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How to Read and Interpret Google Analytics 4 Reports to Drive Business Success

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Darya is an analytics expert @VIDEN, delivering value for brands through vast technical proficiency in data science. With years of experience in the field, she specializes in providing efficient analytics solutions to nuanced data collection and reporting challenges.
How to Read and Interpret Google Analytics 4 Reports to Drive Business Success

​​14.5 million websites currently use Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Among them, 23% of GA4 websites are from the US, which we believe is a significant proportion. After Universal Analytics (UA) deprecation, well-known brands such as Netflix, Twitter, Nike, Slack, Uber, and others switched to utilizing Google Analytics 4 to track their websites’ performance.

GA4 continues to dominate and holds the greatest market share in the web analytics sector, offering a variety of reports to gather and present data tailored to know your visitors better. Whether you’re looking to understand user behavior with engagement reports, track conversions through eCommerce analytics, or get insights into audience demographics with user reports, GA4 has everything you need.

Our analytics expert, Darya Dishuk, will guide you on how to read and customize your Google Analytics 4 reports and explore how user-friendly GA4 can be.

Table of Contents:

  1. Setting up a Google Analytics 4 Account
  2. 9 Must-Have Google Analytics 4 Reports Explained
  3. Sales Performance Report (transaction-based)
  4. Shopping Behavior Report
  5. Order Coupons Report
  6. Acquisition Report
  7. Conversion Rate
  8. Google Ads Performance Report
  9. Search Console Report
  10. Site Search Report
  11. Advanced Customization Reports
  12. Tips for Correctly Analyzing Google Analytics 4 Data
  13. FAQ about Reading Google Analytics 4 Reports
  14. How Can We Help You with Google Analytics 4 Reports?

Setting up a Google Analytics 4 Account

Already have a GA4 account? Great! Follow the steps below:

  • Open your web browser and go to the Google Analytics website.
  • Click on the sign-in button in the top right corner of the Google Analytics homepage.

Google Analytics login page

  • Enter your Google account email address and password associated with your GA4 account.
  • If you are already signed in to Google with the same account, you will be redirected directly to the GA4 dashboard.

If you’re new to GA4, start by creating your account:

Since you’re ready to analyze Google Analytics data, let’s start with these 9 go-to reports.

9 Must-Have Google Analytics 4 Reports Explained

When you switch from UA to GA4, you’ll notice a significant change in how reports are structured. Some of your go-to reports from UA aren’t readily visible. But don’t worry. In GA4, reports can be created and adjusted to fit your exact business needs.

GA UA reports – short version

GA UA - Reports short

GA UA reports – full version

GA UA - Reports full

GA4 reports – short version

GA4 Interface

GA4 reports – full version

GA4 - Reports full

To help you analyze Google Analytics data, let’s go through some common UA reports and discover their GA4 counterparts. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. Sales report (transaction-based)
  2. Shopping behavior report
  3. Order coupons report
  4. Acquisition report
  5. Conversion rate
  6. Google Ads performance reports
  7. Search Console report
  8. Site search report
  9. Advanced customization reports

We’ll start by comparing the eCommerce section in UA with the monetization section in GA4 (who doesn’t want to know how much money they’re making?).

1. Sales Performance Report (transaction-based)

The sales performance report in Google Analytics 4 is a vital tool for analyzing your sales data. Let’s look at the primary dimensions and metrics included in this report.

Primary dimensions:

  • Transaction ID
  • Date

Key metrics:

  • Revenue (total revenue from eCommerce transactions; depending on your implementation, this can include tax and shipping)
  • Tax (total tax charges for eCommerce transactions)
  • Shipping (total shipping charges for eCommerce transactions)
  • Refund amount (currency amount refunded for a transaction)
  • Quantity (number of units sold in eCommerce transactions)

GA UA – Sales performance report

GA UA - Sales performance report

It’s important to note that GA4 doesn’t include this specific report. Instead, it offers an “eCommerce purchases” report under the monetization section. This GA4 report breaks down sales by product, similar to the product performance report, and lacks details on shipping or tax values.

GA4 – eCommerce report

GA4 - Ecommerce report

Despite these differences, with a bit of tweaking, it’s possible to replicate the depth of UA’s sales performance reporting in GA4. Just see an example of how this is done by our team:

GA4 – Sales performance: dimensions

GA4 - Sales performance - dimensions

GA4 – Sales performance: metrics

GA4 - Sales performance - metrics

2. Shopping Behavior Report

When it comes to tracking how customers shop on your site, it’s useful to analyze two Google Analytics reports:

  • Shopping behavior analysis report: This one shows you the steps your customers take when they’re buying something. It tells you how many people go through each part of the shopping process, who moves on to the next part, and where people tend to leave the process.
  • Checkout behavior analysis report: This report is all about the checkout part. It helps you see how many people are making it through the checkout steps without problems.

