It’s not a choice of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) or HubSpot. Both are powerful tools for your business metrics. There’s a more important question.
How do you leverage the unique strengths of HubSpot and Google Analytics to have an in depth look of your entire customer journey? If you think it’s as simple as integrate google analytics and you’re done, you’re missing rich insights.
Google Analytics has unique insights that aren’t found in the HubSpot CRM. For example GA4 gives better traffic insights into users as opposed to sessions. HubSpot analytics data reports sessions, but not users. And at the end of the day, you’re selling to users – not sessions. So, both HubSpot and Google Analytics should be part of your data collection plan.
HubSpot’s Google Analytics Integration
HubSpot has built-in Google Analytics integration. You can add your Google Analytics account number, and it will add the code. Finding where to do this in your HubSpot account is hard (for me at least). It’s not under analytics settings. It’s under Settings => Website => Pages => Integrations tab.
But I don’t recommend you do that. Don’t check the Google Analytics checkbox.
Instead, use your Tag Manager to integrate google analytics. To tap the true power of Google Analytics 4, you’ll want to configure many events. And that’s most easily done in Tag Manager.
The Google Analytics Script, HubSpot, and Tracking Code
If you follow the instructions above, you should never need to add the Google Analytics script. It is so much easier to manage GA4 configuration from Google Tag Manager.
There are some scenarios where you may want to pass HubSpot CRM data to the data layer for Google Analytics, or to the Facebook pixel for tracking conversions. In the Facebook case, you’d add the tracking code to the landing pages. In both cases, you’d want to have specific code for each specific landing page. We’ll cover those details in a different article.
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) Events Configuration
Unlike Universal Analytics installing the Google Analytics tracking code accomplishes little. GA4 runs off events. Yes, there are built-in events. But those do little for you because they give little context. And little context give you limited insights in Google Analytics.
Use events to map key milestones in your customer journey. You can use GA4 events to collect data on behaviors around paid search, paid social, organic search, and revenue data. You can track any event as a conversion by flipping a simple toggle switch in your Google Analytics account.
Here’s an example of using HubSpot and Google Analytics to track detailed conversion rates on HubSpot landing pages. The data is collected in Google Analytics 4. But the results are shown in HubSpot Dashboards.
We created three custom GA4 events for landing pages in Google Tag Manager:
- CS_Aware is an event that fires anytime someone views a landing page where we offer a downloadable Conversation Starter. (Conversation Starter is our term for lead magnet)
- CS_Engaged is an event that fires anytime someone scrolls 80% of the landing page. We place our forms at the bottom of our landing pages. So, this tells us who makes it to the form.
- CS_Converted is an event that fires anytime someone goes to a “Thank You” page for those that request a Conversation Starter.
Once we have those events configured, we can quickly pull that data into our HubSpot account using a tool like Databox. We go into the Google Analytics account and flip the conversion toggle switch by the CS_Converted event. Now we can track conversion rates for this specific type of conversion. We also get more insights than HubSpot gives us on the landing page engagement.
With our Google Analytics account properly configured for events, it becomes easy to create HubSpot dashboards with deep insights into our landing pages. In a single view, we can track engagement on the landing pages as well as the conversion rates for the different traffic sources. Instead of jumping back and forth between different measurement tools, our HubSpot and Google Analytics data is unified in our HubSpot account.
Using Google Analytics Events to Get More Insights
Universal Analytics treated all website pages as the same (mostly). But the reality is different website pages have different purposes. For example:
- Blog pages drive users from organic search. This is your 24-7 lead generation machine. But they don’t typically have high conversions.
- Registration pages for webinars and other events are more campaign driven. These typically have higher conversions.
- Typical website pages are informative and important, but don’t directly drive conversions.
- Your pricing page is important. It shows interest on the visitor’s part. You probably want to build retargeting audiences off these visitors to feed to your Google ads.
Start categorizing your website pages, and start tracking unique events for the different pages. This makes it easier to make sense of the Google Analytics data. It will be easier to track marketing ROI for different efforts.
Why Google Analytics Events are Critical for Google Ads
Expect to see Google Ads accounts blowing up on July 1st, 2023 when Universal Analytics stops streaming new data. Paid search costs will go through the roof, and conversions will drop. That’s why you want to start configuring and training Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible.
