What You Need to Know About Universal Analytics and GA4

What You Need to Know About Universal Analytics and GA4

Abby Browning

Google has announced that Google Analytics is getting its most significant update ever with the release of Google Analytics 4 (GA4). On July 1, 2023, GA4 will officially replace Universal Analytics (UA). Each day after this date, your UA will stop processing new hits. To make sure that your real estate marketing isn’t disrupted, we’ve put together a list of some key differences in the new instance and what you need to do to prepare.

What are some of the key differences between UA and GA4?

1. New & Improved Data Model

Universal Analytics relied on a hit-based data model tracking items like pageviews, events, and more. While UA has worked for simple site tracking, there was a need to keep up with the ever-changing and increasingly complex web and in-app environments to gain valuable insights and collect quality data. So, GA4 was built on an event-driven data model. This means that everything is an event from a pageview to a click to a file download. 

2. Events

Because GA4 is built on an event-driven data model, events in GA4 have gotten an update. You may be used to seeing Events in UA structured with a Category, Action, and Label. GA4 has simplified events by requiring only Event Name and Event Parameters and automatically collects certain events on your website. 

  • Automatically Collected Events are collected by default and measure basic interactions with your website. These events include first visit, page views, session start, and user engagement. A comprehensive list can be found here.
  • Enhanced Measurement captures optional events automatically that can be enabled/disabled at any time and measures additional engagement opportunities on your website, like scrolls, outbound clicks, file downloads, site search, and video engagement. More information about Enhanced Measurement can be found here.  

Plus you can modify events, create custom events, and if you’re using GTM, you can easily push events into GA4.

3. Goals vs. Conversions

Because the events in GA4 have been improved, conversion tracking has been simplified to understand conversions based on specific events. Instead of creating goals, we can now use events in GA4 and mark them as conversions. Instead of setting permanent goals, GA4 gives us 30 conversion slots that can be turned on and off in order to keep the data we’ve collected while freeing up slots for the future. You won’t want to mark every event as a conversion but take advantage of modifying or creating custom events to drill down on the conversions you want when someone takes a specific action on your website (ex: view a “thank you” page view after a form completion).

4. Front-End Redesign and Navigation

The entire front-end and back-end was redesigned to offer more flexibility and insights across all of your digital properties. Because the front-end has been redesigned, when you log-in for the first time, your left hand navigation will look slightly different. You’ll be used to seeing your ABC’s in UA – Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions. GA4 has restructured the nav to Reports, Explore, and Advertising. Don’t worry, everything you need will still be there (and eventually more), but it’s a little easier to navigate and understand. You’ll find a bulk of what you are looking for by using the Reports section to view acquisition and engagement.  

5. Behavior Flow Vs. Exploration Templates

If you’re like us, you may use Behavior Flow in UA to understand the user journey on your website. Behavior Flow will be replaced by two new Exploration Templates in GA4. 

  • Funnel Exploration Report – a funnel is a specific, pre-designed path you want your user to take while visiting your website. For example, if you want to track users who look at a specific floor plan and make a purchase, you could set up a funnel to track a series of events like “floor plans” > “check availability” > “select unit” > “start application.” The funnel exploration report will give you insights into where users are falling off in your desired funnel. 
  • Path Exploration Report – a free-flow user journey report that is not predetermined like the Funnel Exploration Report. The Path Exploration report lets you follow your user’s journey to see where they go and how they interact with your site. This is a great way to measure organic behavior and gain valuable insights.

ga4 real estate marketing

Within Explore, there are several other Exploration Templates that you can take advantage of now, like Segment Overlap, User Explorer, Cohort Exploration, and User Lifetime. 

6. Terminology

GA4 has adopted some new terminology that better fits with the event-driven data model it has adopted. By measuring events, we’re able to measure and track engagement on the site, so you might see terms like “bounce rate” going away. 

The first term to keep an eye out for is “Engaged Sessions” meaning a session must last longer than 10 seconds, include at least one conversion, or includes 2 or more pages views. 

Engagement Rate” will replace “Bounce Rate” currently found in UA and will measure the percentage of engaged sessions on your website. For example, if you had 100 sessions and 70 of them were engaged (Engaged Sessions above), your engagement rate would be 70%.

What do I need to do to prepare for the switch to GA4?

1. Create a GA4 Property

As soon as possible, the first step you need to take is to create a new GA4 property and implement GA4 alongside your existing UA to begin data collection. This will allow you to gather the historical insights you need to measure your results over time when UA stops processing hits on July 1, 2023. 

Most likely, you are already using Universal Analytics. The easiest way to create a GA4 property is to log in to your UA, navigate to Admin, and select “GA4 Setup Assistant” in the middle column labeled Property. This will prompt you to create a new Google Analytics 4 Property. 

ga4 real estate marketing

After your GA4 property has been created, the screen will prompt you to go to your new GA4 property, so let’s do it! 

