Understanding The Acquisition Reports In Google Analytics 4

Understanding The Acquisition Reports In Google Analytics 4

Acquisition reports reveal information about the channels through which the user was acquired, the most engaged landing pages, and revenue generated.

By: Mussarat Nosheen | 12 mins read
Published: Oct 3, 2023 3:04:59 AM | Updated: Jun 12, 2024 01:50:05 AM

Knowing the performance of your website or app at each stage of the customer journey is key to optimizing your site/app, marketing strategies, and getting conversions. 

The analysis needs to begin at the top-of-the-funnel activities when the user is initially acquired. 

To be able to make progress in those later stages, it is crucial to identify how well the website is doing in terms of its reach. 

Acquisition Reports in Google Analytics 4 help you analyze this stage in great detail. 

They reveal the incoming user traffic, where they come from, how long their sessions last, and their overall profitability for the website.

Pretty cool, right?

If you are not familiar with the report at all, be our guest and go through our blog slowly. For those used to the workings of Universal Analytics (UA), just dig in and find out what is different here. 

What Are Acquisition Reports?

Acquisition reports on Google Analytics 4 point out the channels bringing traffic to your website, showing user engagement, and conversion. 

It means you can find out if most of the user traffic is coming through say social media, organic search, or paid advertisement. Furthermore, after the user is first acquired, how does it interact with it? 

You can find out which landing pages they arrive on, the channels bringing the most valuable users (ones that convert), and the most valuable channels in terms of revenue generation.

Remember

The data represented in the reports is for the last 28 days. You may customize it to suit your needs.

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of the Acquisition report in GA4, let us first touch upon the GA4 interface. 

Navigating the GA4 Interface

Home

The home page is the first thing you see after logging into your Google Analytics 4 account.

You will find real-time reports about the users acquired in the last 30 minutes here. Other report cards include the user acquisition cards, top sessions, most visited pages, and the revenue generated. 

On the home page, you can find five icons in the menu bar on the left. These include

  • Home
  • Reports
  • Explore
  • Advertising
  • Admin (on the bottom left)

We will explain each of these tabs separately. 

Besides the tabs, you can find a range of useful options on the page, such as;

  • Search - to look for a solution to analytics-related queries you may have, simply type in the question here and enter. 
  • Help Menu - click to find help with GA4-related topics in a drop-down menu. 
  • Help Panel - to figure out the tools and ways to get the most out of GA4 analytical capabilities.
  • Insights - click to get insights in a question-answer format on topics such as performance, demographics, traffic analysis, and e-commerce. 

Reports

You will spend the main chunk of time looking through the reports section in GA4. 

Here you find detailed, primarily visual information about the user acquisition, their behavior, demographics, interests, pages they visit, conversion, and most valuable customers. 

Learn more about the top 10 Google Analytics Reports for successful data analysis here. 

Acquisition 

An Acquisition report is a detailed report about the channels through which your users arrive on your site. The report is further broken down into;

  • Overview - a summary of both the user and traffic acquisition, it shows information in the form of different report cards and a table. 

      In the overview, you can find information like the 

  • Users acquired (over time) 
  • Revenue generated (for the reported time)
  • Real-time updates of the top countries with their respective number of users
  • New users acquired by channel
  • New users by Session
  • Users by Country
  • User activity over time
  • Most viewed pages
  • Top Conversion events
  • Top selling items
  • User Acquisition - tells you when the user was first acquired, and displays data based on the first click (the channel user clicked on the first time) that brought (acquired) the user to the site.
    The User Acquisition report in GA4 logs data based on the events triggered by the users.
    Events are activities performed by a user such as first arriving on the site, going on a page, adding a product or service to the cart, paying and checking out, or abandoning the cart. 
  • Traffic Acquisition - displays contributions for each channel toward website traffic. Unlike user acquisition reports where only the first channel gets the attribution, the traffic attribution gives credit to every channel that drove the first and the subsequent visits/sessions from that user. 
    Another difference in the traffic acquisition report is that it displays data for the session rather than the overall user’s lifetime (unlike in the user acquisition report).
    Sessions are time-based activities, meaning all the events triggered by a user during their visit can be logged into a single session.
    Unless there is inactivity for thirty minutes in which case the session will expire. 
Additional Options in Acquisition Report in GA4
  • Filters - to add specific dimension (and assign value to it) to the report card 
  • Comparisons - to compare various data subsets for a better understanding of your data
  • Insights - straightforward responses to pre-selected queries about best performance, demographics, user acquisition, traffic analysis, technology e-commerce

Engagement 

User engagement is an important measure of how well your site or app is performing. 

