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Google Analytics 4 (GA4) was officially launched back in October 2020, you would however be forgiven for not knowing much about it. In fact, for the early days of GA4 most businesses chose to stick with the tried and tested Universal Analytics, that is until now. With Google’s announcement that they will be sunsetting Universal Analytics in July 2023, we now have no other choice than to implement GA4.

What is GA4

Google Analytics is Google’s solution for website and app analytics. For many businesses, Google Analytics is their primary source of insights on their marketing efforts. With key data like website visitors, acquisition sources, and user demographics all reported in one (relatively) easy-to-use software.

Google Analytics 4 is Google’s latest iteration of Google Analytics which brings with it a modern way of thinking about user tracking. With stricter privacy laws being introduced around the world, Google needed a new way to track users online. GA4 tackled this topic by relying less on user cookies and instead using machine learning to “fill in the gaps”.

Along with machine learning, GA4 focused on capturing the complete user journey as opposed to the Universal Analytics approach of splitting user interactions into sessions.

GA4 has certainly brought about a lot of major changes to user tracking. But now that the changes have been announced how do you prepare your business for the change?

How to migrate UA to GA4

We recommend people get their GA4 accounts set up as soon as possible to avoid losing data. In fact, for all our existing clients, we’ve already completed the setup process for GA4. The steps below outline how to transfer from Universal Analytics to GA4 (and bring along your conversion tracking). For those that have never set up Analytics, Google has this handy guide to help you out.

1. Set up a fresh GA4 account

  1. In Google analytics navigate to your Admin Panel by clicking the cog icon in the lower left of the screen.
  2. Select the UA property you would like to create a GA4 account for and select “GA4 Setup Assistant” (the first option in the Property column)
  3. If you use Google Tag Manager (GTM) you will see a message telling you to install a new tag. If you don’t use GTM you can automatically finish the setup by selecting “Enable data collection using your existing tags.”

This will automatically create your GA4 account and populate the account with key data from your UA account like website URL, time zone, and currency settings.

2. Link GA4 with your website to start collecting data

If you weren’t able to use the “Enable data collection using your existing tags” feature, you will now need to use GTM to start collecting data from your website.

  1. In GTM create a new “Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration” tag.
  2. Enter your Measurement ID which you can find in Google Analytics by going to Admin > Date Streams > Your Website DataStream.
  3. Trigger your tag on every page view and save your changes.

It may take up to 30 minutes for data to start appearing in your GA4 account, but you are now officially collecting data in your GA4 property! Now it’s important to transfer your UA goals to GA4 so you can continue tracking key website events on your new property.

3. Setup GA4 Conversions

Moving to a new system is the perfect opportunity to review your conversion tracking after which we start setting up conversion tracking on GA4. That’s why we like to manually add our conversion events. Although Google also offers an option to automatically migrate conversions from old UA accounts for those short on time.

  1. To audit your existing conversion goals, we start by reviewing the conversion goals in our old UA account. We make a note of the conversions we want to keep, the conversions that have stopped working, and the conversions that are missing.
  2. With a clear list of the conversions, we want to bring over to GA4 we can start setting up conversions on GA4.
  3. The exact process depends on what you want to track but in general the main conversions we setup are:

5. Final tips on setting up GA4

Our final tips are things we’ve discovered while setting up countless GA4 accounts. And are small things you can do to perfect your GA4 account.

  • Test, test, and test again. Getting the setup correct is the most crucial part of Google Analytics tracking so spend some extra time getting it right the first time.
  • Consider enabling Google signals which enables cross-device tracking and reporting. This lets you understand how users interact with your website across their user journey. You can activate Google Signals using this article.
  • Increase data retention to the max (14 months instead of the default 2). By default, GA4 only retains data for detailed reports for 2 months. Luckily you can increase this to 14 with the press of a button.
  • Link GA4 to your Google Ads and Search Console by following this article for Google Ads and this one for Search Console. By doing this you get more insights into keywords, ad spend, organic performance and more!
  • We always exclude our personal IPs so that our internal traffic isn’t reported in GA4. This means you can visit your website without worrying about ruining your data. You can follow this article.

What now?

While moving GA4 was an unwelcome difficulty for a lot of businesses now that the transfer has been completed there are some awesome new and improved features to discover! Some of our personal favourites are:

  • Some of the new and improved reports allow for far greater detail than UA. In particular, GA4 comes with some really cool funnel visualization reports to help you identify how people interact with your business and where improvements can be made.
  • The new and improved audience builder allows you to create advanced audience segments on the fly. New features like event scoping, time-based sequences, and exclusion options make this even more powerful tool and we’ve discovered some interesting new insights into our own website users.
  • The simplified conversion tracking process has made it easier to track the most valuable events on your website. You are now able to easily toggle any events as a conversion. This has made our account setup and reporting process just that little bit easier which is always great!

Have you implemented GA4 for your website? The longer you wait the more data you lose out on, so we encourage everyone to upgrade as soon as possible. If you get stuck or just want help on how best to make the most of your marketing analytics get in contact with us here!