July 20, 2023

July 1, 2023, has come and gone, and Universal Analytics is receding into history. The lack of knowledge about its replacement has left many marketers essentially blindfolded as they try to navigate the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) landscape.

Fortunately for our clients, A-Train has worked with GA4 since late last year, and our team fully understands its features and functions. Consequently, we’re serving as a trusted guide for them.

Below are some essential insights on GA4, followed by five recommendations on how to move forward with this significantly upgraded analytics tool. There’s also an offer for a free GA4 audit!

Why Is Google Analytics 4 Important?

The question here is really, “Why are analytics important?” (GA4 is essential because it’s the new standard and a more powerful tool—see below.) Analytics are crucial for understanding your clients and potential clients, and that knowledge is vital to running a successful business. Analytics is the backbone that enables businesses to evaluate the impact of both Ads and SEO efforts on their website's performance and make data-driven decisions to improve their marketing strategies.

Collecting and measuring data provides insights into what marketing and brand-building efforts are working for your business, what campaigns or initiatives you can improve, and what practices you should discontinue. Analytics can help you identify visitor trends, website traffic sources, and more so you can provide content and experiences geared toward retaining existing customers and engaging with new ones. From encouraging click-throughs to increasing the time users spend on a page or your site, analytics is the key to achieving your goals.

What’s Different in Google Analytics 4?

Here are some of the most important improvements in the new version:

  • Website and app data. GA4 collects website and app data to help you understand the customer journey better. Not only does this give business owners a complete picture of how users interact with their websites and apps, but by following a user’s journey across multiple platforms, GA4 de-duplicates users and the interactions people have with your company.
  • Event-based data. GA4 uses event-based data instead of session-based data like Universal Analytics. In UA properties, Analytics divides data into sessions, which are the foundation of all reporting. A session is a group of user interactions with your website within a given time frame. During a session, Analytics collects and stores user interactions, such as pageviews, events, and eCommerce transactions as hits. A single session can contain multiple hits, depending on how a user interacts with your website.

    In GA4 properties, you can still see session data, but Analytics collects and stores user interactions with your website or app as events. Events provide insight into what's happening. This includes pageviews, button clicks, user actions, and system events. GA4 can collect and send information that more fully explains the action the user took or add further context to an event or user. This information can include the value of a purchase, the title of the page a user visited, the user’s geographic location, etc.
  • New privacy settings. GA4 includes privacy controls such as cookieless measurement and behavioral and conversion modeling unavailable in Universal Analytics. This enables businesses to gather measurements responsibly and achieve their desired long-term business objectives while meeting user privacy expectations.
  • Machine learning assistance. Google’s machine learning offers predictive capabilities and guidance without complex models. It automates and facilitates insight discovery and recognizes significant trends to ensure you get the most value from your data.
  • New measurement features. GA4 has built-in measurement options. Many basic interactions with your website or app are automatically collected as events. For example, the first time a user visits your website, the property will log this action as a “first visit” event. You can also enable the enhanced measurement feature—an option that lets you automatically collect more events without updating your website's code. Enhanced measurement allows you to assess many common web events like pageviews, scrolls, file downloads, and video views.
  • Integration. Direct integrations to media platforms help drive actions on your website or app.

5 Best Practices for GA4 Success

1: Increase your data retention setting.

Universal Analytics offered users almost unlimited access to data. Unfortunately, data retention via UA has always been very limited. For example, user data only gets retained for two months with the default setting in UA.

The two-month timeline resets each time a customer heads to your website, but it is still an extremely short period.

You can change this timeframe in GA4. We recommend you set data retention to 14 months by clicking Settings > Data > Data Settings. From there, click on the Event Data Retention option, and choose 14 months.

2: Set up an internal traffic filter.

You should ensure your data is always accurate in GA4. That means filtering out internal traffic or any other visits your website gets from employees.

To do this, go to Settings > Data Streams > More Tagging Settings > Define Internal Traffic. Next, find your IP address using a tool like What Is My IP Address. Finally, select IP Address Equals on the Define Internal Traffic page and paste your IP address.

3: Set up custom events.

If you used events in UA, you will likely want to create events in GA4, too. There are multiple ways to do this. You can set up events with Google Tag Manager, GA4 event tagging, or another tagging software. Once you’ve created your events, you must check that GA4 can process them.

While we always recommend setting events up through Google Tag Manager, you can also create custom events in GA4. To create custom events, go to the GA4 Admin dashboard and click Events. Then click Create Event at the top of the page. To mark an event as a Conversion, click the toggle labeled Mark as Conversion to the right of the event.

Whether you’re tracking events in GTM or GA4, it’s important to name your event clearly. It should be easy to understand, and you should ensure the event name value is an exact match for your event in GA4.

4: Set up custom dimensions.

When you create custom events, you will probably send other parameters besides your events—form names, page URLs, purchase total, and so on. If so, you must register these additional parameters on GA4 via custom dimensions.

To set these up, navigate to Configure > Custom Definitions > Create Custom Dimensions. Make sure you name parameters for clarity and add a small description for each. Once you set it up, click Save, and your custom dimension will instantly be available.

5: Enable any needed integrations.

Setting up Google integrations ensures the platform is customized to your needs. The most common integrations include Google Search Console, Google Ads, Google Optimize, AdSense, Ad Exchange, and Merchant Center.

The GA4 Landscape Can Be Intimidating—But We’re Here for You!

Change can be challenging. But the sooner you get started with Google Analytics 4, the more historical data you’ll accumulate and the sooner you can boost your overall business growth with advanced tracking, cross-device insights, AI-driven predictions, privacy controls, and improved event measurement; enabling you to make data-driven decisions for better customer understanding, targeting, and increased success.

A-Train Marketing is GA4-certified, and we can help make your switch easy and stress-free! We’re also happy to perform a free GA4 audit. All you have to do is take the first step and contact us today!