Both of these reports use the number of sessions as a metric, which means they show how often people are doing these things on your site.

GA UA – Shopping behavior report

GA UA - Shopping Behavior

GA UA – Checkout behavior report

GA UA - Checkout Behavior

In GA4, under the monetization section, you’ll find two handy reports: “purchase journey” and “checkout journey”. These are similar to the reports in Universal Analytics, but there are a couple of key differences:

  • Metric used: In UA, the main thing we look at is the number of sessions. But in GA4, it’s all about the number of active users.
  • Funnel type: UA’s funnel is open, meaning it counts all the sessions where users jump in at any step of the process. But in GA4, the funnel is closed, so it only counts users who go through the entire process from the first step to the last.

GA4 – Purchase journey

GA4 - Purchase journey

GA4 – Checkout journey

GA4 - Checkout journey

But remember, these reports won’t be helpful if you haven’t set up the steps in your process. For example, if you’re using the “begin_checkout” event to start a checkout but haven’t included “add_shipping_info”, or if “view_cart” is part of your checkout process and you want to track how many users drop off between the cart and checkout.

The good news is that with GA4, you can customize these funnel reports to match your tracking setup.

GA4 – Checkout journey 2

GA4 - Checkout journey 2

3. Order Coupons Report

Last but not least, let’s talk about the order coupons report. This report is really useful for understanding how well your order-level coupons are doing in terms of the following metrics:

  • Revenue (total revenue from eCommerce transactions; depending on your implementation, it might include tax and shipping)
  • Transactions (total number of completed purchases on your site)
  • Average value (average value of ecommerce transactions)

GA UA – Order coupons

GA UA - Order Coupons

In GA4, getting this information requires a bit of work each time you need it. That’s why setting up an order coupons report in GA4 is a good idea – it makes accessing and analyzing Google Analytics data much easier.

GA4 – Order coupons

GA4 - Order coupons

4. Acquisition Report

Once you know how users move through the eCommerce funnel on your site, it’s important to find out where they’re coming from. In UA, we look at the channels report and the source/medium report to see where traffic is coming from. Both of them are showing the session source of traffic.

GA UA – Acquisition

GA UA - Acquisition

In GA4, things are a bit different with two main reports:

  • User-scoped “user acquisition”
  • Session-scoped “traffic acquisition”

User-scoped dimensions show you where your new users are coming from. These dimensions always include the prefix “first user,” as in the first user source dimension (which shows you the most common sources for new users). The value assigned to each user-scoped dimension remains the same as users return to your website or app.

Session-scoped dimensions show you where both new and returning users are coming from when they start new sessions. These dimensions always include the prefix “session,” as in the session source dimension (which shows you the most common sources for new sessions). New values are assigned to session-scoped dimensions each time users return to your website or app.

Basically, a user will have one “first user” source but can have many different “session” sources.
Use the “first user” dimensions to see where a user originally came from and the “session” dimensions to see where they came from in their latest session.

GA4 – Traffic acquisition

GA4 - Traffic Acquisition

GA4 – User acquisition

GA4 - User Acquisition

If you need separate reports for channels, source, medium, or campaign, you can add these directly to the report menu on the left.

GA4 – Traffic acquisition: source

GA4 - Traffic Acquisition - Source

5. Conversation Rate

In UA, the channels report, along with several others, includes a metric called eCommerce conversion rate. This metric shows the percentage of sessions that end in an eCommerce transaction. It’s really valuable for comparing how well different channels are doing in terms of driving sales.

GA UA – CVR

GA UA - CVR

GA UA – CVR 2

GA UA - CVR 2

You have probably noticed that the eCommerce conversion rate metric is not available in GA4 reports.

GA4 – CVR

GA4 - CVR

GA4 – CVR 2

GA4 - CVR 2

Instead of eCommerce CVR, GA4 uses a metric called session/user conversion rate. It’s a bit different, but the main thing to know is that you can use it in a similar way.

Just select the “purchase” event from the dropdown list, and you can track conversion rates like you did in UA.

GA4 – CVR: Events drop-down

GA4 - CVR - Events drop-down

And it can be added easily to the reports.

GA4 – CVR 3

GA4 - CVR 3

6. Google Ads Performance Reports

In Universal Analytics, when looking at how you acquire traffic, there are many Google Ads reports. These reports show you what happens after someone clicks on your Google ads and then visits your website or starts using your mobile app. A good example is the Google Ads campaigns report.

