UTM tags are a cornerstone of analytics strategy. Their role with digital ad links has expanded into links for social media, email and QR codes. Today most marketers are very familiar with the UTM parameters, a legacy of Urchin measurement roots that spawned Google Analytics.
But as Google upgrades Google Analytics to its latest version, GA4, it must also update the metrics associated with its tags. Many of the analytics reports are meant to place a stronger emphasis on capturing event activity that can be related to customer experience — and less reliance on webpage functionality — the update on Bounce Rate is an example. Thus, these metrics and dimension features are being added to all Google Analytics 4 accounts.
UTM tags have not changed functionality within GA4, giving marketers a small collective sigh of relief from change anxiety regarding the GA4 upgrade. The changes do enrich the information captured with a campaign click, capturing information more efficiently at a touchpoint and informing attribution decisions in a new way.
Let's look at the changes.
Enhanced Measurements for Quality Customer Analytics
The first of the new metrics is a pair of dimensions, First User and Sessions, for two UTM parameters, Term and Content. In your campaign URLs you would see these as UTM_term and UTM_content in the tag. The dimensions are designed to show the values of Term and Content parameters across users and sessions. This gives a better range of combinations of how events are triggered in a website or app.
The Term parameter receives dimensions called First user manual term and Session manual term. The Content parameter receives First user manual ad content and Session manual ad content as dimensions.
These changes play into the overall focus on event activity within Google Analytics 4 measurement. They will allow marketers a better sense of attribution and customer behavioral insights from their campaigns.
Conversion rate metrics will also receive two enhancement metrics meant to add flexibility. One is called User conversion rate, the percentage of users who triggered any conversion event. The second is called Session conversion rate, the percentage of sessions in which any conversion event was triggered.
The new metrics enhance conversion rate reporting on any conversion event.
Related Article: Google Is Forcing the Switch to GA4 — and Many Brands Aren’t Happy
Dedicated Metrics for Intake Forms
Google just added analytics metrics dedicated to recording engagement with intake forms while on a website page or app. The metrics are part of a new Form interactions enhanced measurement option. The measurement option collects the following events
The metric form_start shows you the first time a user interacts with a form while in a session. The second metric, form_submit, registers when a user submits a form.
All newly created web streams in current GA4 accounts have the new option enabled automatically. If your account already has a web data stream in production, Google does have a switch accessed through the Enhanced Measurement feature.
The Return of the Bounce Rate
An interesting development the analytic practitioners picked up over the course of the year is the decision to include the bounce rate metric in reporting (I reported the impact of its elimination from GA reports in this post). Bounce rate is now available in Explorations and Reporting Customization among the Google Analytics 4 reporting features.
Furthermore, Google Analytics 4 calculates bounce rate differently from its original use. In Universal Analytics, bounce rate is the percentage of single page sessions in which no interaction occurred on the page. To imagine it, think of someone entering a store by accident, then changing their mind immediately and leaving. That is what bounce rate represented for online commerce. For content a high bounce rate represented a rejection of the content on page. A bounced session has a duration of 0 seconds.
The UA version of bounce rate worked well for websites and measuring webpage performance — its origins are as a diagnostic tool for page loading. But bounce rate became less intuitive as analytics were included with apps. User interface pages on apps operate as single page website, plus people use apps for brief interactions to accomplish tasks. So, people who view a single page and then leave without triggering an event — clicking a purchase button or playing a video — would be considered a bounce under the old UA system.
Enter GA4. In contrast to UA, bounce rate in Google Analytics 4 is measured as a slightly different rate — the percentage of sessions that did not have an interaction. The GA4 bounce rate accounts for people who "linger" a few seconds as well as not interacting with the page, making it a better fit for apps and for other kinds of webpage content.
Related Article: The Switch to Google Analytics 4 Is Fast Approaching: Here’s What to Do
What the Updated Metrics Bring to Analytics Strategy
The enriched information from UTM tags is especially helpful for tactics that support advanced analysis such as storing the parameters in a database. Many marketers have learned to store UTM tag data to support more precise personalization tactics in a marketing campaign. The campaign data can be correlated with people in your CRM who responded to the given campaign, revealing additional behaviors from people familiar with your brand.
When you are looking at the default Google Analytics conversion and acquisition metrics, you are indeed gaining a few steps of a campaign value. But while seeing the number of conversions from organic search versus paid search can be valuable, questions for identifying a familiar customer segment against a specific campaign remains. Making a correlation between CRM data to parameters from a campaign can help answer those questions. The applications for customer correlations can be applied to digital ads, email campaigns, social media campaigns — anything that relies on UTM tags for campaign identification. The additional dimensions can enrich the data further.
Overall, the new dimensions can help marketers plan for more sophisticated understanding of customer behavior. They arrive just in time as marketing teams further develop their work plans during the transition period to Google Analytics 4.