2. Implement GA4 

The next step you’ll want to complete is implementation. You can implement GA4 one of two ways. You can add code directly to your website or you can implement GA4 using Google Tag Manager. Adding via GTM is very easy, so let’s explore that option together. 

First, you’ll want to grab your Measurement ID from GA4 by navigating to Admin > Data Streams > Web. Copy your Measurement ID. 

ga4 real estate marketing

Open up your Google Tag Manager account and navigate to the correct container. Go to Tags > New Tag > Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration. Copy and paste the Measurement ID and set a trigger to fire on All Pages. Save your tag and publish. 

ga4 real estate marketing

Congrats! You have successfully completed the implementation of GA4. 

3. Set Up Conversions

If you are currently not tracking any goals in Universal Analytics, you don’t need to worry about this step right now. If you are tracking goals, now would be the perfect time to convert those to conversions in GA4. This is also very simple and can be done from the Setup Assistant in your Admin view in GA4. Under Setup Assistant, look for the section labeled Property Settings and select “Set Up Conversions.” You will see a prompt that says “Import From Universal Analytics”ga4 real estate marketing
ga4 real estate marketing

You will see the available goals to import. Click “Import selected conversions.” It may take up to 24 hours for data to start populating, but to view these new conversions in GA4, navigate to Configure > Conversions > Conversion Events.

ga4 real estate marketing

Amazing work, you’ve successfully created, implemented, and imported goals into your new GA4 property. What’s next? Start getting familiar with the new instance and keep an eye out for more features and capabilities in GA4 overtime. Don’t worry, we’ll keep you posted. 

In Conclusion

In summary, we’ve covered some of the key differences between UA and GA4 and the creation and implementation of GA4. We hope this gives you a better understanding of how to prepare and what to expect for GA4 in the upcoming year. As new features are released, we’ll be sure to keep you updated. If you have any questions about how GA4 will affect your real estate marketing efforts, we’d love to connect with you. 

How To Use Google Analytics to Understand Your Renter Audience

How To Use Google Analytics to Understand Your Renter Audience

If you have a real estate website, when is the last time you dove into your Google Analytics? While most real estate marketers have a Google Analytics account set up for their website(s), many of them still underutilize this tool.

Not only is Google Analytics (GA) a must when it comes to integrating your Google Ad campaigns with site data like traffic volume and on-page conversions, it’s also one of the best tools at your disposal for understanding your online audience. Whether your goal is to reach more qualified users, improve conversion rates, or just gain a deeper understanding of who your audience really is, Google Analytics can help. You just have to know how to use it.

Today, we’re covering some of the best features of GA and showing how they can help you understand your audience better so you can execute more effective real estate marketing.

person using Google Analytics for real estate marketing insights

How To Find Out What Content Interests Your Audience The Most

Finding out what areas of your site draw the most attention from your audience can teach you a lot about what motivates them to take the next step and eventually become a tenant or customer.  You can then use this information to make it easier to reach those sections of your site or even link users directly to this information by creating Search, Social, and Display Ad campaigns with messaging related to this information. For example, if users are engaging most with your floor plans page, you may choose to run ads highlighting your floor plan availability, or you may even choose to run a special on specific floor plans that are getting attention.

There are two key ways to gather this information: Screen Performance reports and Event Performance reports.

Screen Performance

This report can be found in the Behavior section under Site Content. This will tell you the top pages on your site so that you can see which areas draw the most users. Bear in mind that this can be influenced by how easy it is to reach that section of your site, so take this information with a grain of salt. Think about how many clicks or turns of the scroll wheel it takes to view an area of your site and compare this to how many users actually view that area. If you have easy-to-access sections that no one is viewing or difficult-to-access sections that many users are seeking out, that can help give you ideas for site improvements or marketing campaigns.

This tool can also show you the time spent on each of these pages and the bounce and exit rates for each page, which offers further insights into which pages are your most successful drivers of prospect engagement.

Event Performance

Your Event performance can be found in the Behavior section under Events. This shows you what events people take most often on your site.

This information can help you diagnose whether people are taking the actions you want them to take on your site. For example, if you want people to use the contact page to get in touch with your leasing staff, you can check how often this event actually occurs on your site. If it’s not occurring very often, this could indicate that your contact form is difficult to find or use. It may even help you catch problems with your form, like a broken link or other UX issues.

Similarly, GA can show you your top conversions along with an Event count for those conversions. This can be found in the Conversions section in the left panel. Note that in order to get accurate conversion information, you first need to tell Google Analytics which events count as conversions.

How To Use GA To Tap Into Your Audience’s Interests

Did you know that the user demographics information in your Google Analytics account can show your users’ interests as well as their city, gender, age, and language? Not only that, but you can see which user interests correlate with the highest site engagement and conversions. This is located under “Audience” in the left pane, in the Interests section.

audience interests in Google Analytics

This information can help you create more accurate audience personas and inspire more effective marketing tactics. For example, if you find that many of your users are interested in the automotive industry, you might be inspired to draw more attention to your attached garages, covered carports, or EV charging stations through ads with targeted messaging or an amenity highlight on your home page, Google My Business page, or social accounts.

