How To Set Up and Use Email Tracking in Google Analytics 4

How To Set Up and Use Email Tracking in Google Analytics 4
31 October, 2023 • ... • 1721 views
Ana Balashova
by Ana Balashova

Imagine this: you’ve just sent out a massive email campaign for your latest product launch. You’re eagerly waiting for the sales to roll in, but there’s silence. What went wrong? Did the emails even reach your audience? 

While your email service dashboard can show if your emails were delivered and opened, email tracking in Google Analytics 4 dives deeper. It reveals what happens after a recipient clicks on your email and explores your website, turning every email campaign into an opportunity to improve the next one. Dive into our guide and discover how to set it up, ensuring every email you send becomes a strategic move.

Why use Google Analytics with your emails?

In a world where an estimated 333 billion emails are exchanged daily and email marketing revenue soared past $10 billion in 2023, the importance of emails in a marketer’s toolkit is undeniable. But without the right tracking system, you’re essentially flying blind, throwing darts in the dark.

Now, let’s dive into a scenario. Let’s say you have a list of 10,000 subscribers. With your current email strategy, you have an average open rate of 20% and a click-through rate of 5%. This translates to 2,000 subscribers opening your emails and 500 clicking on the embedded links weekly. With a 2% conversion rate and an average sale of $20, you’re looking at 10 of these engaged subscribers making a purchase, generating a revenue of $200 weekly.

But what if you could do better? By integrating Google Analytics 4 and leveraging its segmentation capabilities, you send out more tailored newsletters. With GA4, you can utilize user, session, and event segments to refine your audience based on specific criteria (e.g., geo, device type, level of engagement, etc.), ensuring your newsletters resonate more effectively with each recipient. The result? Your open rate jumps to 30%, and your click-through rate doubles to 10%. With the conversion rate holding steady, your revenue now spikes to $400 weekly. That’s a whopping 100% increase in revenue just by making your emails more personalized and relevant to your audience.

The magic here isn’t just in the numbers; it’s in understanding your audience’s behavior, preferences, and needs. By setting up email tracking in Google Analytics 4, you’re not just measuring the success of your campaigns; you’re optimizing them for better results. And considering that 36% of marketers aren’t even measuring their email ROI, imagine the competitive edge you’d have by doing so!

Universal Analytics vs. Google Analytics 4

When Google Analytics 4 (GA4) was launched, there was quite an uproar in the digital community. Many called it “horrible,” mainly due to its stark departure from the familiar Universal Analytics (UA) interface. GA4 introduced a new interface, new terminology, and lacked historical data, making it challenging for users accustomed to UA. 

Additionally, its reporting capabilities were limited, and it had its fair share of bugs and errors. 

In fact, while writing this article, I decided to ask Google Bard to give me a fair comparison of Google Analytics 4 vs. Universal Analytics. After all, who, as not creators, can truly evaluate this? And here’s what I’ve got.

GA4 and UA comparison by Bard

But here’s the twist: GA4 wasn’t just a poorly revamped buggy version of UA. It was built with a future-focused vision. Unlike UA, GA4 offers cross-platform tracking, allowing marketers to track traffic across websites, apps, and other devices. This provides a holistic view of the customer journey. 

Moreover, its machine learning capabilities offer predictive analytics, predicting customer behaviors like churn or purchase likelihood. This is a game-changer for email marketing. For instance, if GA4 predicts a segment of your subscribers is likely to churn, you can send them a tailored email campaign, perhaps offering a discount, to retain them. In a world where email remains critical to 87% of marketing leaders, leveraging GA4’s unique features can give you an edge.

Email metrics that you can track in Google Analytics 4

Before we dive deep, let’s clear the air about something. While GA4 is a tech marvel, it’s got its quirks, especially when it comes to email campaign tracking. Here’s the deal: if someone opens your email but doesn’t click on anything inside it to land on the website with Google tracking installed, GA4 won’t register it. But don’t let this discourage you! With some savvy moves, you can still get a treasure trove of insights. Here’s what you definitely can track: 

