Digital Advertising

Beginner’s Guide to GA4

On July 1, 2023, standard Universal Analytics (UA) properties will stop processing traffic and data, and will be replaced by Google’s next-generation measurement solution, Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Up until this date, you can continue to use and collect new data in your UA properties, but once it is shut down, you’ll only be able to access your previously processed data for six months. So you might be wondering, ‘How will this affect me?’

If you created a property after October 14, 2020, you’re likely using a GA4 property, and no action may be required. But if you created a property before October 14, 2020, you’re likely using a UA property, and action may need to be taken. Leading up to July 1, 2023, Google strongly recommends that you export any important data from UA, and that you ready your website to use GA4 going forward. We are here to help you get a basic understanding of what GA4 is all about, and how you can get started with it today.

What is GA4?

Google Analytics 4 is a free service that allows you to track all traffic and engagement that happens across your website and apps. It was developed to better focus on customer privacy due to the recent implementation of laws such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). GA4 will reduce the reliance on cookies to record certain events across platforms/devices by using machine learning to fill in the gaps where user consent is not given for tracking. This will create more stability to industry changes and prevent future gaps in your data. It is the most advanced property out there, as it allows privacy-first tracking, AI-driven predictive analytics, and cross-channel data measurement.

GA4 was also built upon the need for analytics tracking across websites and mobile applications. It is a blend of Universal Analytics (web data) and Google Analytics for Firebase properties (app data), that uses a more flexible, event-based model. This allows for more accurate reporting and for additional information to be passed into Google Analytics with each interaction such as purchase value, page title, and user location. Overall, GA4 is built with the future in mind, so scalability and growth have been factored into the new design, along with a wider focus on tracking the complete user journey.

How to Get Started

Creating a Google Analytics 4 property today will not change anything within your existing Universal Analytics property. GA4 will simply collect data in parallel to UA, and you can always access both properties through the property selector or Admin screen. With that in mind, here is how you get started implementing GA4:

  • In Google Analytics, click Admin (lower left)
  • In the Account column, make sure that your desired account is selected
  • In the Property column, select the Universal Analytics property that currently collects data for your website
  • In the Property column, click GA4 Setup Assistant
  • Click Get started under I want to create a new Google Analytics 4 property
  • If your site uses the gtag.js, you have the option to Enable data collection using your existing tags
    • If your website builder/CMS does not support gtag.js tag, if you use Google Tag Manager, or your website is tagged with analytics.js, the wizard can’t reuse your existing tagging and you’ll need to add the tag yourself 
  • Click Create Property

Once you click Create Property, Google’s setup wizard creates your new GA4 property, copies the property name, website URL, timezone, and currency settings from your UA property, activates enhanced measurement in your GA4 property, and creates a connection between your UA and GA4 properties. Once the connection is established, you need to make sure that the property is collecting data, whether it be through Google Tag Manager or by tags in your website’s code.

There is a lot to learn about GA4 in the coming months and years, much more than we can cover in a single blog. But our hope is that we can give you some initial insight, and help guide you through the implementation process. If you would like to learn more about GA4 and the changes to come, contact us today.

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