How to Upgrade to GA4

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If you’re a marketer working in the industry today, you are probably familiar with Google Analytics to some degree. The popular reporting tool has helped businesses collect data and analyze web traffic since 2005. But in autumn of 2020, Google released its newest version, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), and if you have yet to migrate over, now is the time to make the switch. There are a few things you need to know to get started.

The traditional version of Google Analytics is called Universal Analytics. It offers a full suite of “universal” tools to track interactions and measure the performance of marketing tactics across multiple domains, apps, and platforms. But when GA4 arrived on the scene, it excited marketers and businesses with its features compared to its predecessor. The most talked-about change is the use of artificial intelligence in the data modeling to fill in any gaps left by the traditional software’s limitations (for site privacy settings such as blocked JavaScript or rules on user consent for cookies).

With this Google Analytics update, marketers have enhanced abilities to import data, personalize event tracking, simplify cross-domain tracking, and analyze your customers with Life Cycle Reports. But the most noticeable difference in user experience is the updated user interface. If you’re updating to GA4, keep in mind that you may not be able to find some of the old reports, features, or structures you are used to from the traditional software.

Getting Started With GA4

If this is your first property (mobile app, website, or blog), head to your GA Admin area, and GA4 will be selected. If you are updating your traditional software, you’ll need to click “Upgrade to GA4” in the Property column of that same page. Remember, you won’t be able to backfill old data or custom events. You’ll have to use your Universal Analytics account to view any historical data.

Nervous about the change? Fortunately, Google makes it possible to have both the traditional and new Google Analytics simultaneously, leading some experts to recommend running them in parallel to start your transition. This won’t skew your data collection results in any way.

GA4 Setup Assistant 

Once you’ve created or upgraded your property, you’ll need to go through the GA4 Setup Assistant. This can be found in the Admin area in the Property column. In this assistant, you’ll be able to:

Locate Your Measurement ID 

Click “Tag Installation” or “Data Streams” and select the data stream you want to track. Copy the Measurement ID for your stream; this will be used as your tag. Veteran users will notice that the codes in GA4 are different from the ones used by Universal Analytics; while old codes began with UA, current ones begin with G. Copy this code.

Customize Your Settings

At this point, you’ll notice that GA4 has an enhanced measurement feature that you can toggle on or off. Leaving it in the default On position ensures automatic monitoring of certain site interactions. There are additional settings for you to consider. Tagging settings are especially important because they allow you to modify and create events as well as configure domains and define internal traffic.

Create Your GA Tag

If you prefer to use gtag.js for your Google Analytics properties, this article gives a great run-down of how to do so. If you’re using Google Tag Manager, your next step is to create a tag for your property using the GA4 configuration. You can do this in five easy steps:

  1. Create a new tag using the GA4 configuration.
  2. Enter your measurement ID under Tag configuration. 
  3. Customize any parameters you wish to alter in Fields to Set.
  4. Configure your User Preferences and Advanced Settings (optional).
  5. Choose which events will make the tag fire under Triggering.

Now you can save and preview your site. When you click Preview, you will enter your site URL and check if the tag fired under Container Loaded on the left-hand menu. If everything looks good, it’s time to save your configuration and publish the container.

Review Your GA4 Real-Time Reports

The clock icon on your Google Analytics 4 home menu is for your Real-Time Reports. When you first navigate to this page, your reports will yet to have generated any data. Because Universal Analytics does not roll over any data, there will be a short delay before you see any changes. However, you should begin to see new data pulling in for your site within 30 minutes. 

Enjoy Your New Analysis Tools

At this point, you are ready to use Google Analytics 4 to start increasing traffic and boosting user engagement for your business. And if you’ve chosen to run them simultaneously, you can still access your Universal Analytics property for the time being by going to the Admin area or Property Selector.