How do you use Google Analytics 4 for your SEO campaigns?

In the world of digital marketing, new trends and technologies are rapidly following one another. For example, Google recently rolled out a major update and launched Google Analytics 4 (GA4). The latest version of the service, which offers you insights into website traffic and user behavior, among other things, is now equipped with even more features and functionalities. (1). In this article, I discuss how I use this latest version of Google Analytics for my SEO campaigns.

What are the features of Google Analytics 4?

Compared to previous versions, Google Analytics 4, or GA4, gives you even more insight into the customer journey. You can track all activity that takes place on your page. This includes the most comprehensive reports. Some reports that may be of interest to you if you are focusing on search engine optimization (SEO) are:

  1. User Acquisition Reports: this report tells you in detail where your users come from, or in other words how they arrive at your website. This is often done through organic search, but paid search, social media and other sources can also provide traffic. The user acquisition report gives you insight into the sources that provide the most valuable users for your website.
  2. Behavior reports: this report, in turn, tells you how users on your website “behave. You can think about the pages they visit, the time they spend on your website and the actions they take. Using these insights, you can optimize your website to optimize visitor engagement. This is also how you can ultimately increase your conversions.
  3. Demographic reports: want to know more about the personal characteristics of your visitors? The demographic report gives you insight into their age, gender and interests. You can use this information to refine your SEO strategy to further target the right audience.
Demographic Reports

4. Conversion reports: with the help of the conversion report, you find out which user actions lead to conversions. You can think about filling out a form, signing up for a newsletter or completing a purchase. This information basically tells you which aspects of your Web site are effective in driving conversions and which may need improvement.

5. Speed reports: within search engine optimization, speed plays a heavy role. A speed report shows how fast your website loads on different devices and browsers. If it takes too long to do so, it will likely negatively affect your ranking in organic search results.

6. Event reports: Finally, GA4 also allows you to track specific events on your Web site. Think about clicking on specific links, filling out forms and more. These types of reports can give you useful information about how users interact with your site and which elements of it attract the most attention.

Clearly, GA4 is a useful tool for SEO and this latest version gives you even more insight into events on your website and visitor characteristics. Be aware, however, that the tool is not the answer to everything. Although I would certainly recommend that you use GA4, I would just as strongly recommend that you also use other SEO strategies and techniques to optimize your website.

Google Analytics 4 for SEO at a glance

No time for an article on Google Analytics 4 for SEO? No problem. Watch the video below for a summary.

How do I use the user acquisition report for SEO?

The User Acquisition Report in Google Analytics is a powerful tool for anyone who wants to know as much as possible about how visitors reach their website. The user acquisition report is very useful for your SEO efforts. Of course, it is important that you know your way around this well. Do you want to be able to get the most out of the report? If so, I would be happy to give you a little more detailed information.

The user acquisition report divides traffic to your website into several categories, including:

  1. Organic search: organic search traffic comes from search engines, but not from paid ads. Therefore, this search traffic is an important measure of the effectiveness of your SEO efforts. After all, it shows how many users find your page via search engine search.
  2. Paid search: paid search traffic, in turn, is traffic that comes from paid advertisements in search engines. So technically, this is not SEO. Still, it can be valuable to understand how paid and organic search results compare.
  3. Direct: direct traffic is the traffic formed by people who reach your website not through a search engine, but by directly entering your URL in their browser. Direct traffic also includes people who use a bookmark, or saved link to your Web site, to visit your URL. These numbers are separate from SEO, but they give you a good idea of how your brand awareness is doing.
  4. Social media: this traffic comes from social media channels. These numbers give you insight into the effectiveness of your social media strategies in driving traffic to your website.
  5. Referrals: this last form of traffic involves traffic coming to your page through other websites that link to you. This is valuable for SEO, though, because you can significantly improve your search engine ranking with high-quality backlinks.
References

Within the categories listed above, you can drill down further into the data to get more detailed information. For example, you can see which specific search terms users entered to find your website, which social media platforms generate the most traffic and which websites link to you.

