Learn how to start working with Google Analytics 4. We will go through the main settings and how to start using them for your or your client’s business.
Table of Contents
- Create property inside your account
- Implement GA4 tracking on the website
- Settings you need to start with
- Events & Goals Migration
- Tips to get started with GA4
Create property inside your account
To start setting up the GA4 we need to go to Admin — Property — GA4 Setup Assistant or you can create a new GA4 property.
I do not recommend automatically importing any settings you have in UA.
*Sometimes during the process or before it you might get a message to copy all the UA settings to GA4.
Implement GA4 tracking on the website
There are two options for how you can add GA4 code:
- Through the source code of the website. You should add this code into the head element:
<!– Google tag (gtag.js) –>
<script async src=”https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtag/js?id=G-T6PMN85TQ4″></script>
window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || ;
gtag(‘js’, new Date());
- Through the GTM using only the Measurement ID. I recommend the second option as it is easier to manage everything from one place and you also make your source code ‘shorter’/’lighter’.
After you have added the GA4 tracking code, you need to wait up to 24 hours to see the data on the GA4 property. You can check if your tracking is working correctly using debugging mode in GTM or in GA4 itself.
- UA tracking to GTM. If your UA tracking is added not through the GTM, it is a perfect time to move it to GTM and eliminate extra code on the page. I do recommend keeping UA along with GA4 while you are still learning the new interface.
- Duplication of UA and/or GA4. Check that you do not have any duplication (for example, the code implemented twice through one of the plug-ins and directly on the website or through the plug-in and GTM).
Settings you need to start with
If you have not only a website but an App, you can add additional streams in the same property. It is quite convenient as you can track the user behaviour between App and the website in the same reports.
If you have different subdomains, it is recommended to have one stream for the domain and create filters based on Hostname inside the GA4 property. It is not recommended to use different streams for that purpose.
One of the most important settings is to increase data retention from 2 months to 14 months. It is only for customised reports, but still, it is better to have this as long as possible.
You should go to Data Collection — Data Retention and choose 14 months.
In the Data Filters, you can add filters to exclude internal traffic (if you know the office IP) and create a filter for the developer’s traffic which is really helpful when you make a lot of tests during event/conversion creation.
To review enhancement measurements you should go to Data Streams, click on the Web Stream and you can see the list of the events GA4 automatically can track. It is important to know that while GA4 offers different pre-build events, like form submissions, I would not 100% rely on it and would recommend adding this through GTM instead of using the GA4 one. If you will do that too, do not forget to turn this event off on the EM.
Page views events
One of the very useful things GA4 has is the possibility to track page view events on the SPA websites. Simplifying this: when the page changes for the user, but the URL does not change or the page does not reload to push the page view event GA4 automatically tracks that.
You can collect more data about users to improve ads’ personalisation. Go to Data Collection — Google Signals and click ‘Get Started’.
Be aware that before switching it on, you are sure that you are compliant with the legislation of your region.
You can also connect Google Search Console and Google Ads to the GA4 property and other products, like Big Query. It is very beneficial for websites with 10 000+ pages to have integration with Big Query as you will have much more details vs having only aggregated data on Standard reports.
Events & Goals Migration
The GA4 is based on events, so when you will check the data you have collected after the GA4 setting you will see that there are a lot of events happening like page views, user engagement and others. Comparing with the UA, the events and goals (=conversions in GA4) will be mixed with the pre-build events.
Most probably you will have two cases on how to migrate the events from UA to GA4:
- You have the events added through GTM
In this scenario, you are lucky because it is much easier to add GTM events. You need to update the settings of the GTM tag, but you can use the same triggers. Instead of UA Category — Label — Action you should create the event name & custom dimensions (for example, Page URL, Page Path, Click Text, Form ID and many others).
- You have the events added through the code
If the UA events data were pushed from the code, it would not be possible to use these settings for GA4 because GA4 events have different structures. UA events have Category – Label – Action, while GA4 events have only the name & any custom dimension you can add along with it. In this case, you can either ask the developer to add new event data based on GA4 requirements or add these events with the GTM help.
The goals are gone in Google Analytics 4 and you can either create the goal you had as an event or mark any event as a conversion inside the GA4. Compared to the goals settings in UA, adding conversion is very easy, you just need to mark the desired event to become a conversion. And that is it!
Keep in mind that after you have added events and custom dimensions, you need up to 24 hours to see them on the reports. Also, if the conversion/event has not happened yet, it would not be visible on the GA4 interface.
Tips to get started with GA4
What I like about GA4 is that there is a lot you can customise based on your needs and the website specifications you are working with.
In the standard reports you can customise and create any report, you are missing. Click Customise Report, add the metrics or dimensions you need and click ‘Apply’. You can either save it as a current report or as a new one and add it to the menu as an additional one. You can also apply any filters you want. For example, you can add a Hostname filter to see the data only for the specific subdomain you need.
Tip: if you do not see the custom reports you have created, go to the Library and add them to the collection you want. Also, on the video you can see that when I chose the age filter, there is no data available. It is because I have not enabled Google Signals.
In the Explore section, you can create different reports using your custom dimensions and combining different data. It looks similar to Google Data Studio (Looker one), but has limited functionality, while there are still different report types you can create: Free Forms (as a table), Path or Funnel Exploration which is easy to build and possible to download in the CSV if you need.
Tip: do not forget to share the report you have created, they are automatically visible only for the user who has created them.
GA4 is still changing and there are a lot of new features coming in (hopefully) which are still missing compared to the UA. While Google is pushing us to migrate ASAP and it is not something always desired, I advise you to use this as an opportunity to review the analytics settings you have and not only ‘just’ migrate to GA4 but improve how and what data you collect to make better business decisions in the future.
If you need help with GA4 or/and GTM, I offer GA4 migration projects and GA4 training.