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google analytics data visualization

Getting Started with Google Analytics 4

Your Guide to the Best GA4 Set Up

| Updated: March 2023

The Forced GA4 Rollout

Google has announced it will be deprecating its Universal Analytics (UA) platform as of July 1st, 2023. This means your website’s analytics will stop recording data on that date. 

The newly released Google Analytics 4 (GA4) can be set up now and is fully replacing the old Universal Analytics (UA) version. We recommend making the switch at least 1 month (June 1st) before the cut-off to avoid any risk of missing data.

With that in mind, here’s a run down on all the key information about GA4 and making the switch.

Why are Web Analytics Valuable?

But first, let’s touch on why we want website analytics at all. The short answer is “To achieve your business goals more effectively”. Analytics let us see the number of visitors to a site and how they behave during their visit. 

Do they leave immediately, hating what they see? Or do they interact well and even “convert” by submitting a contact form or making a purchase?

Having this data is invaluable to optimizing your website and measuring the success of your advertising campaigns. Particularly so, for paid digital marketing.

Key Changes Moving from UA to GA4

There have been significant changes to where each metric is found and some metrics have changed entirely.

We now have only 4 tabs in the left-hand menu – Home, Reports, Explore, and Advertising. 

  • Home – Hasn’t changed too much and remains somewhat flexible to your needs
  • Reports – The first thing you’ll notice is there are drastically fewer reports available. The reports that have stayed are quite similar to equivalent UA reports with some of the key metrics changing as outlined below.
  • Explore – The new “Explore” tab is a flexible environment for generating all sorts of custom reports 
  • Advertising – Is for just that – measuring paid ad campaigns

Here are a few of the commonly used metrics that have changed and where to find them:

  • Average Bounce Rate is now Engagement rate:
    Reports>Acquisition>Traffic Acquisition – 7th column

    • This is a huge improvement over the bounce rate measurement. It should yield much more accurate results when measuring how many users actually interact (engage) with your site.
  • Average Session Duration is now Average engagement time per session:
    Reports>Acquisition>Traffic Acquisition – 4th column

    • This is not the total time a user spends on your site like “Average Session Duration” was, so expect to see the time to be much shorter (and don’t consider this as a loss in performance)
  • Average Pages per Session is now Events per session:
    Reports>Acquisition>Traffic Acquisition – 6th column

    • Events include page views by default but also include a number of other valuable interactions. For example: scrolling to the bottom of a page, playing a video, downloading a file, or viewing search results.

Old Metrics are Still Available

It is possible to still find and view almost all previous UA metrics through the new “Explore” tab. But the report to view them needs to be manually set up.

The good news is, you only need to set it up once and it will be available to reference forever. Let us know if you would like help with this.

“Can’t Miss” Items When Switching to GA4

When making the switch there are a few critical setup items you don’t want to miss. Here’s a list of them with step-by-step instructions:

  • Change The Data Retention Settings
    By default Google will only be keeping your data for 2 months now (within the explore tab). You’ll definitely want to change that so you can see longer-term patterns and changes.

    1. Click the “Gear” icon the bottom left to access the Admin section of GA4
    2. Within the property settings in the middle of the page click on “Data Settings” 
    3. Now click “Data Retention.”
    4. Change the “Event data retention” from 2 months to 14 months by using the dropdown selector
    5. Keep “Reset user data on new activity” switched on. Despite how it sounds that will keep the user data for even longer if they revisit the site. 
  • Turn on Google signals
    This allows you to collect additional data about users who have turned on ads personalization and who are signed in to their Google Accounts. Giving you greater insights into your site’s users.

    1. Click the “Gear” icon the bottom left to access the Admin section of GA4
    2. Within the property settings in the middle of the page click on “Setup Assistant”
    3. Under “Property settings” you’ll see “Turn on Google signals” click the arrow at the right edge of it
    4. From the dropdown select “Manage Google signals”
    5. Open the “User Data Collection Acknowledgement” and click “Acknowledge” if you comply
    6. Then turn on “Google signals data collection” by clicking “Get Started” and walk through the steps
  • Filter Internal Traffic:
    If you or your team visit your website often but you don’t want this skewing your data, it’s recommended to filter your team out of your traffic.

    1. Click the “Gear” icon the bottom left to access the Admin section of GA4
    2. Click on “Data streams”.
    3. Then select “Configure Tag Settings” 
    4. Then select “Show All.” (to the far right of the “settings” heading)
    5. Then select “Define internal Traffic” and click the blue “create” button
    6. Add a name (ie. your business name), leave the traffic type alone, and add the IP or multiple IP addresses for your location.
      Note: If you don’t know your IP address just Google “What is my IP address” and Google will give it to you.
    7. Hit the blue “Create” button in the top right corner and you are done!
  • Set up conversion events
    Tracking conversions (eg. people who submit your form) can help you measure the value your website is providing your business. If you already had conversions set up in UA you can import them through the “Setup Assistant”. If not, you’ll want to set them up directly in GA4.

    1. Tracking a Contact Form submission is a more complicated process so here is a Video Tutorial you can follow
    2. Contact Page Views can be tracked using the same method as above
    3. Phone number views can be tracked with unique IDs viewed for a certain amount of time but this requires a more advanced setup (and for many businesses isn’t worth it).
  • Check that everything is working
    Lastly double check a few days later to confirm that data is flowing and everything is connected and working as expected! Nothing worse than checking your analytics a month later and finding no data.

True Market is Here to Support You

We understand this change is being forced on you by Google and are here to help in any way we can. From completing the full transfer for you to just answering a question, don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us.

About the Author

Matthew Wright

Matt Wright

Matt Wright is the co-owner of True Market, Fire Flower Apps and Amplify Community, serving as Creative Director, President, and Director (respectively). While his primary passion is for design and the world we create, he is an expert in marketing strategy, brand development, SEO, website conversion and loves helping others succeed.

Outside of work, Matt volunteers for his church and helping young designers get their start. He has an outrageously cute 1yr old daughter, a beautiful wife, and an incredible Lego collection. When he finds free time, you’ll see him out running ultra marathons or at the climbing gym.

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