As a marketer, it is important to understand this powerful tool to assist in decision-making. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a tool that enables you to get essential customer insights and unlock customer-centric measurement to understand how they interact with your sites and apps throughout their entire lifecycle.

For higher education, marketing is even more important in present times when competition is intense. Google Analytics 4 for higher education allows marketers to see unified user journeys across the website and apps, bridging gaps in data with modeled insights and predictive capabilities to achieve better outcomes.

What can you expect for higher education marketing with Google analytics 4? With new report functions, predictive insights, and enhanced analysis features, this guide is the starting point for higher education marketers looking to utilize the power of GA4.

In this Google Analytics guide for colleges and universities, we’ve covered everything you need to know as a higher education marketer.

What is Google Analytics 4? 

Google Analytics 4 is a new analytics platform that collects both website and app data to understand better engagement, with advanced customer journey tracking features and reporting using the machine learning model. It allows marketers to effectively analyze important data through more detailed reporting features and insight to measure traffic usage on the website.

What is the definition of Google Analytics in education? Google Analytics 4 for higher education can help marketers optimize the experience and analyze data to measure student actions on their websites.

Google Analytics 4 can help in strategic planning for the university marketing campaign to analyze user information, interaction, and behavior. It can help marketers examine where the students are coming from, what drives them toward this website, and how they can improve enrollments for a particular college or university.

The Difference between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics

Google Analytics 4 is the latest version of GA and will soon replace Universal Analytics (UA). As Google has announced that it will stop processing data on UA after some time, businesses have to migrate to the new Google Analytics 4. 

Universal Analytics tracks screen views in separate mobile-specific properties, while Google Analytics 4 enables a cross-channel measurement.

Universal Analytics provides two user metrics, total users and new users, while Google Analytics 4 has three user metrics, total users, active users, and new users. Also, GA4 ensures all data is recorded and documented, while UA may exclude data based on view filters.

When using analytics for higher education, Google Analytics 4 has the edge over Universal Analytics, as it links all interactions to a user, allows marketers to organize according to the needs, and isn’t built on a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

One of the major drawbacks of GA4 is that it enables events and user data, including conversions, to be held only for 14 months, while UA’s default option for data retention was ‘unlimited.’

Cross-Device and Cross-Channel Tracking

Marketers using analytics for higher education can leverage media spending across different channels, with multiple touchpoints that can lead to conversions. Cross-channel tracking can enable you to organize data from across different devices to form a cohesive analysis to gain a better understanding of interactions, sessions, and touch points important for the website.

Customers in the higher education industry take different steps before reaching the final conversions. This may include several clicks and searches on Google ads for higher education, forms, and other events on your different devices. Google Analytics 4 enables marketers of higher Ed to get a complete picture of a more accurate impression of user behavior and create segments for different channels.

According to Statcounter, the global internet user share of devices shows that 58.57% of internet users are mobile, 39.35% are desktop, and only 2.08% are tablet. This makes GA4 more significant as it can identify cross-device tracking and monitor prospective students who might switch between laptop and mobile apps to engage online.

Cross-channel tracking through Higher Ed analytics 4 enables the website owners to preserve the session information and track the same user across different devices to comprehend touch points and user interactions.

Data Collection: Event-Based Data Model

Google Analytics 4 has an entirely different event-based data model that is simple but impactful and powerful. GA in higher education enables you to track real-time data with more accurate and detailed insights about user behavior. It allows you to create a measure of events and patterns distinct for each user.

Google Analytics 4 for higher Ed enables marketers to measure interactions or occurrences on the website or mobile app when a student loads a page, clicks a form, clicks a link, or completes the signup form. An event-based data model can be obtained through Google Analytics 4, including events of the following types.

User and Event Data Retention

Data retention enables marketers in Higher Ed to set time for user-level and event-level data to be stored before it is automatically deleted from the server. Data retention gives you the ability to set the amount of time before user data is stored by Analytics automatically. Google Analytics only provides two data retention options, either for 2 months or 14 months.

With a new level of customization, GA4 for higher education allows you to generate custom reports for a retention period of two months, also known as explorations. However, for data older than 14 months, aggregated and custom reports option is available. In short, you need to have some kind of reporting. Otherwise, you can’t go further than 14 months back.

By tracking all the user and event data, you can get a better idea about how your Higher Ed website is performing and track events as conversions, including page view, first visit, session start, and scroll.

Audience Segments

In the context of analytics, an audience segment is a group of visitors with shared characteristics or behavior. The audience segment enables marketers for educational websites to figure out who finds the message appealing and how they can further enhance the copy to attract more of this audience. They can even customize messages, engagement strategies, and campaigns for a particular audience segment.

Google Analytics 4 enables you to break down your Higher education audience into different segments based on the following:

  • Channel
  • Traffic source
  • Completed actions
  • Conversions

Let’s quickly look at what types of segments are available in GA4.

