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Google Analytics 4 Trend Change Detection

Gathering insights is an essential part of any business. But with online businesses, at times, there’s a lot of data to work.

This high inflow of data can make timely detection of significant changes quite arduous, especially for businesses without dedicated analysts.

Google recently introduced Google Analytics 4 trend change detection insight to help you stay on top of these things.

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It’s similar to how anomaly detection in GA4 works, but the objective is different, so it is triggered differently. We’ll cover how all of it works, including the following topics:

  1. What is Google Analytics 4 Trend Change Detection?
  2. How Google Analytics 4 Trend Change Detection Works
  3. How are Trends Affected in GA4?
  4. Where to Find Trend Change Detection in GA4?

Let’s dive in and see how we can use this new feature!

What is Google Analytics 4 Trend Change Detection?

Trend change detection shows subtle but long-lasting and significant changes in the direction of the data on your property. These changes happen over a prolonged period.

So, it might sound similar to anomaly detection. Still, it is different in that it only shows sudden spikes and dips in data, thus alerting you that something unexpected happened.

A Google Analytics 4 trend change detection card would look like this:

Trend change detection card in GA4

Trend change detection can be helpful to get these insights so they can be used to understand how certain changes we have made lead to long-term changes in our data, whether it’s updating the website or doing any optimization on the site or app.

Anomaly detection is to quickly fix something right after a change is made or, in general, some une, on the other hand, can alert expected behavior occurs suddenly.

When combined, these insights could help many businesses stay on top of these changes, especially with no dedicated analysts.

The trend detection insight is triggered when the forecasted value differs from the original values, which can happen when the following four types of trend changes occur:

  1. A forecasted increase changes to a decrease
  2. A forecasted decrease changes to an increase
  3. A greater increase than forecasted occurs
  4. A greater decrease than forecasted occurs

How Google Analytics 4 Trend Change Detection Works

Google uses a sequential algorithm for signal segmentation that detects whether a trend change has happened to a time series.

The algorithm segments the time series data into several parts where each part shares similar patterns, whereas different parts have different patterns. It then uses the boundary points between the two points to report any trend changes.

To train the model on daily data, it can usually take up to 90 days, whereas to train on weekly data the model can take up to 32 weeks.

Okay, that got a little technical, but let’s see what happens in the GA4’s interface when these changes are surfaced.

When a change is detected, Google overlays a circle on the time series for that metric, as shown in the screenshot below.

Circle on trend change detection card in GA4

So, you can hover over the circle to see more details like when the trend change occurred and what’s the current and previous rate of the change.

There’s also an investigate report button at the bottom of the trend change insight card to further look into the data. It opens a detailed report with the same date range in which a trend change occurs, metric, and dimension applied.

You can change the date range, add other dimensions, or compare other dimensions to further investigate the trend change.

Multiple factors can affect the trends. Some of them could be a cause for concern, while others not.

How are Trends Affected in GA4?

Not all changes will be a cause for concern, as some changes will be expected because of the actions you took while other changes could be unexpected.

For instance, if you launched a new marketing campaign, the trend will show an increase in traffic and potentially more sales and that’s something you’d expect to see.

So, you won’t have to take any action to ‘fix’ it. But it could also provide you with an opportunity to optimize the user experience and get more of that traffic converted.

If you make any design changes to your website and your CTA button works sometimes, it will show fewer clicks, which is not expected behavior.

This is where you would want it to be fixed right away! However, it will take some time to show up once the change is detected because it would be a subtle change.

Some other reasons can also lead to trend changes, let’s discuss them below:

Marketing and Issues with Website / App Setup

In some cases, you can see a negative trend due to how your marketing campaigns are set up or if there are technical issues with the website or app’s setup.

For instance, paid traffic showing a negative trend would signal that there’s something wrong with how the campaigns are set up. Further investigation might show that the landing page URL was incorrect (for example).

Organic traffic trends might show negative because of technical SEO issues like wrong or missing robots.txt, sitemap.xml, SSL, etc., as this metadata is used by the Google search engine to rank your pages.

Other issues like slower side speed, page loads, etc. can also cause a drop in traffic over time.

Business Cycles and Seasonal Changes

Businesses like travel companies or clinics that provide laser surgeries for summer bodies would see negative trend changes in winter, whereas businesses with winter sports items would see increased sales in winter.

Often fitness centers and gyms see a high number of registrations after New Year’s. Most of these changes are expected and based on seasonal changes or a business’s sales cycle. In such cases, you won’t need to do anything.

Changes to Property Settings

If you make changes to your property settings, then it will have an impact on how certain metrics are calculated.

You can see who made changes to your property by going to the AdminPropertyProperty change history and check if those changes were made before the trend change to rule them out as a potential cause.

Property change history in GA4 admin section

Editor-level permissions at the minimum would be required to see these changes.

Where to Find Trend Change Detection in GA4?

The trend change detection card is shown in the Insights & Recommendations section of the Home page, Reports Snapshot, Advertising Snapshot, and the Insights dashboard.

The Insights dashboard can be accessed by going to the Reports Reports SnapshotInsights card → Clicking on the View all insights button on the card.

View all insights button on the insights card

This insights dashboard shows recent automated and custom insights for your property. It is updated in real time when new insights are triggered or GA4 detects any new insights.

How you interact with insights also trains the analytics on what matters to you so it ranks them accordingly.

Summary

Trend change detection is one of the more recent features that Google has introduced in GA4. We started today’s post by exploring what trend change detection is and how it differs from anomaly detection insight.

We then looked under the hood at how Google detects these trend changes with the help of a sequential algorithm for signal segmentation and how these changes are shown on the trend detection card.

After that, we discussed how these trends can be affected due to technical issues, marketing campaigns, website changes, and general business cycles as well as seasonal changes.

Knowing what affects these trends also gives us an idea of when to act and when not to act, which follows a general principle, i.e., if the behavior is unexpected then something went wrong and we need to fix it, and if it’s expected then we don’t have to do anything. There could be exceptions.

Finally, we learned where we can find the Google Analytics 4 trend change detection card and how our interaction with cards in the Insights dashboard can change their ranking of how they are displayed to us.

Talking about insights, if you’re interested in learning about how to set up custom insights in your GA4 property you would find our post on How to Set Up GA4 Custom Insights quite helpful!

So, what do you think about the new Google Analytics 4 trend change detection card? How helpful do you find these insights in your property? Let our readers know in the comments below!

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