The user acquisition report is valuable because it shows you how users are reaching your Web site. However, be aware that this report can also only provide insight into acquisition and cannot tell you, for example, how users behave once they are on your website. If you want to know more about that, you need other GA4 reports such as the behavior report or the conversion report.

How do I use behavioral reports for SEO?

Behavior reports in Google Analytics 4 are reports that give you insight into how visitors behave on your website. These reports can uncover any problems and provide more direction in taking advantage of the opportunities that exist to take your SEO to an even higher level. When using GA4’s behavioral reports, be sure to study the following aspects:

  1. Page paths: a page path shows the path taken by visitors to your website. You’ll discover the pages they visit first, which ones they click through to next, and through which pages they leave your website. Those first and last pages are also called entry points and exit points. If it turns out that your visitors leave certain pages quickly-these pages then have a high bounce rate-then perhaps the content is not relevant or the page is difficult to use.
  2. Engagement: the engagement aspect helps you understand how visitors interact with your content. That is, how long do they stay on each page and how many pages do they visit per session? Low engagement may indicate that your website content is not meeting your visitors’ expectations(2).
  3. Events: GA4 allows you to track specific actions on your website. These are also called “events” in the system. Examples include clicking on a particular link or filling out a form. An analysis of the events that occur most often provides information about what users find most valuable or interesting on your Web site.
  4. Speed: the loading time of your page is an important factor. Not only for your search engine optimization, but also for the user experience. Pages that load slowly can make visitors decide to leave your website quickly. This does your ranking in organic search results no good.
  5. Device and browser: this option shows which devices and browsers your visitors are using. For example, you may find out that users of certain devices or browsers exhibit higher bounce rates. Their involvement may also be lower. Both provide a reason to examine whether your Web site is properly optimized for those platforms.

An analysis of the above behavioral factors can help you identify areas for improvement. Addressing these will take your SEO results to the next level. It is important to check regularly for new trends and developments, as well as potential problems. Indeed, user behavior can change over time.

Device-and-browser

How do I use demographic reports for SEO?

The demographic reports in Google Analytics 4 also provide you with valuable insights. Thus, they tell you more about the age, gender and interests of your visitors. Information about their geographic location also adds significant value to your SEO strategy. Below I briefly tell you in what ways you can use which type of information.

  1. Age and gender: as a website owner, when you know what gender and age group your visitors belong to, you can adjust your content accordingly. You do this so that you can then better meet their needs. Such adjustments will help you increase visitor engagement on your website and increase the time they spend there. Search engines pick this up as positive signals, which in turn contributes to higher rankings in organic search results.
  2. Interests: based on your visitors’ online behavior, GA4 can offer information about their interests. Do a large proportion of your visitors turn out to be interested in a particular topic? Then it is smart to add content on your website that is related to it.
  3. Geographic location: when you want to optimize your content for specific regions or languages, it is useful to know where your visitors are coming from. This is even more true when you implement a local SEO strategy(3).
Geographic-location
  1. Devices: device usage reports tell you from which devices visitors reach your website. For example, does a large proportion do so via mobile devices? Then it is advisable to prioritize the mobile-friendliness of your website. By the way, this point is an important factor for SEO anyway.

Demographic information can be very useful for website owners who want to make their content even more relevant to their target audience. However, you must always keep privacy and data protection rules in mind when doing so. Will you get started collecting and using this data? Then make sure you comply with all relevant laws and regulations, including the EU General Data Protection Regulation (AVG).

How do I use conversion reports for SEO?

Conversion reports in Google Analytics 4 tell you everything you want to know about the actions visitors perform on your website. In particular, these are actions that you have defined as important. Such actions are also called “conversions. Besides completing a purchase, a conversion can also be an action such as filling out a contact form or signing up for a newsletter. I’d like to tell you a little more about how to use this information for your SEO strategy.

