If the idea of cohorts in marketing sounds familiar, this is the case. It’s been around for a long time – I even explained cohort analysis in Google Analytics in 2015. The cohort analysis application has grown among marketers, and Google in particular has had to keep up with the recent redesign of Google Analytics, GA4. Enter the updated cohort analysis in GA4.
A cohort is a group of people, things, or events that have statistical factors in common – such as age, class, and time periods. In marketing, cohorts are supposed to identify a demographic group.
One of the reasons cohorts are vital to advanced marketing is the ability to sort the types of traffic arriving on your website and the types of traffic that will be created from your content and digital marketing ads. Reviewing general visitor metrics such as returning visitors can give a general view of the type of traffic.
However, an aggregated view hides segments that may convert consistently and are therefore worth further engagement. The statistical mean in the cohort analysis gives a clearer signal for a trend.
A good cohort can help a marketing team determine which part of a customer is responding to campaign tactics. You can look at a total of visits and see if there is a specific portion of the total visits that represent people responding to a whitepaper download or watching a video.
Cohorts are therefore useful for applying campaign budgets to activities that are likely to produce more results.
Access to cohort analysis in GA4
The cohort analysis in Google Analytics was originally a stand-alone beta report made up of four parameters: cohort type, size, metrics, and date range. Within GA4, analysts have gained more flexibility in selecting the data. This results in more presentation options that suit the analyst’s needs.
To access the cohort, select “Analysis” in the main menu of your Google Analytics profile. Next, choose Cohorts to go to the Analytics Hub. The Analysis Hub is a new feature in GA4, with which many of the stand-alone reports are grouped together in selection menus. The selection menu displays the options for dimensions, metrics and associated functions
In the hub, analysts can enter two condition settings that act as “bookends” to set the cohort type. The configuration defines the state in which visits to a website or app are included in a cohort. A second setting, the return, defines a second criterion according to which visits to a website or app are considered part of a cohort. Both settings include a choice for first touch (the date a customer arrives on a website or app), every transaction on the website or app, and every conversion from that transaction.
The cohort size is controlled with cohort granularity. The user can define the initial and returned cohort period by day, week, or month. There is also a breakdown feature that further breaks down subgroups based on a selected dimension. Values determine the metrics to be displayed.
Related Article: What Marketers Need To Know About Google Analytics 4
Google adds 3 new features to the cohort calculation
Three new cohost calculations complement the standard cohort module of Google Analytics 4.
The standard calculation allows you to identify the cohort users who will return in a given time period. The standard calculation is similar to the cohort report I mentioned in the previous Google Analytics version. It shows a standard cohort chart with weeks along the top horizontal axis and aggregates users by cohort data along the vertical axis.
Then there is a rolling calculation. With an ongoing computation, you can identify users who will return to the cohort at any time period after inclusion.
Google provides an example. The standard calculation for the sample image shows that 35 users were purchased on November 23rd and they returned to your site 3 days later. If you switch to a rolling calculation, you’ll see a different number, 6, indicating that these users will come back every day from November 23rd to 3 days later. In other words, they have been in constant contact with your website.
The second new choice, Cumulative Calculation, allows you to cumulate the selected metric for users who have returned in any period after being added to the cohort. In our example, this setting shows a total for a metric such as spend for users who returned in those three days.
Finally, there is a metric calculation per cohort size. It shows the results relative to the size of each cohort, making it easy to compare the behavior of cohorts of different sizes.
Once everything is selected, analysts can monitor how user behavior changes over time by examining the cohorts with different data according to campaign influences.
Understand the limits of cohort analysis
However, there are limits in cohort analysis. Google Analytics can display a maximum of 60 cohorts, which should be sufficient for many digital campaigns. However, the limit can be an obstacle if your cohort inputs are complex. Also, when you apply a breakdown dimension to a cohort, only the top 15 values of that dimension are displayed.
Cohorts isolate data to guide you where the biggest impact of marketing is occurring. The new cohort analysis functions in Google Analytics 4 provide more nuanced guidance for activities that customers find valuable on your website or in your app.