The Engagement report gives you detailed information about the top pages or screens users visited, the average time they spent on your site or app, and the landing pages driving the most revenue. 

The engagement report has the following sub-categories;

  • Overview - summary of all the key engagement metrics
  • Events - most triggered events 
  • Conversions - conversions driven by specific events
  • Pages and Screens - most viewed pages and screens, average engagement time, and top page paths and screen classes
  • Landing page - sessions associated with the top-performing landing pages

Monetization 

As the name suggests, the Monetization report gives a run down of the revenue generated by your site and/or app. 

Several report cards show information about;

  • Total revenue generated 
  • Revenue generated by e-commerce and in-app purchases 
  • Advertising revenue from mobile app users
  • Revenue by individual products, 
  • Purchase journey
  • Checkout journey 

Analyst can also find out total purchases by individual users, products viewed as a result of promotion and even the revenue generated in response to marketing campaigns. 

Retention

Pretty much a collection of user retention graphs from other reports depicting a new or returning user retention, engagement, and lifetime value (how much they purchased in total) over time. 

Explore 

The third tab on the Google Analytics interface is Explore, a powerful tool that allows you to play around with your data to get deeper insights about customer behaviors. 

Explorations present a clean canvas where you can either choose from a variety of templates  or create one of your own. The templates include;

  • Free form
  • Funnel 
  • Path
  • Segment
  • Cohort 
  • User lifetime

Once you select a template or create a custom Exploration, you begin by choosing the relevant Segment, Dimension, and Metric associated with the dimension from the Variables menu.

This way you can drill down into your existing data to get to the information or results most valuable to you. 

The most useful thing about explorations is that they allow you to view your data from all angles. 

You can apply filters and segments, create audiences, find the data that is meaningful to you, share it with peers (within the same GA4 property), and export it to other tools. 

Remember 

You can make the most of the Reports by clicking Add comparisons and after you are done adding them, click on the Explorations button at the bottom of the same (Add comparisons) tab to directly replicate it (and take you) into Explorations. 

Advertising 

Advertising in Google Analytics 4 shows you how well your marketing efforts are doing. 

You find detailed reports about your top-performing channels and campaigns, conversion paths, and credits allocated to those paths according to different attribution models. 

These insights help you; 

  • Assess your return on investment (ROI)
  • Compare attribution models 
  • Make future marketing strategies
  • Make decisions for future resource allocation

User Attributes

A pre-made report about the users coming to your website or app. 

You find valuable information such as the demographics (e.g. age, gender, language), interests, and audiences (that you created) over time. 

The former helps you create detailed buyer personas for your future marketing strategies based on their demographics and interests.

Whereas the latter narrows down the most engaged and profitable audiences for a given duration. 

Tech 

Through this report you can find the various devices, platforms, and browsers through which your users visit your site or app. 

You may even find out about cross-device tracking by looking at the Venn diagram revealing the users who accessed your site or app through different devices. 

Learn more about cross-device tracking in GA4 here. 

Tech report can be useful in many ways. You could use this information to dig deeper into user behavior and create audiences for targeted remarketing. 

User Acquisition versus Traffic Acquisition

The User Acquisition report focuses on the first click, meaning the channel through which the user was first acquired gets the credit. 

However, the traffic acquisition report gives credit to every channel that drove the user to the website across various sessions.

If you notice closely you tell the difference by simply looking at the dimensions title in both reports. In a User Acquisition report dimension titles begin with the First user

But in a Traffic Acquisition report the titles begin with Session.

Let us now explain the difference between credit allocation for user acquisition in the two reports.

A user clicks on a Facebook ad on day 1, then on day 2 the user finds an article through organic search and lands on the website, on day 3 the same user clicks a Google ad and makes a purchase on the website. This is how it will be displayed in the user and traffic acquisition report:

 

First user default channel group

New Users

Paid Social

1

Organic

0

Paid Search

0



Session default channel group

User

Sessions

Paid Social

1

1

Organic

1

1

Paid Search

1

1

Both reports can be very useful depending on what exactly you are looking for in your data. 

