Most of us know that Google’s Universal Analytics is going away in favor of the new and improved Google Analytics 4 (GA4) platform. The real question is, how will it help your dealership?
The Automotive Standards Council (ASC) is leading the charge in creating better compatibility standards for GA4 across the automotive industry. It’s official. As of July 2023, we’re in the new GA4 metrics and reporting world. Car dealerships must understand how implementing ASC’s GA4 standards can benefit their online presence. This world may appear foreign and unknown, but Dealer Authority is here to guide you through it.
UA Versus GA4: What’s the Difference?
GA4 is event-based, whereas Universal Analytics tracked click-based metrics. Put simply, GA4 dives deeper into how users interact with your website. While the Universal Analytics platform tracked the basics of your website visits, the new GA4 platform goes beyond to measure the quality and depth of each visit.
This is an entirely new system from top to bottom. While it differs from what we’ve grown accustomed to, GA4 ultimately gives you more flexibility to measure user experience and marketing performance data across your website.
UA was built for desktop and had to be adapted for mobile. GA4 was designed to consider mobile and desktop, building for a cross-device world. So basically, comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. They may serve the same primary purpose, but the similarities end here.
Additionally, GA4 is built to better adapt to the increasing privacy and tracking restrictions, particularly from mobile devices.
These two are not the same. But how do they differ, exactly? Let’s start from the high-level view and work down to the details.
How Does GA4 Measure Your Web Traffic?
To start, The way these tools measure your traffic are starkly different. Where UA pulled data from your website and counted visits through sessions and views, GA4 pulled from websites AND apps, taking the depth of a visit into account. GA4 takes a far more granular look at how users interact with your website with the ability better to track the entire customer journey through your website.
That’s where the updated GA4 measurement model and new and refined metrics come in. Let’s start by breaking down the measurement, reporting, and automation differences between UA and GA4.
- UA pulled data from websites only and counted user visits by sessions
- GA4 pulls data from both websites AND apps and tracks events as users browse
- UA offered limited cross-device reporting w/ complex user interface & workflows
- GA4 offers full, cross-device, and cross-platform insights
- The user interface is streamlined & made for reporting
- Reports can be edited & customized with quick-edit capabilities
Insights + Automation:
- UA offered minimal automation and data portability
- GA4 offers simple import/export options with unsampled data + machine learning & customization
- This makes it easier to focus on your preferred data in reporting
- Machine learning will assist in predicting some user behaviors
The big takeaways are that GA4 measures your traffic far more granularly, with customizable reporting and intuitive functionality that deliver more robust data and flexibility.
What Are the New GA4 Metrics?
Yeah, those are very different from what we’re all used to in UA. And frankly, it’s expected. While the metrics in UA were simple to understand, they were also simple in their purpose. Keep in mind that GA4 is essentially a different language than UA. A higher-level view offers a whole new perspective on your website traffic.
One of the significant differences between GA4 and UA is how sessions are calculated. In GA4, a session is defined as a group of user interactions with your website that takes place within a given time frame, and sessions begin when the “session_start” event is triggered by either engaging with the site or when launching an app. The session ends with the last event, under UA, sessions when the first event is triggered and ends after a “reset” event or 30 minutes of inactivity.
Active Users vs. Session Duration
Another difference is how each version calculates the number of active users. In UA, to include an event in reporting, a user interaction had to trigger the event, while GA4 automatically detects activity on the website. GA4 also focuses on engaged users rather than user exits; there is no bounce rate metric. Instead, GA4 measures engaged users as the number of sessions that last longer than 10 seconds, have a conversion event, or have two or more screen or page views.
Engagements in GA4 refer to a user’s interactions with a website, including clicks, scrolls, and other types of activity. GA4 focuses on engaged users rather than user exits, as it is designed to measure user behavior more comprehensively. The goal of GA4 is to measure user engagement with the website, whereas UA primarily focuses on measuring sessions and page views.
