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Google Analytics 4 - GA4 - Step by step guide

GA4 – Step by step guide for the new Google Analytics 4

GA4 or fully spelled out Google Analytics 4 is the new future of web reporting.
You may still know it by its beta version name, Google Analytics App + Web. It will be the standard of Google’s web reporting for the next few years and combines the app (iOS / Android) and web reporting in the so-called datastream.
What it is all about and how you can benefit from it, the following article will show you with a first introduction and some examples.


Google Analytics 4 – The Future of Web Reporting – Differences, Advantages & Instructions

The following points are answered:

 

  • The advantages of GA4
  • Difference to Universal Analytics
  • Do I need GA4 right now?
  • Google Analytics 4 setup – step-by-step guide
  • Data protection – DSGVO & Co.
  • Conclusion & open questions

 

The advantages of GA4

When in 2020, more precisely in late July, Google gave access to the beta of App + Web, it was already clear that some things will change. But at the beginning it was not really sure what changes and advantages it will bring.
However, these are now known and the following.

What are the advantages of Google Analytics 4?

  • More comprehensive analysis:
    The Analysis hub offers extremely comprehensive methods for evaluations in the form of funnel, path or custom chart & table reporting. At first glance, everything is a bit more complex, but the possibilities are also more extensive than with the usual Universal Analytics (UA).
  • The user is in focus:
    With UA, the session, i.e. the session of a page visitor, is and has always been in focus.
    GA4 changes that and for reporting the (page) user is crucial.
  • Events already exist:
    In GA4, events that are to be tracked can be selected and activated right at the creation stage. Including downloads, video tracking or outbound link clicks.
    So everything that should be there to start with, the new Analytics offers out of the box.


An overview of the differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics

 

Google Analytics 4
Universal Analytics
Reports are based on sessions.Reports are based on user events
It is measured event based.Hits are measured differently:
Page view, event, e-commerce, social action, …
Privacy:
Storage 2 or 14 months.
IP masked by default.
Privacy:
Retention 14, 26, 38 or 50 months.
Account & Property.Account, Property and Views.
Detailed analyses in real time.Simplified analysis in real time.
Audiences / user groups instead of segments.Segments instead of Audiences. Audiences refer to retargeting.
Targets already exist and can be activated.Goals must be defined and configured.
Reports and data are optimized.
With algorithms from the field of “Machine Learning”.


As in the overview shown before, the new Analytics offers some advantages right from the start and also the foundations have been renewed all around.

Thus, the general data analysis is supported by machine learning algorithms, the data protection should be future-oriented and it goes in the direction of “cookie-less tracking”. So there should be no cookies in the future.
Missing or incomplete data is compensated for by Google via modeling.
The sometimes complex and confusing data views are simplified to the datastream.
Possibilities and solutions for data control and anonymization are already included in the tool.

Do I need GA4 right now?

A clear no must be said to this.
You can still do your daily reports with Universal Analytics. But there will be no more extensions for it. Google is steering in the direction of GA4. And specifically.
When creating a new tracking property, Universal Analytics is no longer offered at all. It is only available via an additional menu, hidden as an additional selection.
Thus a clear announcement.

However, from personal experience I can advise to deal with GA4 as early as possible.
Then you can take your time learning the ropes. Since it is even possible to run GA4 parallel to the existing analytics environment, you don’t have to do without the data you are used to. There is no need for short-term changeovers and hectic training periods.


My recommendation:

Keep your UA property and track your website in parallel with GA4.

 

First test, then change over

Google offers all account holders the opportunity to visit two GA4 properties, called demo accounts.
In it, you can familiarize yourself with the interface and data visualization.
It is worthwhile to have a look here.

ACCESS DEMO ACCOUNT

 


Google Analytics 4 setup – step-by-step guide

Now you are curious about how your data is visualized in GA4.
If you want to find out, you can use the following step-by-step guide to create your first custom datastream and publish the necessary tag via Google Tag Manager.

 



Open your Google Analytics and go to Account Setting / Administrative Settings.

There you will find a button for “+Create Property” under the property settings.
This is selected.

Set up Google Analytics 4

 


 

Next, you need to name the property, set the correct time zone, and assign the appropriate currency.
But you can also adjust these details later.

ATTENTION:
The default now is that a GA4 property is created.
If you change your mind and want to create a Universal Analytics property, you can do so in the hidden menu. (Marked orange in the following picture). Not shown in the picture is that you can theoretically upgrade an existing UA property to a GA4 property.

