Google Analytics 4: What You Need to Know & How to Set It Up

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When it comes to free, accessible, and actionable data for your website, Google Analytics is your best friend. Anyone with a website can sign up for a free Google Analytics account to understand the traffic to their website and how users engage and interact.

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 is the next generation of Google Analytics, making it the most powerful yet, giving you even further insights into your online presence. It’s a new property designed for the future of measurement and has additional features such as:

  • Direct integrations to media platforms which help drive actions
  • Predictive capabilities that offer guidance without complex models
  • Events instead of session-based data
  • Collects both website and app data to better understand the customer journey
  • Privacy controls such as cookieless measurements, and behavioural and conversion modelling

Even though Google Analytics 4 was launched in 2020, there’s a big change coming soon which is the mandatory switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 which is happening next year.

Why is Google Analytics 4 Important?

Aside from the fact that it gives you more detailed information about your online presence, insights into your customer journey and upgraded pipeline tracking, it will soon be your only option. It’s important to make the switch as Google will be sunsetting Universal Analytics from July 2023, and even though you have time to make the change, you’ll want to make sure you understand the new platform and become familiar.

It’s also important to make this change sooner rather than later to build the necessary historical data before Universal Analytics stops processing hits. You can still use both at the same time before GA4 is shut down next year.

Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: What Are the Main Differences?

Even though GA4 is an upgrade from UA, it’s a different property so there are a couple of key differences that you need to be aware of:

  • More of a focus on behaviour and predictive analytics
  • Referral traffic sources are shown differently
  • “Events” are now “goals” which are much more detailed
  • Three new metrics have been introduced; engaged session, average engagement time per session, and engagement rate
  • There are only 3 standard reports available in GA4
  • Events segments are new and the process for creating segments has changed
  • Integration with Display & Video 360
  • Search Console integration
  • The introduction of a new set of insights focused on conversion paths

You can read the full list of changes from Google if you want to gain a deeper understanding.

How to Transition to Google Analytics 4

If you haven’t already made the change, it’s likely that you will see a banner at the top of your UA account encouraging you to set up GA4:

“Universal Analytics will no longer process new data in standard properties beginning July 1, 2023. Prepare now by setting up and switching over to a Google Analytics 4 property.”

If you click on “Let’s Go” it will take you to the following screen below, giving you the option to create a new GA4 property or connect to an existing one.

If you click on “Get Started” you’ll see a pop-up letting you know you’ll be creating a new property and that basic settings (e.g., events, conversions) will be copied from your UA property.

Once you’ve clicked on “Create Property” you’ll be taken back to the GA Property Setup Assistant which will show your new property:

At the moment until UA is stopped on the 1st July 2023, you’ll be able to use both properties so you have time to adjust to GA4, as there are quite a few differences that you need to get used to.

How to Set-Up Google Analytics 4

Now that you’ve created your new GA4 property, you’ll need to set it up. The following screen will show on your account and if you click on “Get Tagging Instructions” it will start the set-up

In order to start collecting and analysing data, a tracking tag needs to be added to your website. You will be able to enable enhanced measurements such as page views, outbound clicks, scrolls, and additional settings including modifying incoming events and managing connected site tags.

Then to add the new tag to your website we recommend using the “Global Site Tag” option as it’s easier to set up, and you just need to copy and paste the code to your website. Then you’re all done setting up the new Google Analytics 4 property, however, be aware that it can take up to 48 hours to access data after completing this.

Is Google Analytics 4 Free?

Yes, Google has always offered a free version:

“Google Analytics has always offered a free version in order to help businesses of all sizes and stages better analyse and improve their websites and apps. This mission hasn’t changed.”

A paid version is being rolled out this year now officially referred to as “New GA360” and will offer service-level agreements for business-critical items such as higher limits for audiences, conversions, custom dimensions and metrics, and the BQ export and data collection and processing. It also offers a lower entry price point for lower volume websites and apps, and a dynamic pricing feature that only changes for actual use (i.e., events) above a base fee.

Overall Thoughts

Google Analytics is one of the most powerful tools you can utilise for your marketing, helping you understand website traffic and how users behave and engage on the website. Google Analytics 4 is a great upgrade providing marketers with more flexibility and the ability to predict user behaviour.

As GA4 will become our only option from July 2023, we strongly recommend making the switch now to give you time to become familiar with the new platform. In the meantime, you can still use UA, however, it’s important to make this change.

At GA Agency, our international team can help you develop your marketing strategies and mitigate any issues around Google Analytics 4. Contact us to find out more about our marketing services including SEO consulting, content marketing and PPC.

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