Events in UA are tracked as a part of a session and are categorized by event type, action, and label. In GA4, all user activity is tracked as an event, including pageviews, clicks, and other interactions. GA4 uses a hierarchical event structure, with the category, action, and label as the three main parameters. In addition, GA4 automatically tracks certain engagement events, such as scroll depth, video engagement, and file downloads. These engagement events can provide insights into how users interact with your website beyond just pageviews and clicks, allowing you to analyze better and adapt your site to meet the needs of your audience.
To find more information about the events in GA4, you need to dig deeper and look at the “subcategory.” GA4 doesn’t distinguish between types of hits and records everything as an event. In GA4, clicking on the word “click” will open up the full engagement menu, which displays the “Event Category” and “Event Label” parameters. These are the same categories you are used to seeing in Universal Analytics.
GA4 focuses on engaged users rather than user exits, which means there is no longer a bounce rate metric. As we know it, bounce rate is defined as the percentage of single-page sessions where there was no interaction with the page, and a bounce session lasts 0 seconds. On the other hand, engaged users are defined as the number of sessions that last longer than 10 seconds, have a conversion event, or have two or more screen or page views. GA4 provides a lot of insight into user behavior by looking at these new metrics, and improving them has a lot more value than simply trying to decrease bounce rates.
What is the Automotive Standards Council (ASC), and How Can it Help Car Dealerships Implement GA4?
The Automotive Standards Council (ASC) is a group of automotive dealers, vendors, and manufacturers passionate about creating better interoperability standards for Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
Led by Brian Pasch, a digital marketing strategist and founder of Brian Pasch Enterprise (BPE), the council aims to create universal specifications for implementing GA4 in the industry.
ASC has developed 36 named events and over 50 distinct parameters designed to accommodate the needs of automotive, Powersports, RV, and marine dealerships. By adopting these standards, dealerships can gain more granular insights into user behavior and marketing performance data across their website and app.
In addition to developing standards, ASC also provides training and workshops for its members on how to use GA4 effectively. There are plans to offer annual certification with associated badges, although specific details about this have not been announced.
ASC currently has two levels of membership: Founding and Supporting.
Founding members, like Dealer Authority, help create the standards used for GA4 in the automotive industry while supporting members who offer suggestions, data, and feedback toward these standards.
Dealerships, vendors, software companies, and manufacturers involved with ASC get to collaborate with other involved brands to help guide the standards ASC uses regarding GA4.
By working with ASC-certified software companies, dealerships can ensure they follow the latest industry standards and avoid data loss when changing vendor products. ASC expects to add events to these specifications to enhance scalability, and members are expected to update their applications when significant changes to the specifications are released.
How to Implement ASC’s GA4 Standards
While ASC provides detailed specifications for implementing GA4 in the automotive industry, they do not explain precisely how to implement their standards. Using these standards can confuse auto dealerships unfamiliar with GA4 and its implementation process.
Fortunately, there are options available to help car dealerships implement ASC specifications. Ideally, your website provider should be responsible for setting up the various events, especially if they are a part of the council or Automotive Standards council or ASC certified.
Additionally, any third-party tools that customers can interact with on the dealership’s website, such as a chat tool, third-party finance app, or trade-in tool, should also be configured to send ASC events to GA4.
By working with ASC certified software companies and ensuring all necessary events are correctly set up, car dealerships can get the most from the new ASC standards.
Some Dealership Websites will set up ASC Custom Events for you
Website providers like Dealer.com will implement the custom events per the ASC spec for your site’s GA4. You just need to provide them with the Measurement ID for your GA4 account.
Is the ASC specification mandatory for a Car dealership’s GA4?
It’s important to note that it is not mandatory for software companies to implement ASC’s specific reporting templates that will eventually be offered to the public. There are expectations that additional events will be added to the specification to ensure it can evolve appropriately.
Interestingly enough, ASC members have decided to avoid using the word “lead” because it can imply different things to dealers. Instead, each form submission will be tracked with the asc_form_submission event with parameters allowing dealers to sort consumer data by department and vendor. ASC wants all vendors to equally contribute to tracking various events.
Finally, ASC expects all ASC Certified organizations to send engagement and conversion events in the specification that relate to their service. For example, all chat platforms will be expected to send the “chat” related events, but they do not have to worry about the website events. This data sharing is designed to make it easier to scrape data when different events fire and to standardize the process.
