Is GA4 sorting your website traffic incorrectly?

Challenges and Solutions in the New Google Analytics


In the ever-evolving world of digital marketing, tracking and understanding website traffic is crucial. One recent development that has disrupted the way marketers and businesses track and analyze website traffic is the transition from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). While GA4 brings many exciting features and improvements, it does have a few limitations, particularly when it comes to differentiating paid social campaigns from other sources of traffic.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the problem and present solutions using UTMs and source/medium reports. “But wait! I don’t know what that means!” Don’t worry. Keep reading. It’ll all make sense soon… and if it doesn’t, our marketing & analytics experts are only a phone call or email away.

The Challenge: Default Channel Groups in GA4
One of the significant drawbacks of GA4 is in its traffic acquisition report. By default, the report sorts your traffic into Default Channel Groups: organic search, paid search, social media, direct (sessions started from someone typing your URL into the address bar), referral (sessions originating from someone clicking a link to your site on other websites), and email. However, we’ve noticed that GA4’s Session Default Channel Groups fail to differentiate and categorize some website traffic accurately, leading to paid social campaigns being grouped into the wrong category. In Universal Analytics, users could edit their Default Channel Groups, but in GA4, you cannot.

Why does it matter?
Accurate tracking is crucial for understanding the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Misleading data can lead to wrong conclusions and misallocating your resources. For example, if your paid social campaigns are getting grouped as something else, you might think they’re not working well. As a result, you may reallocate your resources to a less effective marketing strategy.

The Okay Solution: Sort by Source/Medium instead of Default Channel Groups
Sorting by Source/Medium will give you a little more detail by splitting your report into traffic categories like Facebook/Referral or Google/CPC. But, should Facebook be a referral? Or is it better categorized into organic social so that you can differentiate it from website referral traffic as a result of relationship and link-building campaigns? And is that your Google search campaign or your Google display campaign? These important details are still unclear. While Source/Medium sorting is an improvement over Default Channel groups in GA4, there are still limitations in differentiating between certain campaign types.

The Best Solution: UTM Parameters and Source/Medium Reports
By combining the power of Source/Medium sorting and UTMs, you can achieve a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of the performance of your various marketing campaigns across different channels. This approach provides a more precise picture of the impact of your marketing efforts, enabling you to make informed decisions and optimize your marketing strategies effectively.

UTMs, or Urchin Tracking Modules, are tags added to your campaign URLs. They transmit details like source, medium, and campaign name to your analytics reports. By implementing UTMs, you can precisely attribute website traffic to specific campaigns, regardless of how GA4 groups them. UTMs can even be added to the links you use for QR codes, making even the impact of your print marketing tangible.

Here’s how you can implement UTMs effectively:

• Define UTM parameters: Determine the UTM parameters you want to track, like source, medium, and campaign name.

• Build UTM-tagged URLs: Use Google’s Campaign URL Builder or other UTM tools to create unique URLs for each campaign.

• Implement UTMs across your channels: Apply the UTM-tagged URLs across platforms like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, and LinkedIn Ads.

• Analyze data using Source/Medium reports: In GA4, focus on the “Traffic Acquisition” or “User Acquisition” reports to explore campaign performance based on the Source/Medium data from UTMs.

Benefits of Using UTMs and Source/Medium Tracking:
By implementing UTMs and relying on source/medium tracking, you can unlock several benefits:

• Accurate campaign attribution: Precisely attribute traffic and conversions to specific campaigns, providing valuable insights into their performance.

• Granular campaign analysis: Segment and analyze data at a detailed level, identifying top-performing campaigns and channels.

• Informed decision-making: Use data to optimize marketing strategies and maximize ROI.

• Enhanced campaign optimization: Track the effectiveness of different targeting options, ad formats, and messaging strategies.

By utilizing UTMs and source/medium reports, you can overcome GA4’s limitations and gain accurate insights into your marketing performance. Stay ahead by harnessing the full potential of GA4 for your digital marketing success.

A cat blinks in confusion.
“Soooooo… now what?”

Don’t be held back by misattributed data. AMMO specializes in navigating analytics and implementing advanced tracking solutions like UTMs, ensuring your campaigns are accurately tracked and optimized for success. Let us help you transform your digital marketing strategy and achieve your goals using data, not guesswork.

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