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GA4 Guide Chapter 12: Optimizing User Experience

Sep 13, 2022


Say you walk into a store, excited to purchase a product you’ve seen promoted on TV and read about online. Say a clerk greets you in the store and says that today only, you can get 20% off your purchase if you provide your name, email, and phone number.

You agree and jot down your information, at which point the clerk says you will receive a text message soon with the offer. Next, you walk around, hoping to find the item you want. You go up and down a few aisles based on the numbered sign above each aisle. You stop to ask another clerk where the item is, who responds with an “I am not sure what item you are asking about” or, “I do not think we carry that item anymore.”

Confused, you walk around the store a little longer. You peruse the remaining aisles, becoming slightly aggravated, mildly disheartened, and disappointed that you cannot find the item you wanted. After wasting so much of your time, you end up leaving the store. You do not leave with the item, and you are upset with the store for not being able to provide the product which brought you to the store in the first place.


Now, most people would agree that this was a very poor experience. This scenario highlights a business that does not understand what makes an optimal user experience offline. The same issues arise online, but fortunately, Google Analytics 4 can be used to support two online user experience goals (amongst other things):

  1. Optimizing the way people find your website (or store in our example) to help you acquire new and better visitors
  2. Optimize users’ experience attempting to use your website (or, again, store in our example).

To be able to achieve the above goals, as well as many others, it is important to PLAN (see Chapter 4: Before You Implement: How to Plan) and REVISIT your business objections/requirements and understand your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on your site/app. Here is a list of questions that you can use to help review your Business Requirements and Objectives:

Are your business objectives clearly defined?

  • What is the action you want users to take?
  • What is the measurement?
  • What will the business do if objectives are met?

What constitutes a successful user experience?

  • Are these activities properly tracked in Google Analytics 4?
  • Are these activities being tracked in all possible occurrences on your site?
  • Are these events enriched with the proper information to make knowledgeable business decisions?

You should not hesitate to ask additional questions about your business to assist with the overall user experience design.


As you continue to build your list of business objectives, supported by actions/activities/events successfully achieved on your site, naturally, you would like to be able to report on them using your Google Analytics 4 data. Providing results for a business objective lets a team determine if users are having a desirable or undesirable experience.

Along with understanding if your site/app is meeting or exceeding your business requirements, it’s also important to understand the path a user may take to successfully achieve your business expectations. Here are a few questions you can ask to help understand a user’s experience as well as assist with the user experience design process:

  • Are users engaged with my content?
  • What actions are users taking?
  • Are users completing the actions I want them to?

Let’s look at how asking these questions can be answered by using the Google Analytics 4 reports suite.


Each Google Analytics 4 reporting category has an “Overview” screen, which (like in Universal Analytics) is a central place to get a high-level understanding of the information you will find there. To understand if users are holistically engaged with the content on your site/app, you should begin your analysis on the “Overview” report under the “Engagement” category.

This Overview report has been designed to help answer these questions:

  • Are users engaged with my site?
  • On average, how long are users engaging with my site over a period of time?
  • On average, how long are users engaging with my site in a single session?
  • On average, how many of my users engage within a session?
  • What percent of users are we retaining after one day/ seven days/ one month?
Engagement Report

GA4 has introduced a new metric to all implementations via the “user_engagement” event, plus a new parameter for engagement time, “_et,” which will be handy if, like me, you look at the network calls more than the actual webpage. This event allows GA4 to understand how frequently users engage with your content and the average time users engage with your content over a single session and across multiple sessions.

In GA4, you can see user activity in real-time (in most Overview reports, including the “Engagement Overview” report). This will allow you to confirm that users are sending data to your GA4 instance and confirm the events you wish to track.

Besides engagement on the individual interaction level, you may also be interested in understanding if your users are returning to your content over time. User Stickiness is not a new term, but Google Analytics 4 has adopted this terminology and now lets you see how you’re retaining users. Understanding this information will help you compare your retention expectations (e.g., we expect to retain 10% of our users over a 30-day period) to your actual retention. This information can help spark the question, “How do we continue to exceed and grow our retention goals?” or “ Why are we not reaching our retention expectations?”

