Google Analytics 4: what it is, how you can use it, and how it can improve your recruitment website

by in Analytics

GA4 has now officially replaced UA as Google’s free analytics platform, leaving website owners everywhere scratching their heads as to how to use it. However, once you’ve got to grips with GA4, it offers an unparalleled amount and choice of data that can help you to vastly increase the ROI of your recruitment website. Wave‘s Emily Buckley outlines what GA4 is and how to use it to your best advantage.

When Google first announced, early in 2022, that it would be sunsetting Universal Analytics (UA) on 1st July 2023, many website owners and marketers sounded the panic alarms. It’s the biggest update since the inception of Google Analytics in 2005 and, let’s face it, change is hard. There is no doubt that Google’s new analytics platform, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), looks and feels different to UA. However, the switch has a host of benefits, offering more data and the ability to track the data that is important to your recruitment agency. 

As every website that uses Google Analytics (and as the standard for website analytics, most will be) will now be running GA4, we wanted to break down why this change has happened, what’s different, why that matters, and, importantly, how to make the most of the data GA4 collects to maximise the ROI of your recruitment website

Why did Google change from UA to GA4?

The launch of Google Analytics in the early 2000s was monumental. As the first enterprise analytics product offered to website owners without charge, it changed how businesses could market to their customers. Suddenly, they had insights into user behaviour that they weren’t party to before. It’s unsurprising then that its uptake was immediate but the figures were truly colossal – 1,000 new accounts were created within the first week of launch, a figure four times the size of the entire analytics industry at the time. In 2012, UA was launched and by 2015 Google Analytics was being used on 30 million websites. 

However, the pace of digital change and development is such that Google Analytics had to adapt for privacy reasons, was able to improve the analytics it offered with AI and machine learning, and needed to reflect the differences in user access across different devices. As a result, GA4 was born, with changes reflecting the fact that users access websites and apps from a spectrum of different devices and that data privacy needed to be significantly tightened. GA4 also reflects the need to move away from sessions to a measurement that would more accurately measure user engagement – events and users. 

What is GA4?

GA4 is a new generation of analytics that tracks the data that you want, follows users across different devices and allows for a greater depth of insight into the way users interact with your website. The data model is different to UA, meaning it’s essential that GA4 is set up properly, with a number of configurations that should be completed in order to track essential data. Once set up, you can take advantage of GA4 to track performance metrics across a variety of key areas. 

You can see which content resonates with your audience, where they’re dropping off on the page, and what their journey from first visit to application looks like.You’ll be able to track metrics like clicks on the apply button, application and contact form submissions, and much more. Data from GA4 can help you understand where traffic is coming from, how interested users are in your job postings, and how successful your recruitment efforts are.

What’s the key difference between GA4 and UA?

The primary purpose of GA4 remains the same as UA’s, to provide data on user behaviour and engagement. However, how it does this and what you can do and see is where the differences lie. Arguably, therefore, the main difference between the two analytics platforms is the data model. UA used a session-based model, whereas GA4 is built around events and users. This means that, whereas with UA page views were the most important metric to track, in GA4 every single measurement is an event, allowing for more more granular and bespoke analytics. Because of this, you’ll also notice that the dashboard looks different. A lot of the reports you’d have been used to seeing in UA have gone and you’ll have to set up your own to track the data you want to see. It sounds complicated and it will be strange seeing something different but once you’re used to it, you’ll see that you can do so much more. 

How can you utilise GA4 to get the most from it?

Event measurement – A big change (and improvement) is the movement away from session-level reporting to individual interactions, which will provide you with greater insights from more in-depth reports. Every interaction is counted as an event. This means that pageviews, for example, are just one event of many that you will probably want to track. 

Something that’s important to note is that, because of GA4’s move away from session-based measurements, bounce rate no longer exists. Instead, this metric is replaced with ‘engagement rate’. If a ‘session’ lasts longer than 10 seconds and contains more than one page view and conversion event, it is counted as an ‘engagement session.’ The engagement rate is calculated as the number of engaged sessions per total number of sessions. This is a far more reliable measurement than bounce rate and is another positive move by Google Analytics.   

