Google Analytics for Dummies

Google Analytics for Dummies

GA4 can help you understand which marketing sources drove traffic to your website, allowing you to compare one to another.

A Simple GA4 Guide for Non-Analytics People

G4? GA4? Google Analytics? Are they all the same, and how do they relate to the metrics my website vendor sends me? 

First off, I don’t sell any products related to analytics or analytics consulting. Our company does help our dealer partners with this area, but this article is purely intended to inform, and I don’t have a dog in this fight. My product is in the digital marketing realm, so we interface a ton with analytics. Moreover, I get dozens of analytics questions every day, and there’s understandably a lot of confusion about this topic.

This article is not going to be an exhaustive guide. There are whole books for that! These are the broad strokes to make you dangerous enough that you can ask informed questions or at least know what you don’t know. Let’s dig in…

What Is It?

You probably know the answer to this. Google Analytics measures what happens on your website. It’s a free Google-owned product installed on virtually every website and is the common standard by which traffic is measured. There are other ways to measure traffic, including other third-party analytics suites. Some automotive website vendors even have their own traffic dashboard in the site backend. Disregard all of the above and stick to Google Analytics. It may not be as easy to use as your basic website dashboard, but when you say “traffic,” it’ll mean the same thing as when other people say “traffic,” and that’s important to have informed conversations.

G4, GA4 or Google Analytics?

Until mid-2023, everyone was using a version of Google Analytics called Universal Analytics (UA). In 2023, Google shut down Universal Analytics, and everyone had to move to Google Analytics 4, or GA4 (sometimes incorrectly called G4). This understandably caused a ton of alarm and confusion, and it still does because GA4 does things differently and is objectively more difficult to use than UA. Why the change? Lawsuits, privacy issues, Google plans by committee, and it honestly doesn’t really matter because we can’t go back. 

What Does It Measure?

It tells you how many visits came to your website, how many unique people that represents, where those people came from (organic search, paid search, social, email, etc.), and what they did on the website. If — and this is a big “if” — your vendors have helped you with complete configuration, it will also tell you how many conversions (leads) have happened on your site and which traffic sources caused them. That last part is hugely valuable to making smart marketing decisions and BS-metering your vendors. 

Tell Me More About BS-Metering!

The trouble with GA4 is that it can be complicated to the point where a vendor can make the output look like anything if they want to. More innocently, we see many poorly informed vendor reps just pointing to the wrong stats or the ones they’ve been told are important without a full understanding. For the sake of this quick guide, my biggest piece of advice is to say to them, “Show me the conversions!”

There are a lot of nuances to getting perfect conversion information in GA4, and it’s not always possible in automotive. With that said, it’s very possible to get good conversion information, and that should be enough to compare this month to last month or this year to last year. Even if your before and after data aren’t perfect, you can make informed decisions with them if they’re at least the same. 

So, many vendors report on traffic, VDPs and other GA4 metrics that don’t necessarily line up with leads in your CRM. Do website visits sell cars? No, not necessarily. Leads — and don’t forget scheduled service appointments — are what we need to sell more cars, so in an increasingly competitive market, you should ask your vendors to show you the conversions. If they can’t, they just haven’t tried hard enough to configure them for you (shame on them). 

So What Is It Good For?

With some basic understanding, GA4 can help you understand which marketing sources drove traffic to your website, allowing you to compare one to another. With more understanding, GA4 can tell you which marketing sources drove leads to your CRM. In a market where most dealers are reporting decreases in leads and even sharper decreases in sales, knowing which marketing is impacting your bottom line needs to be a priority. Have GA4 questions? Reach out for a free consultation.

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