Analytics - Create Property

 

 


 

After that, you select the appropriate information about your company and the industry and confirm with “Create”.
Now comes an important step.
Select the appropriate data stream.
Is the GA4 Property for iOS, Android or a website?
Depending on the selection, after that the required information, options for customization are different.

The example shows the options for Web.

Datastream - iOS - Android - Web

Set up data stream

There is also an important decision to be made here now.
Do you want to have the optimized analysis enabled or disabled?

The optimized analysis is already based on existing tracking of page interactions, such as the integrated search function, outbound clicks, video tracking (YouTube videos) or file downloads and scrolling processes.

.Google Analytics 4 - Optimized analyses

I recommend having the existing events enabled.
They do include the minimum that any business site or blog should have.

Finally confirm with “Set up stream”.

 


 

Great, now you have your GA4 property and the appropriate datastream created!
The page shows you the most important details of your configuration.
For the further course, the measurement ID is important for us first. Since we will be using these in Google Tag Manager.

Google - Measurement ID

But you can also place the necessary JS code on your page instead of the GTM, then the data can be captured and run in.

Including the gtag.js snippet in the <head> of your website might look like this.

<!doctype html>
<html <?php language_attributes(); ?>>

<head>
<meta charset="<?php bloginfo( 'charset' ); ?>">
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">
<link rel="profile" href="https://gmpg.org/xfn/11">

<?php wp_head(); ?>

<!-- Global site tag (gtag.js) - Google Analytics -->
<script async src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtag/js?id=G-MYK3ZXXXX"></script>
<script>
  window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
  function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
  gtag('js', new Date());

  gtag('config', 'G-MYK3ZXXXX');
</script>

</head>

Embedding via the Google Tag Manager

The easiest way to add extensions to gtag.js in the near future is to use the Google Tag Manager.
To do this, you need to create an account and container at tagmanager.google.com, or use an existing one.
If you need help with this, please let me know! I can back you up on that.

 

Create a new tag.

Goggle Analytics 4 - Tag Manager Tag

 

 


 

You name the tag with a suitable name and select GA4 configuration as tag type.

Configure GA4

 


 

You then need to add some details to the tag.
Enter the measurement ID mentioned in the datastream and set “All-Pages” as the trigger to be fired.
Important, the check mark for “When loading this configuration…” must be set.

Measurement ID - Tag Manager

 


 

Now “Save” and publish the whole thing. Then the tag is active on your website and data is collected.

Tracking is now activated!

Publish Tag Manager


In conclusion, there can always be small changes in the process.

From the beta to the state of releases, Google had kept changing the UI slightly and also the tag configuration.
Also, the example shown does not yet handle any additional event tracking, apart from the standards from GA4. Further instructions on this are given below.

 


Data protection – DSGVO & Co.

With Google Analytics 4, Google has adapted to the current regulations of GDPR / DSGVO and the CCP (Code of Civil Procedure) and made a massive change.
So it is positive that the IP is now masked from the beginning.
The operator no longer needs to worry about this.
Also, deleting user data or individual events is now easy and can be done through the UI.
(Detailed information and instructions follow)

It’s definitely pointing in the right direction here.


In conclusion – conclusion & open questions

With GA4, as already noticed, some things will change. Also, I guess some unanswered questions have come up now.
These are summarised and explained once again in conclusion.

 


I am now running Universal Analytics and GA4 in parallel – is this a disadvantage?

A resounding no. From a user perspective, nothing will change, nor will it change your page load time.
It is rather an advantage, because you can continue to do your usual analyses, but at the same time you can already familiarize yourself with GA4.


Should I switch completely to GA4 already?

Again, a resounding no, please don’t.
GA4 does come with a possible link to BigQuery and Google Ads already.
But it doesn’t offer the full scope yet.
Google is working on the product and there will still be changes in the next year or two.


When will Google Analytics 4 be ready and fully featured?

That’s much too sweeping a statement.
Personally, I expect that towards the end of 2021 you might even be able to switch fully to GA4.
But between you and me. Google is always reserving something here and sometimes announcements shift or an announcement pops up out of the blue.

 

Are there details to keep in mind when converting?

Yes, you can still customize the configuration of your data retention and whether it should be reset for returning visitors.
You should. As best suits your purpose. You can find this option in the settings under “Data retention”.
Does the information in your privacy policy match? Google Analytics 4 should be mentioned and at best opt-out options should be provided.

 

Data retention Setting

 

Resources:

Further information and useful articles about Google Analytics can be found here.

Comparison to Googel Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics (Google)

Simo Ahava’s blog

– Krista Silks

Media-Engineer, Web Analytics & Vinyllover. Vater einer reizenden Tochter, fährt gerne Skateboard und praktiziert Yoga.

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