Advanced reporting – Unlike UA, GA4 doesn’t offer a large number of immediately available reports. This may seem like a downside but many of those reports wouldn’t have been relevant to your recruitment business anyway. Instead, you will have more flexibility in what you track. The customisation of reports does mean more work to begin with, but it allows you to gain greater insights into metrics that directly feed into what you need to know at any given time.
There are some basic reports still available (although it may at first be hard to find the metric you want as some reports might have a different layout). These are acquisition reports (where traffic is coming from), engagement reports (insights into user behaviour), and user reports (insights into your website users, including the devices they’re using and their location). 

Once you’re comfortable with the existing reports, head to the ‘Explore’ area where you can create custom reports to extrapolate the data that is most useful for you. This can be tricky to set up, however, so we also recommend using the Google Looker Studio to create an analytics dashboard. This will allow you to gain quick insights into key metrics and conversions from Google Analytics. It is the perfect tool for quickly finding important data metrics and creating easy-to-read reports. 

Cross-platform tracking – Users today use multiple devices to complete their user journeys, switching between desktop and mobile, for example, which was nearly impossible  to track in UA. In order to follow a user’s entire journey, from that first click-through to clicking ‘apply’ or registering their CV, GA4 no longer focuses on views, replacing them with data streams. 

In GA4, a data stream can be a website, an iOS app or an Android app. So whereas the structure of UA was Accounts>Properties>Views (where you had a unique property for each source of data), the structure of GA4 is Account>Property>Data streams, so each property can include one or all three data sources. 

What this means is that, whereas under UA your app and website would be two distinct properties within a single account, with GA4 a single property contains data for both the app and the website. This change enables cross-device reporting, cross-device re-marketing, and cross-device conversion export to Google Ads.

Link to Google Search Console – Integrating with Google Search Console can help you gain a better understanding of how users interact with your website when they come from organic search. You’ll be able to see where each page ranks in the SERPs, what keywords are driving clicks, and how that traffic behaves once it reaches your site. You can find those settings under property name in the ‘admin’ view. 

Filter unwanted data – There’s a host of data that is valuable to collect and analyse but some data will only create anomalies in your reports. In GA4 you can exclude data generated by certain IP addresses – useful if, for example, you want to disregard internal traffic from measurement and test traffic generated by developers. To do this, you’ll need to create a filter within Google Analytics and specify the IP addresses you’d like to block. Once this is done, any data generated from those IPs will no longer appear in your reports. 

What are the extra benefits of using GA4?

Increased privacy protection – Users are increasingly concerned about the protection of their data and tracking (or third-party) cookies are becoming obsolete as a growing number of browsers have blocked or plan to block them. GA4 does not rely exclusively on cookies and does not store IP addresses – a really positive move in a world where consumers and brands want increased data security.

Back-ups to Google BigQuery – Previously a feature only available to Analytics 360 premium customers, Google’s cloud data warehouse is available to everyone using GA4. This gives you long-term storage of and access to most of your analytics data.

What are the key metrics to measure on your recruitment website?

In a recent Recruitment Cheat Codes podcast episode, Wave’s Data Analyst, Kamila Fitchett, highlighted the 3 metrics that recruitment agencies should be measuring: 

  1. Application submissions – The primary metric to consider is application submissions, which can be compared with clicks on the ‘apply’ button. If there is a significant gap between these two numbers, you may need to examine your application forms for potential issues, such as length or functionality.
  2. Keyword searches – Tracking job seeker behaviour is another important metric. You can do this by checking things such as ‘keyword searches’ which help recruiters to better understand the types of roles candidates are interested in.  
  3. Job alerts – Monitoring the number of job alerts set up and client contact form submissions can also offer useful insights for recruitment professionals as to what is working and allow them to optimise their processes and strategies accordingly. 

Make the new search bar your new best friend as you get to grips with GA4. It lets you search for instant answers, search for reports, admin pages or insights, search for account or property configuration, and search through all the help content. It will prove invaluable to you as you navigate GA4.

For those that have been using UA for the past decade, GA4 will initially seem completely alien but don’t give up straight away. It may look and feel different. It may take some time to set up the events and create the reports that align with what you want to see. It may feel like you’ll never get to grips with the new analytics platform. But the extra insights you will gain from the data you can now collect and analyse are worth the initial work. You’ll be able to gain a better understanding of your users and how they interact with your website, leading to a website that will attract more candidates and clients.

This article was originally published on on the 24th of July 2023