, it’s easy to fall in love with those numbers:
- A higher number of users and new users meant brand awareness
- Higher referral counts meant affiliate marketing success
- A lower bounce rate and higher average session duration meant effective content marketing
- Higher impression, click, and conversion counts meant paid advertising was doing its job
Event-based numbers drive GA4, so GA4 presents a shift in thinking: it’s not about how many users come to your site, it’s about what they do when they get there.
- Instead of judging brand awareness by user sessions, think in terms of brand interest gauged by user interaction. If all those sessions led to relatively few page views, it’s not an issue of awareness.
- Instead of evaluating referral marketing in terms of sessions, think in terms of the actions during those sessions. If all those sessions led to relatively few goal completions, the referral strategy might need some work.
- Instead of measuring content marketing effectiveness by average session duration, think in terms of scrolling. If a user spent five minutes on a blog article page but never recorded a scroll event, they probably just didn’t close the page when they lost interest.
- Instead of looking at paid advertising by impressions, clicks, and conversions, think in terms of the actions that led to the conversion. If a user who completed a conversion visited other pages before or after that, there may be more interest than you realize.
Event-based data sharpens the view of how your website is performing, giving you a more complete picture of how effective it is in the context of your overall marketing strategy.
Use The Flexibility of GA4 Data to Your Advantage
The transition from UA to GA4 is like changing over from driving an automatic to a manual transmission. GA4 has less pre-made reports than UA, the data is generally less segmented, and information is presented from a different initial perspective. Here’s the thing: GA4’s structure allows for much more customized deep dives into the data. This means we can see the data from the angles that matter to us.
One of the biggest advantages that GA4 has over UA is the Explore section. GA4 has four basic exploration types:
- A funnel exploration shows what events were taking place at different stages of a funnel.
- A cohort exploration shows similarities between users who took the same actions.
- A path exploration highlights what pages site visitors went to and in what order.
- A user exploration provides insight into individual user actions.
You can also use these exploration techniques to draw out data for more specific situations:
- A free-form exploration lets you use multiple exploration techniques to drill down into the data.
- You can create user segments from the user exploration based on actions or attributes.
- A user lifetime view that lets you see a particular site visitor’s full event history on your site. (This, of course, is not retroactive, so the event history would only go back as far as your GA4 data goes)
Here are a few simple examples of how these tools can be useful:
- You launched an enrollment awareness campaign and want to see how site visitors in a certain stage of the funnel interacted with your site beyond the landing page. Using a free-form exploration, you could combine the funnel exploration and the path exploration to get that insight.
- Over the last few months, you’ve launched a few lead generation email campaigns and want to see which recipients responded well to more than one campaign. You can create user segments per campaign to see who responded and can compare where there is segment overlap.
- A new client enrolls for multiple policies and you want to know more about what that client might be looking for. Every six months, you could look at the user lifetime to understand the client’s interests and provide a more tailored experience.
The reports in GA4 aren’t as automatic as in UA, but the open access and flexibility of viewing and searching for data can make it easier to understand where your marketing strategy succeeds.
GA4 Is an Upgrade in Data Analytics for the Insurance Industry
The change from session-based data to event-based data ultimately makes it easier to find the data that matters to us. Although it’s true that it may take time to build out reports and explorations, the relevance and usefulness of these reports make the process worth it.
If you’ve ever driven a stick, you know the experience requires more attention, can be more practical, and, potentially, even more fun to drive. GA4 is your “manual transmission” analytics; once you get the hang of it, you’ll be glad you learned.