Please note that Google Ads reports are not available by default. To see them, you should link GA UA / GA4 to your Google Ads account. Link can be added in Property settings.

GA UA – Google Ads campaigns

GA UA - Google Ads Campaigns

You can’t analyze these reports in GA4 by default. But you can create them yourself and add them to the reports menu.

GA4 – Google Ads campaigns

GA4 - Google Ads Campaigns

7. Search Console Report

In Universal Analytics, the Search Console data is linked up with Analytics through the “landing page” dimension. This lets you see how stuff that happens before the click, like search queries and how often your site shows up in Google (impressions), connects with what happens after the click, like bounce rate and sales.

The Search Console reports include one dimension that is specific to Google Web Search data – queries. These are the Google Search queries that generated impressions of your website URLs in Google organic search results.

The Search Console reports in Analytics use four metrics specific to Google Web Search data:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Average position
  • CTR

GA UA – Search Console

GA UA - Search Console

In GA4, these reports aren’t included by default, but you can add them from the Library. To see them in the Library, you have to link the UA / GA4 and Search Console accounts first.

GA4 – Search Console

GA4 - Search console

8. Search Search Report

Still want to know how to interpret Google Analytics reports? Let’s continue with another report – Site search.

The Site Search report might not be the first thing you think to check, but it’s actually really interesting. When you have a search box on your site and you track what people search for, you get a direct window into what your users are looking for. Every search is like your users telling you in their own words what they want to find on your site.

In UA, the Site Search report is a standard feature.

GA UA – Site search

GA UA - Site search

In GA4, you can also track site search data, but you’ll need to set up a separate report for it.

GA4 – Site search

GA4 - Site search

9. Advanced Customization Reports

GA4 lets you create really specific reports and add them to your main reports menu. This is great for advanced users who want more detailed insights.

For instance, you can group reports based on different types of content on your site:

GA4 – Content reports

GA4 - Content reports

Or create a whole section for SEO reports like this:

GA4 – SEO reports

GA4 - SEO reports

You can even make reports based on user-scoped custom dimensions, for example, on users membership type or login status, to see if logged-in users purchase more products than not logged-in.

GA4 – User scope dimension

GA4 - User Scope dimension

If you have something like a survey, quiz, or any other process (like a login process), you can create your own funnels based on the events you track.

GA4 – Custom funnel

GA4 - Custom funnel

Though GA4 reports customization is a powerful and useful feature, it still can’t cover all your needs, so GA4 introduced an updated customs report section – Explorer. There, you can create more complex reports: cohort exploration, funnel exploration, segment overlap, user exploration, path exploration, and user lifetime.

Tips for Correctly Analyzing Google Analytics 4 Data

Understanding Google Analytics reports can be a bit different from what you’re used to in other analytics tools. Here are some quick tips to help you get the most accurate and useful insights:

  • Understand the new event-based data model, which is different from the session-based model in UA
  • Set up goals as events to track your desired conversions
  • Utilize enhanced measurement options that automatically track certain types of interactions
  • Check your data regularly to stay on top of trends and catch any anomalies early
  • Customize the most valuable reports and adjust the interface to you business needs
  • Take advantage of GA4’s “Explorer” feature for deeper analysis
  • Compare user and session data
  • Stay updated with GA4 changes and new features

FAQ about Reading Google Analytics 4 Reports

  • How do I read Google Analytics 4 data? To read Google Analytics 4 data, look at the report dimensions (like country) and metrics (like users). Each cell shows a metric value for a specific dimension (e.g., users from the US).
  • What are the reports in Google Analytics? Google Analytics offers overview reports for summarized data (e.g., total earnings) and detail reports for in-depth information (e.g., specific ecommerce purchases), combining dimensions and metrics.
  • How to read the Google Analytics dashboard? To read a Google Analytics dashboard, identify key sections (real-Time, audience, etc.), understand metrics (like pageviews) and dimensions (like location), and interpret data trends and patterns for insights.
  • How do I use Google Analytics? To use Google Analytics, define your question, identify needed data (like coupon codes or transactions), find or customize a report in GA to answer your query, or create a new one.

How Can We Help You with Google Analytics 4 Reports?

Interpreting analytics is not an easy task. To truly harness the power of Google Analytics 4, it’s essential to move beyond the default reports and customize them to align with your specific business needs.

At VIDEN, we possess extensive experience in transforming GA4 into a powerful tool for gaining deeper insights into your audience, optimizing your marketing strategies, and driving business growth.

If you’re looking to get more from GA4, reach out to VIDEN, a Google Analytics 4 consultants. We’ll get in touch with you soon.

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