  1. Understanding which content leadsto conversions: when you look at which pages users visit before they convert, you learn more about which content is most effective. So effective content can be defined as content that is best able to drive conversions. This information will help you determine the types of content you should create or optimize in the future.
  2. Understanding which keywords lead to conversions: do you discover that certain keywords lead to more conversions than others? Then, when optimizing your SEO strategy, focus on those specific keywords.
  3. Identify user experience issues: while analyzing conversions on your Web site, you may find that users abandon the conversion process at some point. This often indicates a problem with the user experience, such as a complicated checkout process or problems with site navigation. By solving these problems, you will increase your conversion rate and improve your SEO. After all, search engines prefer websites with a good user experience.
  4. Understanding the conversion funnel: the conversion funnel is the path a user takes. This covers the first website visit to the completion of a conversion. By analyzing this proverbial funnel, you’ll discover exactly where users drop out. Those are the points where you need to start improving.

For website owners, high conversion rates are important. Remember, however, that a conversion in the narrow sense, that is, in the form of a purchase, does not always happen immediately. Often a user needs several visits to decide to do this. Therefore, it is also important to pay attention to “micro-conversions,” such as signing up for a newsletter or viewing a product page. After all, these may later lead to a “macro-conversion” such as a purchase.

How do I use the speed report for SEO?

The speed report in Google Analytics 4 offers insight into your website’s load times. An aspect you should not ignore, as this is crucial for both your SEO and user experience. Websites like Google consider load time as an important ranking factor. Below I briefly tell you how to use information from the speed report to the benefit of your SEO strategy.

  1. Identifying slow pages: the speed report shows you which of your pages load the slowest. These pages can have a negative impact on your SEO and thus need to be optimized. Impactful optimizations include resizing images(4), minimizing CSS and Javascript or using caching.
  2. Understanding the impact of speed on user behavior: the speed report can also tell you about the ways in which load speed affects your visitors’ behavior. For example, do you notice that visitors spend less time on pages that have above-average load times? Then this could mean that the load time negatively affects the user experience and increases your bounce rate.
  3. Comparing speed on different devices: the speed report also provides insight into load time on different devices and browsers. If you notice that your website loads significantly slower on mobile devices, it is advisable to focus on mobile optimization. By the way, I want to put you on notice anyway that mobile optimization is playing an increasing role in SEO(5).
  4. Monitor speed changes over time: when you review your speed report regularly, you notice changes in load time more quickly. That means you can quickly identify any problems and thus correct them.
Monitoring-speed-changes-in-the-run-of-time

Speed is a factor of great importance for SEO and should not be underestimated. At the same time, I want to emphasize that speed is obviously not the only thing that matters. Good content, relevant keywords and high usability are also important. Even though your website is blazing fast, if it does not contain high-quality content, it will still not rank high in search results. So always choose a balanced SEO strategy and have all factors in place as well.

How do I use the event report for SEO?

The event report in GA4 provides information about specific actions users perform on your Web site. These actions, thus also called “events,” can vary in nature. This could be clicking on a link, for example, or filling out a form or watching a video. Below I have listed some ways you can leverage this information for your SEO strategy.

  1. Identifying popular content: by identifying which events occur most often, you’ll discover what content your visitors find most interesting.
  2. Understanding user behavior: the event report can also provide insight into how users interact with your website. For example, you can see which links they click on most often or which forms they fill out most often. You use this information to further optimize your website and improve the user experience.
  3. A/B testing: you can also use this report to run A/B tests. This involves creating two different versions of a page and examining which one gives you the most desired events. So you discover what works best for your audience.
  4. Linking events to conversions: in GA4, you can set events as “conversions. This means they are seen as important actions that contribute to your ultimate business goals. When you analyze which events lead to conversions, the path your users take to conversion becomes clear. Then you get to work on optimizing that path.
A:B tests

The event report gives you valuable information about how users interact with your Web site. As with the other reports I have discussed, this one does not provide a complete picture of your SEO performance. So always combine the event report with other measurements as well, such as page views, bounce rate and organic traffic. Only then will you really get a complete picture of your SEO performance.

