Interpreting Google Analytics Reports


"The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight." – Carly Fiorina


Mindshift: Moving from Reporting into Analysis

At Western Washington University, we have upgraded most accounts from Universal Analytics (UA), to the newest version; Google Analytics 4 (GA 4). The latest version of Google Analytics features an abundance of new tools like predictive insights, better cross-device measurement, and more data privacy controls. But if you’re used to looking at your old analytics account, the information that GA 4 provides looks a lot different. The key mind shift to understand is that Google Analytics is no longer a reporting tool – but an analysis tool.  

The Four Big Changes in GA 4

You can read about all of the newest updates to Google Analytics on Google’s blog, but the four updates to GA 4 that benefit us here at Western include:

  1. Smart insights and predictions improvement
  2. Improved focus on customer-related data
  3. Better event tracking
  4. More comprehensive data controls

Insights and Prediction

example of automated insight: "users for the screen class "Make Waves Locally" spiked last week", dated April 11 - 17, 2021.
Automated insight example.

While machine learning-powered insights in Analytics have been available for some time, the new insights and predictions making their way to GA 4 can automatically alert site owners to data trends. Those insights can help folks anticipate actions that site visitors might take in the future and help you to focus on higher-value audiences. (Higher-value audiences being those visitors more likely to enroll or register for Western’s offerings.) Identifying these higher-value audiences is useful for targeting campaigns and building audiences for remarketing. 

Focus on the Customer Journey

One of the biggest differences between GA 4 and UA is the organization of reports. The new reports are designed to help website owners drill down into the particulars of the customer journey. The new GA 4 experience also aims to give site owners a more holistic view of how users are engaging with the website across devices as well as the various channels that bring them to the website in the first place.  

Event Tracking Without Extra Code

Better codeless features make it easier for site owners to track and measure on-site actions that matter — in real-time — such as a student clicking a "Register" button, watching a tour video or downloading an application, without having to add code or set up event tracking in Google Tag Manager. Within UA, event tracking requires additional code, and the data was typically not available until the following day.

Better Data Controls

GA 4 also includes options to help us comply with data regulations such as GDPR and CCPA, regarding personal information collected from students.

How to Understand and Interpret GA 4 Automated Insights

Additional Reading

Do It Yourself Resources

Still intrigued by all this talk about data, reporting, market segments and more? Excellent! Read on to discover more DIY guides and tutorials. We believe in empowerment.


Self Help GA 4 Resources