Being able to master GA4’s tools to provide insight into your site/app engagement is key to supporting your other teams and impacting their success. Communicating with your digital marketing, SEO, and optimization teams will allow you to brainstorm ideas to improve the quality of engagement with your content based on data.


GA4 has simplified this information in a single “Events” report. This section provides quick access into your top-performing user actions as tracked by GA Events. Quickly viewing top Events (or recognizing that expected Events are not present in the report) will provide a high-level understanding of users’ actions. As you see your Events populating in GA4, you can look at individual Events to understand more specifics about each Event and the data that is being populated. From the “Events” report, you can click on an Event of interest for an in-depth report. Viewing this report, you will be able to see things such as:

  • Overall usage numbers (users, Events, Events per users)
  • Activity in the last 30 minutes (to confirm that your Event is collecting data)
  • Additional parameters that have been configured to collection-enriching information from our site/app

Using the “Event” report to validate the actions users are taking on your site, as well as the information that each Event is collecting, is very important. Using this report will help you think about what is important to your organization, while also discovering what events contribute to your overall business needs and success. Then you can start designating Conversions based on key Events that are being tracked.


The key to a successful site/app is one that can fulfill the needs of each user with as little resistance as possible, while building trust so that each returns repeatedly. Easy, right?

Nope. Many factors may result in undesirable results, and you will never be able to satisfy everyone. You just need to satisfy the right users. The right users will be the ones who become loyal users, who repeatedly visit your site/app, and continually complete the actions you want them to complete. After establishing what key actions you want/expect your users to take, you can begin setting those actions as Conversions in Google Analytics 4.

It is important to create Conversions based on Events that are not too easily attainable (e.g., navigating to a blog article is very easy). These Conversions can result in poor performance measurement, and if used in other platforms such as Google Ads, you could be targeting users who are not actually contributing to the success of your business.

In GA, you can use the “Conversions” reports to quickly see how well your Conversions are performing (similar to the “Events” report in the previous section). Along with seeing your Conversions all together in a single table, you can click into a Conversion to see how converting users were acquired (including the value of each conversion, if set).

It is important to review your Conversions consistently, as these Conversions will be used in other GMP tools such as:

  • Google Ads
  • Search Ads 360
  • Display & Video 360
  • Campaign Manager 360 (When Available)
  • Google Optimize & Optimize 360

If not reviewed, you may be incorrectly tracking (whether that be over-tracking all the way down to not tracking), resulting in linked products inaccurately reporting and optimizing on success or failure. Along with reviewing to confirm that the Events are tracking correctly, it is also important to review your Conversions to confirm if they are still relevant. If a Conversion Event no longer signifies what actions you consider key action, you can archive it so that it is no longer tracked as a Conversion.


GA4 comes equipped with the ability to customize your left-hand report navigation. This new feature, “Library,” allows you to build custom reports (now with the ability to filter the report based on dimension values) based on your business needs. Create new report categories (e.g., Acquisition, Engagement, etc.), add to current report categories, create new detailed reports, and customize overview reports using this upgraded capability that makes it easy for GA4 admins and power-users to create a GA4 experience that supports your business analysts’ and standard users’ needs. You and your colleagues can get the answers you need consistently, minimizing the opportunity for data to be incorrectly analyzed.


Tracking how users ultimately achieve an end result or what users are doing afterward is something that Google Analytics 4 has to offer with the new Path Exploration report. This reporting tool first allows you to choose between whether you are interested in what happens before a key Event or what happens after a key Event. From there, you can see the common Events that occur after that Conversion. You can continue to click into a path and locate the next step. If you realize that there is a desirable path (or undesirable path), you can begin the optimization process to increase this path’s success. This can lead you to the next new report, the Funnel Exploration report.


Understanding how users engage with your content in a series of expected Events may be critical to optimizing their experience. If your site requires users to complete a series of actions to achieve your business goals or perform a main call to action, then the new Funnel Exploration report is a wonderful addition to your reporting arsenal. This report allows you to define a specific set of steps that a user can perform based on the expected user behavior, while also providing you with information on when and where users abandon said funnel. This report will be critical in understanding where users may be exposed to bottlenecks or complications, resulting in a poor user experience and ultimately losing a potential consumer and/or loyal user.


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