  1. Anything that can be encoded in UTM parameters: These are like backstage passes for your emails. By adding UTM tags to your links, GA4 can tell you which campaign, source, or medium brought the crowd to your website.  You can filter and view specific email newsletter names in the medium section of the acquisition reports.
  2. Email revenue: You can track how many orders were placed by website visitors who opened and read your emails, giving you a clear insight into how much revenue is generated directly from your email campaigns.
  3. Events: Curious if that “Read More” link or the “50% Off” button in your email is getting the limelight. Event tracking is your spotlight. It zooms in on specific interactions. Combined with email open rate, click-through rate (CTR), click-to-open rate (CTOR), and other metrics you’ll get from your email marketing provider. You can get some truly deep insights into the efficiency of your email campaigns.
  4. Device used to click through from your email: In a world where we switch between devices like we change TV channels, knowing where your email is read is gold. 
  5. Location of recipients: Want to send a rain-check discount to your subscribers in Seattle or a sunny offer to those in Miami? GA4 lets you in on where your emails are making the most impact.
  6. Enhanced data when combined with other data sources: With GA4, you have the capability to merge your data with information from other platforms, such as your CRM or offline sales records. This integration offers a more comprehensive view of your customer’s journey, enhancing your understanding of your email marketing’s impact. However, it’s worth noting that GA4’s documentation and guidelines on this integration can be a bit sparse. If you’re looking to combine data from various tools, it might be beneficial to reach out to the support teams of those respective platforms for guidance.

Remember, while GA4 might not catch every single open, especially if there’s no click to follow, it’s still a powerhouse tool. Incorporating these metrics with a sprinkle of creativity is like giving your emails a GPS. You’ll know exactly where they’re going, how they’re performing, and where you need to make tweaks.

How to set up email tracking in Google Analytics 4?

Diving into the world of email marketing? Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is an invaluable tool to help you understand how your emails are performing. By setting up email tracking in GA4, you can gain insights into how recipients interact with your emails and which campaigns drive the most traffic to your website.

Here’s a step-by-step roadmap to get you started:

  1. Start with the basics: Set up a Google Analytics 4 account.
  2. Property setup: Create a property and connect it to a data stream.
  3. Website integration: Install the GA4 tracking tag onto your website.
  4. Email software connection: Link your email marketing software to GA4.
  5. Custom tracking: Alternatively, generate a unique tracking code for your emails.
  6. Embed in emails: Incorporate this code into your email campaigns.
  7. Analyze and adapt: Monitor the results using GA4’s comprehensive reports.

Now, let’s delve deeper into each of these steps to ensure you’re fully equipped to make the most of GA4’s email tracking capabilities.

Step 1. Create a Google Analytics 4 account

Skip this step and proceed to step 2 if you have a Google Analytics 4 account. If you still don’t, it’s pretty easy to set up. Go to the analytics landing page and click on Get started today.

Landing page for creating Google Analytics 4 account

You’ll be prompted to fill in an account creation form. Start with the account name.

Google Analytics 4 — account creation dashboard

Then move next to property creation. You’ll be analyzing traffic for that property.

Google Analytics 4 — create a property dashboard

Next step is to provide some basic info about your business.

Google Analytics 4 — set up business details dashboard

Then choose business objectives. 

Google Analytics 4 — business objectives dashboard

After that, you’ll be prompted to accept the terms and conditions.

Google Analytics 4 — terms and conditions

The last step is to choose the source of data (traffic) — it can be a website or an app.

Google Analytics 4 — choose the data collection source dashboard

Your Google Analytics 4 account is now created.

Step 2. Create a property and connect it to a data stream

If you scrolled through step 1 you might have noticed that creating a property and connecting it to a data stream was included in the process of creating a new Google Analytics account. But if you already have an account and want to create a new property, the guidelines below are going to be handy. 

From your account navigate to the admin dashboard by clicking on a gear icon. Then choose create property, under the property column. 

Сreate new property in Google Analytics dashboard.

Then you go through the same process described in Step1 starting from the property creation step. And your property is ready to use.

Property creation process in Google Analytics.

Step 3. Install the tracking tag

Once the property is ready you need to make sure that Google Analytics can have access to the data that needs to be analyzed. For that you have to navigate to the property menu, choose data streams and then click on the arrow.

Data streams menu in Google Analytics 4

Then click on “View tag instructions” at the bottom of the page.

Data stream settings in Google Analytics 4

And follow the instructions for installing the Google tag on your site or app. 

Google tag installation instructions

Step 4. Connect your email marketing software to Google Analytics 4

To track your email marketing campaigns in Google Analytics 4, it all begins with the links embedded in your emails. These links come equipped with special parameters that feed data directly into Google Analytics. Fortunately, a lot of email marketing tools come with built-in features that auto-magically sprinkle these tracking parameters onto your links.

In Selzy you can find GA4 related features at the bottom of email campaign settings. 

In your personal account, head over to Campaigns-Emails section from your dashboard and either create a new campaign or select an existing one. When setting up your email parameters, click on “Additional Settings” and enable the “Integration with Google Analytics” option. 

Selzy email campaign settings

This will reveal fields for UTM parameters where you can add your unique tracking tags. The main parameters include UTM Channel (like “email”), UTM Medium (like “SaturdayNewsletter”), and UTM Campaign (specifics like “BlackFriday2023”).

Fill in Integration with Google Analytics fields. Once done, save your changes, and you’re good to go! I left my blank, so my tracking in GA4 should show the campaign ID assigned by Selzy. In this case, it’s 305027378. 