Events in Google Analytics are what drives conversions. The lack of well-defined events means you’ll lack well-defined conversions. And as a result, your Google Ads account will drive up your paid search costs.
Using Google Tag Manager to Categorize Website Pages for HubSpot
HubSpot has four different categories for pages:
- standard-page or site-page
Pages within the HubSpot account are automatically characterized as one of these four pieces of HubSpot content. However, pages like the one you’re currently reading are hosted outside HubSpot. So, use Google Tag Manager to categorize the content type for HubSpot.
var _hsq = window._hsq = window._hsq || ; _hsq.push(['setContentType', 'blog-post']);
Doing this makes HubSpot attribution reports more meaningful. It properly categorizes the content on non-HubSpot hosted domains. And that helps you track your marketing ROI and marketing performance.
Cross Domain Tracking in Google Analytics
If you’re using HubSpot, you’re almost certainly hosting your landing pages on a subdomain. You probably want Google Analytics to treat your subdomain as the same site as your primary domain.
To do this go into your Google Analytics account and add all HubSpot hosted domains to your cross domain tracking. You can find that in ADMIN =.> DATA STREAMS => Your Data Stream => CONFIGURE TAG SETTINGS => CONFIGURE YOUR DOMAINS.
For each domain you want treated as the same domain, add it to the cross domain tracking list.
Connect Google Analytics to Other Properties
It’s important to integrate Google Analytics with other properties like Google Ads, Search Console, Big Query, and Optimize. The more you integrate google analytics with other tools, the more data you feed Google Analytics to help you make better decisions.
NOTE: Google announced that they’re sunsetting Google Optimize. So, if you’re not using it now, don’t worry about that step.
As your Google Analytics tracking improves across properties, this will improve key metrics like cost per lead.
Connect Your HubSpot Account with Google Search Console
If you’re using HubSpot Marketing Hub Professional or higher, it includes a SEO tool in your HubSpot Account. This is nice because it helps you build your content strategy inside HubSpot with data from your Google Search Console. Just connect it in your HubSpot settings, and it starts analyzing your site and performance. There are three primary HubSpot SEO tools.
The first tool is the HubSpot SEO Recommendations tool. You’ll find similar tools in SEM Rush, Ahrefs, and MOZ. It gives you a list of items to improve your site’s performance.
The second tool is data from Google Search Console displayed inside HubSpot. It will collect data on your organic rankings and performance. This helps you identify rising content stars as well as content that needs attention.
The third tool is a content silo strategy tool. Google finally admitted that they look at the context of the entire website domain. This contradicts what they’ve said for years – that they only rank page-by-page. So, one ranking strategy is to create content silos where a handful of pages try to rank for easier terms while linking-into a central page that’s harder to rank for.
Then you can go into the Traffic Analytics tools and track data on your topic clusters (silos). You can even add a cluster report to one of your HubSpot dashboards so it’s quickly available on one of your 30-Second Dashboards.
Website Data: Users vs. Sessions in GA4
Website visitors come in two categories. A first-time visitor. And a returning visitor. There are no HubSpot settings that allow you to look at those differently. The good news is GA4 gives you that flexibility.
The Google Analytics tracking code tracks both users and sessions. A single user will always be a single user. But a single user can have multiple sessions.
So, you must decide what you care more about. Are you more interested in sessions (total visits)? Or are you more interested in users (total people)? For me, I don’t care how many times a person comes back to the site before they convert. In fact, I see that as a positive sign – especially if you’re selling a high-dollar product or service. So, I focus on user data.
The next thing you need to think about is attribution. This is where focusing on users becomes more important in your website data.
Attribution and Website Data: First User Session vs. Last User Session
Attribution is the white whale of the marketing world. Folks have thrown millions of dollars at this problem for decades and it’s still a problem. Count on it continuing to be a problem.
So, who gets the credit? Is it Paid Search, or Paid Social, or Organic Search? You’ll never have a perfect answer to this question. Because the customer journey is rarely a single website visit.
A couple decades ago, the common belief was it took seven touches to convert a customer. Recent data says it’s more like 21 touches to convert a customer.