Dealer Authority’s Role with GA4 & ASC Standards
Tracking events according to the recently updated ASC specs falls on website companies and third-party vendors that have embedded tools for customers to use on dealership sites. Digital marketing and SEO companies like Dealer Authority can offer additional help to dealerships who follow ASC guidelines for GA4.
When ASC parameters are correctly implemented, we will have more data on what works and what doesn’t work on landing pages. We’ll be able to see where traffic comes from and adjust our strategy to reach new customers better. We will also be able to analyze our Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and Social Media strategies to improve our efforts.
Ultimately, Dealer Authority can use the information provided to more effectively consult our clients on how changes to their websites impact their website traffic performance and user experiences.
The Benefits of Following ASC Standards
Implementing ASC GA4 standards can offer several benefits to car dealerships, including:
- Better Tracking and Insights – The ASC GA4 standards allow dealerships to track and analyze user behavior in greater detail across their websites, providing better insights into how customers interact with them online.
- More Accurate Data – By adopting universal specifications for GA4, dealerships can avoid data loss when changing vendor products, ensuring more accurate data collection and flexibility working with new vendors.
- Optimized Advertising Campaigns – ASC GA4 standards can help optimize advertising campaigns through form submission classifications and conversion events. This can lead to better ROI on advertising spend and more effective targeting of potential customers.
- Improved User Experience – By tracking user behavior more accurately and gaining deeper insights into customer preferences, dealerships can make data-driven decisions to improve their website’s user experience.
- Increased Industry Collaboration – By participating in ASC, dealerships can collaborate with other brands in the industry to help guide the standards used in the automotive industry for GA4. This can lead to a more unified data-tracking approach and better communication and collaboration between vendors and software providers.
- ASC Certification – ASC will offer annual certification for members who follow the GA4 standards. This can give dealerships a way to showcase their commitment to industry standards and best practices.
ASC’s Role in Education and Training
The ASC provides specifications for GA4 implementation and offers education and training for its members. Dealerships, vendors, software companies, and manufacturers can become ASC members and receive access to GA4 training materials, courses, and workshops.
Through these training programs, the ASC hopes to educate dealerships on using GA4 effectively, including setting up events, creating reports, and interpreting data. The training materials cover various topics related to GA4, from basic setup to advanced analytics.
The ASC is creating an annual certification for members who have completed the training and demonstrated their proficiency in using GA4. The certification program is designed to provide an industry-wide standard for GA4 expertise and to recognize those who have shown a commitment to staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in GA4. Those who pass the training will earn a specialized badge to showcase their success.
By offering education and certification, the ASC is helping ensure its members have the knowledge and skills they need to use GA4 effectively and make data-driven decisions. This is especially important in the automotive industry, where dealerships need to be able to track and analyze user behavior to optimize their marketing efforts.
Overall, the ASC’s role in GA4 education and training is to provide its members with the tools they need to use GA4 effectively and stay ahead of the curve in the ever-evolving world of digital marketing.
Final Thoughts on GA4 for Car Dealerships
Implementing ASC GA4 standards can provide numerous benefits to automotive dealerships, including better tracking and insights, optimized advertising campaigns, and increased industry collaboration. Unfortunately, ASC’s specifications focus more on the functionality of events on a dealer’s website versus how to implement the specifications properly.
While the responsibility of proper GA4 event tracking falls on the shoulders of website companies and third-party vendors, properly labeled UTM parameters are still crucial to demonstrate how traffic is being driven to sites.
Overall, the implementation of these standards can significantly impact digital marketing traffic. With adequately implemented ASC parameters, SEO teams, and digital marketing agencies can better understand what works and what doesn’t on landing pages to optimize their efforts.
Dealerships should consult with their digital marketing partners to ensure they follow ASC standards and utilize GA4 effectively to make data-driven decisions and improve their online presence. Dealers don’t have to thoroughly understand the ASC specifications as long as they are working with an agency, like Dealer Authority, who does.