Selzy integration with Google Analytics dashboard

For a more detailed walkthrough, check out our full email tracking tutorial

Step 5. Or create tracking links for your emails manually

Alternatively, you can create a tracking link manually (for example, you want each of your links to have special tags of its own). Since I am only running a test for the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll name my campaign “test_campaign”. And that’s how it should show up in GA4 reports.  

You can manually add these to links or use tools like Google’s Campaign URL Builder.

Google’s Campaign URL builder dashboard

Once you’ve got your tracking code or UTM parameters ready,  simply insert the tracking link into your email. 

Add the tracking link to your email.

Step 7. Track the results in the reports

Once your emails are out in the wild, it’s time to see them in action through the lens of Google Analytics 4. Navigate to the “Acquisition” section on the left, and tap on “Traffic Acquisition.” Inside, there’s a cozy spot labeled “Medium” that’s all about your email traffic.  Here, you’ll spot the top players — the sources, mediums, and campaigns that are making waves from your email efforts. 

Here’s an example of what it looks like when I used Selzy for building the tracking URL. For testing purposes, I didn’t assign a specific name to the campaign, the number that shows up in the GA4 report is the campaign ID assigned by Selzy.  

Traffic Acquisition report in GA4

When I used the link created in Google URL Builder I got the campaign name that I assigned myself. 

Snapshot of session campaign report from GA4

A golden tip? Keep your UTM naming consistent.

For a more tailored view, use the “Session Medium” section to search for individual email newsletter names. This zooms in on each newsletter’s performance. 

By choosing the secondary level of Session Campaign, you can zoom in on individual campaign metrics. For instance, you can see how many users visited your website as a result of a particular campaign, gauge their level of engagement, determine if the visit resulted in conversions, and measure how much revenue those conversions brought to your business. This detailed analysis helps you understand the effectiveness of each newsletter in driving traffic, engagement, and, ultimately, business growth. Check Selzy’s recent guide for more insights on reporting in GA4

Snapshot of session medium and session campaign default report from GA4

Once you’ve delved into the individual performance of each newsletter, you can take your analysis to the next level by creating a custom report in the “Explore” section of GA4. 

Creating explorations in GA4 will help to fully customize the view of your data.

This feature allows you to set up any custom report you might imagine, playing with different dimension and metric combinations. For instance, you can find which page on your website is your main money-maker — is it the one that visitors landed or maybe most actions are happening on some other page? Or you can find which browsers and operating systems are converting more visitors into buyers, so you can use this information to optimize future PPC campaigns. 

Limits of Google Analytics email campaign tracking

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is undeniably a powerful tool in our digital arsenal, but it’s essential to understand its nuances when it comes to email campaign tracking. Here’s the major bummer: if a recipient opens your email but doesn’t engage further by clicking a link, GA4 won’t capture that open. It’s a “show me the click” kind of deal. But wait, there’s more: 

The waiting game: Data in GA4 can sometimes be fashionably late. It might take a day (or even longer) for your data to grace the reports. Instant gratification isn’t GA4’s strong suit.

No do-overs: Did you make an error in your email links? With GA4, there’s no turning back. It doesn’t update data retroactively. Double-checking is less of a suggestion and more of a mandate.

Privacy comes first: GA4 is great at tracking on-site and app interactions. But when it comes to individual email behaviors, it’s a tad more discreet. It prioritizes privacy, so while you’ll get a broad view, some finer details might be missing. So, if you’re hoping to play detective and track individual user behavior in your emails, GA4 might leave you wanting. It’s all about aggregated data here.

However, this doesn’t mean GA4 isn’t valuable for your email campaigns. By leveraging its features smartly and integrating other tools, you can extract meaningful insights to refine and enhance your email marketing strategies.

Final thoughts

Navigating the world of email marketing can be like charting a course through ever-shifting sands. Tools like GA4, while powerful, come with their own set of challenges. But here’s the silver lining: even with its limitations, GA4 can still be a formidable ally. 

By understanding its strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps integrating it with other tools, you can craft email campaigns that truly resonate. Remember, it’s not just about the data you gather but how you use it. So, keep experimenting, keep learning, and most importantly, keep connecting with your audience. After all, in the vast digital landscape, it’s those genuine connections that count the most.

31 October, 2023
Article by
Ana Balashova
I'm a seasoned PR and marketing pro turned tech writer, with a decade of experience working with big names like DuPont, Avon, Evernote, TradingView, and SAP. I've also dived into the world of crypto startups, contributing to several blockchain publications. Now, I'm bringing my passion for technology, entrepreneurship, and marketing to Selzy. Here, I combine my love for writing and excitement about contributing to the growth of a great product.
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