You’ll never have all the data. And your HubSpot lead data may say it came from one channel. It’s like assuming your kid walked straight home from school. You know they didn’t. And you hope they took the path you want them to take. But it’s foolish to believe that all the time.
Make the same assumptions about your customers. GA4 lets you report the first user session and the last user session. But that’s not all the data. If you believe you can track the sale to a single traffic source, and start cutting other marketing efforts, you will almost certainly lose money.
See Your Most Profitable Marketing Channels in HubSpot
This is a bold promise that’s hard to fulfil. But you can identify content and channels that are working well for you.
HubSpot Marketing Hub Professional offers a little more insight into the data. It has an attribution report that shows the content that assisted the journey. HubSpot often has lead data that is more persistent than Google Analytics’ tracking code. This is especially helpful with products or services with long sales cycles.
HubSpot Contact ID: Integrate Google Analytics
One limitation of Google Analytics tracking code is it’s lack of ability to track users across different devices. GA4 tries to fill in the gaps with modeling. But HubSpot offers an alternative that helps.
Your HubSpot site has it’s own tracking code that can help google analytics tracking. It’s a cookie called hubspotutk.
- This cookie keeps track of a site visitor’s identity. It is passed to HubSpot on form submission and used when deduplicating contacts.
- It contains an opaque GUID to represent the current visitor.
- It expires in 6 months.
So, once there’s a form submission, HubSpot handles the task of deduplicating the source. At that point, you can push the HubSpot Contact ID to the data layer. And from Google Tag Manager, have the User ID pushed into the Google tracking code. Now Google Analytics can connect the dots on it’s end to have a more complete picture of the customer journey.
HubSpot Google Analytics 4 Launch Roadmap
✅ Turn GA4 On and install the tracking code on your site.
✅ Do basic GA4 Configuration and connect google analytics to your HubSpot site.
✅ Month 1: Set your measurement strategy. Define your pipelines and Growth Gears
✅ Month 2: Wireframe your dashboards. Get the entire team to sign-off on the wireframes. Determine which metrics will be driven by the Google Analytics script vs. HubSpot content.
✅ Month 3: Configure you measurement system to fulfill the strategy. This includes GA4, HubSpot and any other measurement tools.
✅ Months 4-6: Build your dashboards while the AI trains itself. Embed all reports in the HubSpot dashboards. This way, you only have to go to one place to find all of your answers.
Detailed Steps Quick-Start Guide
- Create a Google Analytics account for your domain.
- Add a data stream or view to your property.
- Name your data stream and set the time zone for your sit
- Install your tracking code on your website. We always recommend doing this through Google Tag Manager.
- Click “Configure Your Domains” and add all domains including subdomains to the list.
- Click “Define Internal Traffic.” (You’ll probably need to click “show more” first) List the IP addresses for your office and everyone on your team. This keeps you from measuring yourself.
Now go to the main Admin Menu and click Data Settings
- Under Data Collection, turn on Google Signals and accept all policies.
- Under Data Retention, change the default from 2 months to 14 months.
Lastly, visit your GA4 portal and verify the code is working on your site.
IMPORTANT: Don’t let Google do the auto-migration from Universal Analytics to GA4
Google will offer to use your Universal Analytics settings to create your GA4 property. Don’t do that. It will create more problems than solutions. And it will require clean-up afterwards.
Wrapping Up Google Analytics HubSpot Integration
Using HubSpot and Google Analytics together lets you analyze and report on domain performance across the entire customer journey with ease. Closed-loop reporting with HubSpot and Google Analytics takes your marketing performance to the next level.
[…] that HubSpot doesn’t have all of the answers. You’ll need other data sources like Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Configure each data source to deliver data in a form for your […]
[…] Google Analytics is an endless rabbit hole of measurement and segmentation capability. Your reward for journeying into this rabbit hole is insights that go well beyond sessions, bounce rates, and conversions. As you begin to harness this power, you will start to understand what visitors do leading up to conversions and purchases on your site. The better you understand your customer, the better you can refine your marketing to drive more business. […]
[…] rollout of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) forced us to step back and change the way we created KPI dashboards for our clients. GA4 is more […]