You Ask, I Answer: Active Users in GA4?

Xian asks, “what is an inactive user in GA4?”

According to the GA4 documentation, it’s:

First visit or engaged session – the number of sessions that lasted 10 seconds or longer, or had 1 or more conversion events or 2 or more page or screen views.

You Ask, I Answer: Active Users in GA4?

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Christopher Penn 0:00

In today’s episode, Shawn asks, what is an inactive user in Google Analytics 4? This is a pretty straightforward question answer it inactive users any user that’s not an active user, which begs the question, what is an active user? In the Google Analytics 4 documentation, Google makes pretty clear that active users is the baseline user measurement.

When you see users in the application, anyone, the application has active users, and they define active users in two different ways.

One is whether the session contains the first visit event meaning this user is has just come in, or two, it is an engaged session.

And you then have to dig through a couple more pages of documentation to read that and engage session has the following definition.

This is the session that lasts 10 seconds or more, or had one or more conversion events, or two or more page slash screen views.

So if somebody shows up on your website, and looks at a page for like five seconds, and then leaves, didn’t scroll didn’t do anything, that would not fall into the category of an active user, that would be an inactive user, even though arguably that person was there.

But they weren’t really active.

This also means that there can be some variance from site to site, depending on what your conversion events are.

So for example, some places will have a new user as conversion event that says whether you’re top of the funnel conversion, well, if you have a top of the funnel conversion event, and that happens, as soon as the person comes on, boom, they have an active user, right? Even if they haven’t done anything, if they’ve only been there, like two seconds, but they’re a new user.

And it’s a conversion event that is an active user, whereas a site where that conversion event does not exist, that wouldn’t be an active user.

So the question is, if you’re trying to do apples to apples, it can be tricky, depending on the conversion events that are set up.

But that’s the basic answer.

Now, one thing I want to add in here is that it’s important to discuss the the scopes of measurement, Google Analytics 4 are supposed to resolve this all by moving us entirely to event level scoping, but the reality is that we still use those event or page Mosie event scopes, the session scope, and then the user scope for different kinds of measurement.

And a lot of the time, people don’t necessarily use the right scope for its intended purpose.

In events scope, like a page view, or hit or screen, etc, is really good for measuring the number of times a piece of content was interacted with, or parts of the content or interacted with.

So it’s it’s a content metric.

The session is the period of time when somebody came in, did some stuff and then left, right.

That is ideal for judging marketing effectiveness, what marketing channel brought in that session, whether or not they converted, you want to know what’s Martin Schultz bringing sessions in, bring people in to do stuff.

And then the user, of course, is the best measure of how many human beings did a thing.

But users are not a great marketing measurement, right? Because a person may come in, say the first contact is through email, right? If you are solely focused on the user, you’re kind of locked into, you know, the, the, the session, the source, the medium, the attribution for that user.

And it’s usually tied to the first touch.

We all know that first touch and or last touch attribution is not generally great, unless you are very, very transactional site where somebody comes in does thing leaves and they never come back.

Okay, then it doesn’t really matter what attribution model you use.

But for more complex things, where there’s multiple sessions, different things that can bring somebody back over and over again, webinars, ebooks, social media posts, YouTube videos, the session is the best use of measurement for judging marketing effectiveness.

So I want to add that caveat in here, as we’re talking about what is an active user or an inactive user? The definition is important.

So you understand how Google makes decisions.

But it’s equally important to make sure that you’re using the right scope of measurement for the right outcome.

If you care about counting human beings, like how many people did the thing, use users.

If you care about which piece of content or part of content did perform the best, you should be using events.

And if you’re trying to figure out marketing channel effectiveness, you should be using sessions.

Anyway, it’s a great question.

Thanks for asking.

Talk to you soon.

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