Attribution Models in GA4

An Attribution Model assigns credit to the different channels deemed responsible for the conversions. 

Think about it, a user seldom converts the first time it is acquired. Nor is it a straightforward process of visiting one day and converting a few days down the week. 

A customer may click on an ad in October, and view the products or services. 

Come back by directly typing in your website’s address in the URL, then return in response to a couple of links shared with them in an email communication. 

And finally, make a purchase in response to a holiday season ad campaign in November. 

It would not be fair to just attribute the conversion to the ad sent via email. 

Remember 

The number of conversions assigned to the same conversion path or channel will be different according to each attribution model 

To make a fair attribution, not just in terms of a final conversion but also for a user or traffic acquisition, Google Analytics 4 makes use of 3 main attribution models;

  • Data-driven attribution model - it works by combining machine learning with conversion event data to assign credit to channels for various touch points leading to the final conversion. 
  • Paid and organic rules-based models - while they document all the touch points in the conversion path, the credit is attributed to the first click/ linear / position-based / time decay model.

       Whereas, in Google Ads, only the conversion coming via Google Ads channels appears. 

  • Google paid channels model - credit is given to the last Google Ad clicked, unless no such click appears in the path. In that case, credit attribution is done by referring to the paid and organic last-click model. 

Remember 

Both the Paid and Organic models and the Google Ads paid models would not attribute credit to organic search unless only organic search appears in the entire path.

Common Queries You Can Answer With an Acquisition Report in GA4

Where exactly are your users coming from?

When comes to the Reports in general, the default settings are pretty basic and you need to play around with your data to get some meaningful information. To find out a better measure of your user acquisition try the following. 

Change the Primary Dimensions in GA4 

The default channel group is a pretty basic measure of where your users are coming from. To get a better understanding, change your default channel in the User acquisition report to the First user source/medium in the User acquisition. 

Similarly, if you are more interested in the session data, or say want to see something similar to the acquisition report in UA, go to the traffic acquisition report. 

Here too, simply switch your default channel to Session source/medium to get a better look at how the users arrived on your site. 

Care to learn what more you can achieve with GA 4, register for our live training session on Google Analytics 4. 

Replicate Your Acquisition Report in Explorations

Explorations allow you to explore your data in many different ways. You can move the data around, switch the columns or rows, and apply filters and comparisons to make the most sense of your data. 

You can learn more about Explorations in Google Analytics 4 here. 

However, creating a report from scratch is a lot of work. 

To gain additional insights into your user acquisition, click the Add Comparisons button (in User Acquisition or Traffic Acquisition), and at the bottom of the window that opens click on Explorations.

It directly opens your report in Explorations for deeper analytics. 

How many of your users are acquired by your Google ads campaigns?

Find out how well your Google Ads efforts are paying off in the Acquisition Report. 

In the overview section of the Acquisition report in GA4, go to Sessions by Default Channel group and change it to Sessions by Source Platform from the drop-down menu. 

Here, you will find the number of sessions generated by Google Ads, besides the ones generated by other platforms. 

Click the View Traffic Acquisition button at the bottom of the report card to open its detailed version in the Traffic Acquisition report. Here you can find additional information like;

  • Users 
  • Sessions 
  • Engagement  
  • Conversion events 
  • Revenue; 

       generated by Google Ads. 

To view the event data, you may choose the First user Google Ads ad network type and First user Google Ads and group name.

You can also find a more elaborate breakdown of the Sessions generated by Google Ads in the Sessions by Session Google Ads campaign report card in the Acquisition Overview report. 

Are your organic searches profitable?

While performing well in Organic searches can be a great measure of your website’s performance, marketers are divided about whether or not it is useful. 

To understand if the Organic searches are driving any purchases, go to the Traffic acquisition (or User acquisition) report. Keep the Default channel group as your First User (or Session) and scroll to the right to see the revenue in the Organic Search row. 

Commons Mistakes and Considerations for an Acquisition Report in GA4

Choosing Incompatible Dimensions

Google Analytics 4 offers plenty of ways to play around with the data. Within Acquisition Reports (as with other reports) you can customize the table or explore the data in Explorations. 