  • User segments – Audience segment based on all events and sessions of specific users.
  • Session segments – Audience segment based on all sessions that match the criteria and include all users and events in those sessions.
  • Event segments – Audience segments based on specific events that match your pre-defined conditions and include all those events regardless of sessions and users.


An event is an interaction of the user with your website or mobile app. All interactions, such as clicks, visits, downloads, sign-ups, and form submissions, are considered ‘events’ in analytics. Google Analytics 4 offers much more flexibility to track events and send additional information depending on the scenario.

For example, a student exploring your college or university website is reading a degree program page and fills out a ‘Request Degree Program Information’ form; as a marketer, you’re able to send the following event that can include:

  • event_name: Lead
  • lead_type: Degree Program Information
  • degree: Bachelor of Computer Science
  • lead_place: Degree Page
  • In_military: Yes

Let’s explore the categories of events in GA4.

  • Automated Events

All those events are collected as the default setting of Google Analytics 4 once you’ve completed the setup across devices.

  • Enhanced Measurement Events

For all those events that are collected once you’ve set up GA on your website or mobile, enhanced measurements are enabled.

  • Recommended Events

These are events that you choose to implement but come with pre-defined names and parameters. Marketers need to carefully choose recommended events, as they can unlock capabilities for the website or mobile app.

  • Custom Events

All those events that you define, and decide to implement according to your business needs, and user behavior measurement requirements. Custom events are not included in standard reports, and require a separate setup for explorations of meaningful data.

Conversion Tracking in Google Analytics 4 for Higher Education

Conversion tracking in G4 for higer Ed helps boost return on investment (ROI), make changes in digital marketing strategies for Higher Education, conduct spilt-tests, and optimize campaigns to improve revenue. Conversion tracking can also be said to be the higher Ed key performance indicator Google Analytics 4 offers for marketers to determine future optimization options.

Here’s a list of events that we can recommend for tracking conversions for universities and colleges, to create and mark as conversions on the website and mobile apps.

  • generate_lead: When a potential student submits a Request More Information Form
  • application_view: When a potential student views the application form
  • application_started: When a potential student starts to fill out the application form
  • application_submitted: When a potential student submits the application form

It can assist marketers in higher education branding whether visitors are engaging with the ads, content, and overall campaign, and moving through the sales funnel pathways or not. This can help marketers take an instant action to optimize the website by taking corrective actions. This can ultimately lead to user conversion into customers, leads, and subscribers.

Customizing Dashboards and Reports

Google Analytics is a user-friendly tool that supports marketing efforts with insightful data. Google Analytics dashboards are one of the most essential tools for Higher Ed marketing agency today. 

Dashboards allow marketers to visualize different data from websites and mobile apps into graphically pleasing charts and tables. GA4 dashboard gives you complete information about the latest and previous happenings on the website.

Google Analytics 4 offers flexibility for marketers to create advanced custom reports based on their needs and simplify digital marketing aspects. The basic two functions performed by GA dashboards include:

  1. Monitoring website performance, optimizing marketing campaigns, and understanding where breakthroughs have occurred.
  2. Tracking your target audience to understand their focus, and optimize marketing efforts to convert the visitor into leads.

Customization options for dashboards in Google Analytics allow marketers to get an overview of the dimensions and metrics they care about most. To leverage the most from GA4 for higher education, you can build and organize reports to identify specific insights about your target audience, and set up reports that enable you to see each step of the prospective student moving closer to conversion.

Default Reports

As a predefined setup setting, Google Analytics 4 offers default reports to kick off analysis faster and utilize the tool better. For enhanced insights and dimensions from user data, you can customize reports based on your needs.

Explore Reports

Exploration reports offer an advanced analysis to help your college and university website reveal deeper data insights. You can use built-in templates or create a fully-customized report with GA4. Some of the built-in templates for Higher Ed marketers include free form, funnel exploration, path exploration, and segment overlap.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is Higher ED bounce rate?

Your Higher education bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who land on a page of your website, then leave. They don’t visit any other page or don’t click on anything on the website. Users that leave a webpage without taking any action such as clicking on a link, filling out a sign-up form, or completing the submission process.

What are the 5 basic reports available on Google Analytics for Universities?

  • Goal completions
  • Campaign performance
  • Channels report
  • Event performance
  • Site speed overview

Final Words

GA4 is a vital tool for marketing campaigns for universities to gain knowledge in areas such as website and mobile app performance. As a higher education marketer, you need to stay on top of your game as the industry is transforming radically.

Google Analytics 4 for higher education is the best tool for marketers to make data-driven decisions and gather all information to set it up for success. It can help colleges and universities to accelerate growth and enrolment, creating an impact on student engagement. Tracking higher education analytics from start to end has now become easier with GA4. Understanding how students engage online and navigate through the website and mobile app can help marketers build the brand and effectively utilize it for student recruitment strategies.