Google Analytics 4 - User Acquisition Graph

Google Analytics 4, often shortened to GA4, was released by Google last year. This upgrade represented a significant change from Universal Analytics, which was the previous version. Since the release of GA4, every new analytics account will automatically create a GA4 Property. However, as an existing user, you will have the ability to decide whether or not you want to migrate your site to the new version. So let’s look at what you need to know about upgrading to Google Analytics 4.

What prompted the introduction of GA4?

You may be wondering why Google decided to introduce Google Analytics 4. The previous version, Universal Analytics, was released ten years ago in 2012. Over the years, there were a few major updates, which saw Google Tag Manager and Global Site Tags being implemented. However, over the past eight years, we have seen a monumental level of growth with regard to mobile applications. One of the issues that must be dealt with today is that many people are using phone apps to do their online shopping rather than simply heading to the website of their preferred retailer or using Google.

Universal Analytics was not created in order to be able to track such actions and measure them. As a consequence of this, Google recognised that it needed to unify the experience between the application and the website so that Google Analytics users could enjoy helpful and accurate data.

Furthermore, there is greater demand for tighter controls and privacy over cookies. Universal Analytics, therefore, needed to be updated so that there was compliance with new policies and expectations.

How to upgrade to Google Analytics 4

One of the easiest ways to get Google Analytics 4 up and running on your website is by using the GA4 Setup Assistant. If you have Universal Analytics running on your site at the moment, head to the Admin section, and you should be able to view the GA4 Setup Assistant. Simply click on this, and an assistant will be initiated to help you in creating a new Google Analytics 4 property.

It is worth pointing out that this option is not going to have an impact on your current Universal Analytics property. It will simply initiate a new property being created and will enable you to reuse parts of the Universal Analytics property’s settings, although not all of them will be applicable.

After you have chosen GA4 Setup Assistant, you will be asked whether you want to connect to a current GA4 property or create a new one. For the purpose of this guide, we will assume that you will want to select the option that enables you to create a new property.

Once you have done this, you will see a pop-up on your page that will inform you of what is going to occur:

  • a new property will be created
  • some of the standard Universal Analytics settings will be reused
  • Enhanced Measurement will be enabled automatically

If you have implemented Universal Analytics through gtag.js, then you will have the option of enabling data collection using that tag. In other words, if you add this code to the code of your website, then you will have the ability to begin collecting data for your new GA4 property automatically from that tag.

Pro Tip: The Setup Assistant is a helpful checklist but be aware that there are some features missing from Google Analytics 4 at present so this checklist is likely to be expanded in the future.

Additional steps if you currently use Google Tag Manager

Some additional steps will need to be performed if you are using Google Tag Manager. When in the Setup Assistant, you should choose the Tag Installation option. Once you have done this, select the Data Stream. This should have been created automatically when you upgraded from Universal Analytics.

A window will pop onto your screen, and you will see the tracking ID for your new property in the top right-hand corner. You should copy this because you will need it in Google Tag Manager.

Next, go to the container for your Google Tag Manager. Click on Tags, then select New, and choose GA4 configuration. You will need to enter the ID you copied earlier in the Measurement ID field.

If you want to track page views automatically, enable the “send a pageview event when this configuration loads.” Typically, it is fine to keep this enabled but, in some situations, it is advisable to disable the pageview checkbox and generate a standalone configuration tag. A prime example of when this would be needed is for a single-page application.

In the section labelled Triggering, choose All Pages, and then you can name the tag.

Test your changes to make sure they work effectively

You need to make sure that everything you have done is working in the way you want it to. Testing your changes is vital, which you can do via the preview mode. Once the preview mode is enabled, you should be able to view the new GA4 tag amongst the tags that fired. After you have done this, go back to the interface for Google Analytics 4, and then select Realtime in the left-hand sidebar. You should be able to view real-time reports here.

Final words on Google Analytics 4

It still seems like early days with Google Analytics 4 and a reluctance to switch from a long familiar version is understandable. However, Universal Analytics will stop processing new data from the beginning of July 2023 so the sooner you make the switch the more comfortable you will be using the new GA4 system. There are some valuable new metrics providing greater insights than the Universal Analytics data so why not take the plunge?

Worried about the loss of the Bounce Rate metric? Read more…

About Michelle Symonds

Established as an SEO specialist since 2009, following a career as a software engineer in the oil industry and investment banking. Michelle draws on her IT and web development experience to develop best-practice processes for implementing successful SEO strategies. Her pro-active approach to SEO enables organisations to raise their online profile and reach new audiences, both nationally and internationally. She has a wealth of cross-industry experience from startups to Fortune 500 companies .

One thought on “Google Analytics 4 – Have You Upgraded Yet?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.