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A Dealer’s Transition to GA4: Next Steps

three people in a conference room looking at a screen with data on it
Article Highlights:

  • GA4 defines a ‘bounce’ as a non-engaged session on your website.
  • Data retention in GA4 looks quite a bit different than it did in UA.

Success can be measured in many different ways, but it’s safe to say that most dealerships tend to rely on analytics tools to figure out what’s working for them and what isn’t. And one of the biggest analytics tools out there—Universal Analytics— is slowly being sunset for the rise of Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

We’ve all known it’s been coming—Universal Analytics will stop processing new hits on July 1st, 2023. The question is— are you ready?

Learning curves will naturally arise with change, but there are some things your dealership can do now to make the transition from UA to GA4 easier in the long run:

First Things First

You have to learn to walk before you can run, and in this case walking means understanding the differences between UA and GA4.  It’s easy to think of GA4 like a sort of updated version of Universal Analytics, but the reality is that the two are quite different. In our previous article on GA4, we shared three major distinctions, but Google also offers an entire article that details more of the changes you’ll notice. If you’re looking for a few tips on how to get more comfortable using GA4, read on.

New Names for Old Faces

Our common language is always shifting (after all, you’re unlikely to hear someone refer to a car as a “horseless carriage” in today’s world). This same concept applies to certain metrics that you may be used to using in UA. These metrics are still in GA4, just under a different name.

Here’s a few examples of what we mean:

  • Bounce rate is now the Inverse Engagement Rate

This one makes a lot of sense actually. Instead of tracking (and denoting a separate metric) for the number of single-page visitors that left your site without interacting, GA4 defines a ‘bounce’ as a non-engaged session on your website. Since GA4 has a new metric specifically called ‘Engagement Rate,’ tracking your bounces is as easy as finding the inverse.

  • Conversion rate is now the User Conversion Rate OR the Session Conversion Rate

Okay, this one requires a bit more of an explanation, but this change is for the better (we promise). Whereas your dealership may be already utilizing a conversion rate, GA4 makes this a bit more specific by separating it into two distinct metrics. User Conversion Rate is the percentage of users who completed a conversion action (ahem engaged in a chat or scheduled a service appointment with you). Your Session Conversion Rate is the percentage of sessions where a conversion action took place.

Why this distinction? Well picture your most conscientious car shopper—the one that could be in the market for weeks, even months. There’s a good chance this shopper has visited your site on more than one occasion, meaning you could have drastically different rates of User Conversions and Session Conversions.

Quick Tip: Dealerships, coffee shops, lawn care services (and all other kinds of businesses really) are all going to have very different definitions of what counts as a “Conversion.” And there might be multiple actions that you consider a conversion as well, depending on the specifics of your dealership and your website. Be sure to mark all relevant events as “Conversions” so that you’re getting all the valuable event information you need about your website users.

Deepening Your Bucket

Comparing your current results to past ones is an essential practice (not to mention the reason why we obtain metrics in the first place). That said, data retention in GA4 looks quite a bit different than it did in UA.

In Universal Analytics, there were a variety of data retention options that allowed you to control how long data was housed in your account: 14 months, 26 months, 38 months, 50 months, or ‘Don’t automatically expire’. Within GA4, your dealership has two timeframe options for data retention—2 months or 14 months. This adjustment is in part due to a few different factors:

  • Consumer Privacy—Options like ‘Don’t automatically expire’ in UA meant that businesses could hold onto a user’s tracking information for as long as they wanted. It’s easy to see how this could pose some issues to consumer privacy regulations and data security.
  • Data Drown— Too much of a good thing is a bad thing, and when using data to optimize ad performance, 57% of marketers shared that they have far too much data to analyze. And that feeling can be overwhelming. The option to retain data for 14 months allows your dealership the chance to look at YoY reports without being bogged down with historical data from 5 years ago.
  • Changing Tides—Think about the person that you were 10 years ago—what interests you had, what your lifestyle looked like, what you did at your job, even what kind of haircut you had. As time goes on, people change— and user data rapidly deteriorates over time as a result. Holding on to too much historical data can skew your marketing strategy based on what worked in the past, even if that insight is no longer true to current day situations.

Quick Tip: If you find that you need historical user data for longer than the 14-month retention period, consider exporting your data to a data warehouse like Google’s BigQuery, a secure platform for enterprise data.

Building a Larger Strategy

Okay, now let’s talk bigger picture. How can your dealership utilize the data that you’re collecting to guide better marketing practices?

One of the most obvious answers is your Google Ads. It can be helpful to link your Google Ads account to GA4 as soon as possible to start collecting data in the “Advertising” tab of GA4. This tab can offer a lot of interesting insights about your users’ journey to conversion. You can even use these insights to determine where in the user journey you’re losing most of your prospects (and react accordingly).

Quick Tip: You can also improve your marketing by activating Google Signals. Google Signals works by gathering session data from sites and apps users visit when they are signed in to their Google accounts. This will provide your dealership with cross device reporting and remarketing, additional user insights, and additional advertising features.


Change can be nerve-racking, but it doesn’t have to be. The launch of GA4 has provided you with refreshed, updated analytics on your customers—at your fingertips. Having this reporting is essential to measuring success and setting the future trajectory of your dealership. Learning the differences that you can expect to see from UA to GA4 is a great place to start in making this shift a truly impactful one.

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Mollie Swygart is a marketing communications professional at Reynolds and Reynolds. She is an expert on Reynolds’ suite of cutting-edge marketing products, their functionalities, and how they can be utilized to improve dealership success. Mollie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art and English from Marietta College. She also obtained an Associate’s Degree in Marketing from Rhodes State College.

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