How To Find Out Who is Most Likely to Convert

At the end of the day, you want visitors to your website to take further action like scheduling a tour or starting an application. Luckily, Google Analytics has tools to help you understand who is converting, where they’re converting, and how often.

Engagement Reports

Engagement reports show you what actions users take once they’ve reached your site. An engagement report can be found by selecting “Audience” then “Behavior” and then “Engagement” in the left panel. These reports help you determine how well your site gets people to engage (by comparing total site users to users who actually engage). It can also show you which users are most likely to convert across factors like how they navigated to your site (e.g. organic search, link from social, search ad click, etc.) and user demographics.

Retention Reports

Similar to engagement reports, retention reports can tell you which users are interested enough to become a return visitor. A retention report will show you the number of return visitors you have over time, but it will also show you your number of return visitors by cohort. A cohort is a group of users who share a common characteristic such as when they first viewed your website. This feature is useful when you are making website updates, because it helps you determine whether those changes result in more return users, fewer return users, or no change. If a site update results in more return users, that’s a great sign that it’s generating more interest, more brand awareness, and ultimately more brand loyalty.

Compare Converters vs. Non-Converters

If you’ve configured your conversion events, you can easily compare users who convert to users who don’t convert. Navigate to Audiences in your left pane, then create an audience that includes a particular conversion event and another audience that excludes that conversion event. Once you’ve created these audiences, you can compare them in your reports. This will help you compare the behavior and attributes of converters vs. non-converters directly.

This can tell you the user behaviors and attributes that are most likely to lead to a conversion. For example, it might reveal to you that users who navigate to your floor plans page first are likely to convert, while users who visit your amenities page tend not to convert. This can help you diagnose site issues and show you where you should direct users through ad landing pages, home page links, or social media posts.

How To Understand Your Audience’s Full Renter Journey

Acquisition reports and user journey information in Google Analytics can teach you a lot about how users find and navigate your site and what behaviors make them most likely to eventually become a tenant. These features are particularly useful for understanding how your audience thinks as they navigate your site and can also give you insights into how to make your site experience more conducive to conversions.

acquisition report in Google Analytics

Acquisition Reports

Acquisition reports are a small glimpse into your prospects’ renter journey before they have arrived to your site. It tells you where the user was before they came to your site and/or what action resulted in them arriving on your site. In other words, clicking on the Acquisitions section in the left panel will bring up reports showing you the sources bringing in new users; that might be organic searches, ad clicks, referrals from your social media accounts, or other behaviors like typing your URL directly into their address bar.

Knowing how users tend to get to your site is useful because it shows you where your energies are best spent when it comes to digital and print marketing strategies. For example, if people are coming in from organic searches, that could mean SEO enhancements are your best low-hanging fruit to gain even more users. But, if people are clicking over directly from your social media accounts, that means putting extra effort into your social media presence could deliver the highest ROI when it comes to generating site traffic.

Not only that, but these reports can show you whether a particular acquisition source correlates with higher rates of engagement and conversion. This information provides additional insight into how your different marketing tactics are resonating with users and whether a particular marketing tactic is aligning with what users eventually find on your site. For example, if users arriving from ad clicks tend not to engage with your site very much, you might want to ask yourself whether your ad messaging and design is consistent with what a user sees when they first land on your site.

User Path Exploration

One of our favorite features of GA is the ability to explore a user’s full journey through your website. The path exploration or Behavior Flow feature allows you to see how users tend to move from one screen, page, or event to another.

For example, it could tell you that users tend to start at your home page, scroll to a CTA button about amenities, click that button, arrive on the amenities page, then bounce. Or, it might show you that a common user journey is arriving on your floor plans page, clicking on a particular floor plan, viewing a virtual tour video, then navigating to your contact page and filling out a contact form. Each step of the way, you can see how many users make it to the next step, how many end up somewhere else, and how many exit your site altogether. You can even dive down into a specific user’s journey to help troubleshoot a specific user flow or create an audience segment based on that specific user flow to help you gain further insights into your audience.

user path example in Google Analytics

All this information about how users move through your site can be an eye-opening experience for real estate marketers, designers, and web developers. For one thing, it can help diagnose problem pages that lead to the most exits and give you the opportunity to redevelop those pages. Or it can help you identify which landing pages lead most consistently to a conversion action further down the line, giving you the opportunity to direct more of your ads, social media links, or links in email campaigns to that page. Whatever you discover, diving into path exploration really helps you get in the mind of your users and see what’s important to them, what they find most eye-catching, and what messaging leads them to keep exploring and/or take action.

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