However, the data will only appear if you choose dimensions with compatible metrics. For example, if you opt for the dimension Page and choose engagement rate as its metric, you won’t see any data or graphs. 

If you are confused about the relevant metrics for the dimensions, click the help menu and type in the dimension title in the search bar to find information.  

Using User Dimension When You Want To Review Session-Level Performance

First user dimension uses event scope for allocating credit. You may be tempted to try different dimensions for your custom search of the data or in the Explorations section. 

In either case, if you try to apply a First user dimension on Sessions data, you might end with either “No data to show” or an inability to operate in the dimensions and settings console of the Explorations. 

This is because the User dimension and Session dimensions use different attribution models to allocate credit. This is precisely the reason the two reports show different results for the users acquired via the same Channels. 

Consequently, trying to combine these two would not work. 

Selecting The Wrong Date Range

Another common mistake analysts make in GA4 is not paying attention to the date range in the custom analytics they are trying to run. 

By default, the data retention in Google Analytics 4 is set to two months. 

Unless, you increase the data retention, trying to run analytics for a date range longer than two months will return with a "Partial data shown for date range" warning. 

Analyzing Without Context

If your search results show say 5000 organic users, then the number is meaningless without comparison. 

If you had 2000 organic users last month, then 5,000 users is a great improvement. 

But if they were 7000 earlier, then you need to take a hard look at what caused the loss and look to improve your SEO efforts. 

Also, an uptick in visitors and purchases is expected for an e-commerce site around the holiday season. 

Taking the relevant dimensions into account and comparing them for a relevant date range can be one way of providing such a metric.  

For example, comparing the user acquisition in the Superbowl season in 2022 to the same time in 2023 could provide valuable analytics for an e-commerce store.

Data Threshold

Data privacy laws prevent search engines from sharing personal identifiers; personal information that could enable a site to identify an individual user. 

As a result, every time your user flow falls below its minimal threshold, GA4 applies data thresholding on your reports. 

Learn more about Data Thresholding in Google Analytics 4 here. 

This means that you would not be able to access information like demographics and interests if the users fall below the minimal limit. 

You would still be able to see granular information but not find the numerical data in the table if you try to explore the data in more detail. 

Not Tagging The Campaign URLs

The attribution data for the User acquisition report and Traffic acquisition report are populated thanks to the campaign URL tags. 

Failing to tag these campaign URLs will result in a loss of data on the gains made by your marketing efforts.  

In case you did not tag your campaign URL, click here to do so. 

Incorrect UTM Tagging

In the default channel group of the acquisition reports, there is often a channel titled Unassigned.  

It can appear for one of two reasons. 

One, Google does not know where to assign the credit. Or two, the UTM tags were not assigned correctly. 

It happens when you fail to follow the Google Ads rules for UTM, resulting in messy data for user acquisition. 

You can fix the UTM tagging by clicking here

Conclusion

Acquisition Reports in Google Analytics 4 help you analyze your top-of-the-funnel activity. 

They help you identify where your users are coming from and the share of channels like organic search, Google Ads, social media, and others. 

Information like user acquisition, engagement, and conversions via channels can be valuable to deciding future resource allocation and direction of the marketing efforts.

Acquisition reports are of three types Overview, User Acquisition, and Traffic Acquisition. 

User acquisition reports show you the user data based on the first-click model, meaning the first link clicked by the user to arrive at your site gets the credit.

Whereas, Traffic Acquisition allots credit to the last link through which the user arrived. Also, User Acquisition is events-based data whereas Traffic Acquisition is Session data. 

Naturally, the number of users assigned to each channel is different in the two reports. 

Besides the straightforward report, you can get more meaning from your data by applying additional measures like filters, comparisons, or trying Explorations.

Explorations allow you to play with your data on a whole new level, find better insights, and visualize it for better understanding. 

Instead of the default channel, viewing data in the source / medium dimension, particularly in the Traffic Acquisition Report could be a better measure of where the users are coming from. 

You can try several customizations to answer the most pressing analytical questions related to user acquisition.

Remember to avoid problems with your Acquisition reports by using compatible dimensions and metrics, remembering and correctly applying UTM tags, and analyzing with a context.