The differences between UA and GA4

FunctionalityUniversal AnalyticsGoogle AnalyticsGoogle Analytics 4Change in relevance
Page viewsYESYESYESNo change. Page views are still a basic measure of Web site traffic.
SessionsYESYESNoLess relevant. GA4 has moved to an event-driven model, which means sessions are no longer the focus.
Bounce RateYESYESNoLess relevant. GA4 has replaced bounce rate with “engagement rate.
Engagement RateNoNoYESMore interesting. This is a new measure in GA4 that helps to better understand traffic quality.
EventsYES, but less extensivelyYES, but less extensivelyYES, very comprehensiveMore interesting. GA4 has a more flexible and comprehensive event tracking system.
ConversionsYESYESYESNo change. Tracking conversions remains essential for measuring SEO success.
Demographic reportsYESYESYESNo change. Demographics remain important for understanding your audience.
Speed ReportYESYESYESNo change. Load speed remains a crucial factor for both user experience and SEO.

Before GA4 was launched, Universal Analytics (UA) was Google’s analytics method. Successor GA4 has many differences from UA and Google Analytics (GA) and has many more features than the ones I have included in the table above. Therefore, I recommend that you educate yourself further about the capabilities of GA4 and the ways in which this method can serve you in your SEO efforts.

My checklist for a basic setup for SEO

ItemPriorityDuration
1. Create a GA4-propertyHigh10-15 minutes
2. Implement the GA4 tracking code.High10-15 minutes
3. Configure website URLs.Average5-10 minutes
4. Set goalsAverage15-30 minutes
5. Configure site search trackingAverage10-15 minutes
6. Enable demographic reportsLow5-10 minutes
7. Set up e-commerce tracking (if applicable)Low15-30 minutes
8. Configure events (e.g. clicks, form submissions)Low15-30 minutes
9. Set up speed reportsLow10-15 minutes
10. Analyze and optimizeOngoingOngoing

Haven’t worked with GA4 before? With the checklist above, I want to give you some guidance. In the “priority” column, I have indicated which items you should address first. The time frame for each action item is an estimate. So depending on the complexity of your website and the level of detail you have in mind, your time may vary. So don’t worry about it if you take significantly shorter or longer on a given task.

Again, this is just a basic checklist with which I want to inform you about the most important steps. In practice, many more analysis and configuration options are available in GA4. Have you done the basic setup? Then it is advisable to analyze reports regularly, identify trends and adjust your SEO strategy based on the insights gained. If necessary, schedule the analyses in your calendar to work with this on a structural basis.

As with the entire SEO process, adjusting your GA4 setup and analyzing reports on an ongoing basis requires your attention. Moreover, as you no doubt know, search engine optimization is constantly evolving. This adds to the importance of regularly reviewing your analytics configuration and updating it as needed. This way you keep up with the latest trends and developments.

Conclusion

The transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 has brought some interesting changes for your SEO analysis. Although some features, including sessions and bounce rate, seem to have become less relevant, GA4 has also introduced numerous new and improved functionalities. SEO factors such as page views, conversions and speed remain as important as ever to the success of your website.

The various reports allow you to gain deeper insight into key events on your website and the characteristics of your target audience. By better understanding actions and visitors, you will be more successful in adapting your content and marketing strategy.

For serious website owners and SEO specialists, it is crucial to stay abreast of all the changes mentioned in this article. I would also advise you to explore the possibilities of GA4, if you had not already done so, as best you can. Reports lead to insights, and insights in turn lead to useful refinements in your SEO strategy. The result is a better user experience and better search engine results.

With Google Analytics 4, you have a powerful tool in your hands to meet the challenges of the ever-changing digital world. Above all, keep experimenting and constantly analyzing and optimizing to ensure and improve your SEO performance.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
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I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 15 September 2023. The last update of this article was on 11 January 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.