With curtains falling on Universal Analytics (UA), it’s only a matter of time before Google Analytics 4 (GA4) takes over. From July 1, 2023, GA4 will be the only version available to Google Analytics users. Although UA and GA4 are both web analytics tools, these platforms differ in their capabilities and set-up process. Here’s Uptick’s comprehensive, how to implement GA4 guide.
1. Set Up a New GA4 Property
You can only track data when you have a Google Analytics 4 property to start with. The first step is accessing your Google Analytics menu and clicking on “Admin.” Next, go to the Property section and select the “Create Property” button. On the left navigation bar, select “Property Settings” and enter your property details. For example, the property name can be your site, brand, or company name. Google also requires you to choose your industry, currency, and time zone.
2. Configure a Data Stream
A data stream serves as the source of information for the events going to your GA4 property. After clicking on “Data Stream,” you can choose to set up your web platform, iOS, or Android app. Take the case of a web stream—although a single property can house multiple data sources, one web stream is enough to track your sites.
You’ll see the Measurement ID once the web data stream is complete. The Measurement ID represents a unique identifier that links your data stream to the GA4 property. Copy this code and paste it into the “Measurement ID” section of your Google Tag Manager (GTM). Note that you don’t need Tag Manager to install GA4–you could utilize built-in integrations or hardcode the identifier into your site’s backend.
3. Create Event Tags
By transferring data from your site to linked product destinations, tags allow you to measure your ad and website performance. Start by freeing up your GTM if it has old tags. This involves deleting obsolete tags and updating active ones. You also need to implement tags, variables, and triggers to collect information. The next step is switching to GTM preview mode to verify the changes in Google Tag Manager.
This new tag should appear among the GA4 tags that fired. Upon GTM implementation, proceed to configure and test your events. You can do this by clicking on “Admin” and going to the DebugView section. However, you need to enable debug mode to see the data in DebugView.
There are several ways to activate debug mode. The first one is through the Google Analytics Debugger—refresh the page after installing and enabling the extension.
Another option is sending a debug_mode parameter for every event you want to see in DebugView. You can also enable this mode for other users by updating Google tag (gtag.js) and Google Tag Manager configurations.
4. Create Custom Audiences
An audience represents a set of users grouped according to their attributes and experiences. GA4 provides audience templates that are partially configured to recognize a set of metrics or dimensions. Audience templates fall into demographics, acquisition, and technology segments. Another option is predictive audiences that depend on various anticipatory metrics including revenue, purchase, and churn probability.
To create your audience from scratch, click on “Configure,” select “Audiences,” and go to “New Audience.” Next, select “Create a Custom Audience” and type the name, description, and scope of your audience. You also need to choose a membership duration, dimension type, and device category.
If you want to edit the audience, go to your GA4 property, select “Configure,” “Audiences,” and choose your desired option.
5. Set Up Realtime Reports
To access this feature, go to the left side of your interface, click on “Reports” and select “Realtime.” These reports show app and site user activities as they occur. The report displays referral data, popular events, and total active users within 30 minutes. You can even view snapshots of individual visitors at the top right.
Saving Historical Data
Because the platforms use different data models, you cannot transfer UA data to GA4. However, you can still export historical data before Universal Analytics becomes obsolete. Here’s how to save your records.
Open your Google Analytics Account and select the report you wish to keep. You can even set customizations such as location, page grouping, and secondary dimensions. Next, go to “Export” at the top right and pick your desired file format. For example, you can choose CSV, PDF, or Excel.
You can send data to cloud storage if you’re confident about APIs and your technical abilities. With database integrations, you can extract, transform, and load large files for future reference. As a GA360 customer, you can export hit and session data to BigQuery and use SQL-like syntax for querying. Note that you still own the exported data and can utilize BigQuery access control lists to manage project and database permissions.
Large companies have the capacity to house Universal Analytics records in data lakes or warehouses. However, custom databases may not be ideal for everyone because of the huge monetary and technical investments
How to Implement GA4 Guide FAQs
Is GA4 free to use?
Yes, you don’t pay to run tags on your site or apps.
What’s different about GA4?
Universal Analytics uses pageviews and sessions to measure user activity—interactions are viewed within a specific timeframe over the duration of the site visit. Conversely, GA4 processes every interaction as a separate event. By doing so, the event-based model enhances data privacy while interpreting user journeys on different devices.
Can GA4 and UA run together?
Until Google retires Universal Analytics in July, GA4 and UA can track data simultaneously.
Can I tell when GA4 is active?
Check your property ID to know whether you have GA4. Universal Analytics IDs have “UA” at the beginning and a number at the end (UA-XXXXXXXXX-1). On the other hand, GA4 property IDs only include numbers (XXXXXXXXX).
Is GA4 better?
The choice between Google Analytics 4 and UA depends on user preference. However, GA4 comes with superior capabilities including enhanced data visualization, flexibility, and increased privacy.
Use Our How to Implement GA4 Guide for Your Analytics
Even if you’re not ready for the shift, installing GA4 right now gives you a head start on the platform. Google even offers a demo account to get a better feel for GA4!
Does your business or organization need more help making the switch from UA to GA4 or setting up online analytics altogether? Contact us at Uptick Marketing. Our experts in search engine optimization and analytics are ready to help you make the most of your online presence and grow your business.