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How-to 11 min read

How to Get Started with Your Google Analytics 4 (GA4) Transition

How to Get Started with Your Google Analytics 4 (GA4) Transition

Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc
Analytics 4 (GA4) promises to provide smarter insights and improve ROI.

So, now that it has officially launched its updated analytics tool, it’s time for you to get started with the big switch. Here’s why we think you should transition from Google Analytics 3 (GA3) to GA4, as well as the steps you need to take to make this happen.

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 delivers more data throughout the customer journey lifecycle. Such data might include how they engaged with the website, whether they spent any money, and how long they were on the website.

GA4 has been launched to accommodate changes in consumer behavior and online privacy policies. GA3, also known as Universal Analytics, wasn’t offering a complete view of the customer journey, which is often cross-platform. They may start shopping on their mobile and switch to a laptop once they’re home to make it easier to compress PDF online if that’s a service you offer. GA4 can capture more of this journey.

What is the major difference between GA3 and GA4?

Here’s a look at the major differences between GA3 and GA4.

Reporting interface

In the revamp, Google has given GA3 a face-lift. The reporting interface is very different to its predecessor. Many of the reports and metrics that you have grown used to have either been removed or replaced.

When you log into GA4, you may notice fewer reports than with GA3. This is because GA4 reports are generated once you start tracking events - these do require some manual setup.

Sessions

On the previous GA3 system, a ‘session’ refers to a combination of events, page views, and transitions by the user within a certain timeframe. It basically includes everything the customer did while they were on the website.

With GA4, sessions aren’t limited by time. It won’t create new changes if a user changes mid-session from laptop to mobile, for instance. This means your session count will be lower and more accurate. The average session time will also change. Average pages per session are no longer included.

Data retention

One of the other differences between GA3 and GA4 is that while GA3 stores your data forever, GA4’s data will expire after 14 months.

In the previous version, you were able to select how long you wished to retain the data for, with the longest being ‘do not automatically expire’, essentially meaning you have access to that data forever.

With GA4, this has been limited to two options, two months and 14 months. You will still be able to view a year-on-year comparison with a managed file transfer, but accessing the historical data yourself will not be possible.

What are the benefits of using Google Analytics 4?

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of switching to GA4.

See more of the user journey

GA4 is much more user-focused than previous versions. This allows you to use a single set of metrics and dimensions to look at website and app data, giving you a better overview of the customer journey with your business.

It can track users across multiple platforms, meaning that if they look at your website and then download the app and make a purchase, GA4 can track that journey. This gives you the tools you need to more accurately track your customers, and gives a better insight into consumer behavior.

‘View user’ snapshot feature

GA4 comes with a lot of new features, one of them being the ‘View user’ snapshot feature. Just click on ‘View user’ in the top right corner of the ‘Realtime report’ and it will show a snapshot for a single user.

This can include user information such as what device they are using, their location, how they engage with your brand, and whether they made a purchase.

Lifecycle reporting

This allows you to follow the customer’s lifecycle. This includes when they first accessed the website or app, how they engaged, what they have spent, and whether they have made a repeat purchase.

It’s a great tool for analyzing how users enter the conversion funnel and customer behavior once they’re in the funnel.

Lifecycle reporting answers the following questions:

  • How do users enter the conversion funnel?
  • What is their behavior once they are in the funnel?
  • How does this compare to the previous year?

GA4 also includes reports on user demographics, technology, events, and conversions.

Better privacy and tracking features

GA4 gives you control over how user data is collected and used. This can benefit both you and your customers, as they too have more control over how their data is used by you. It will help you comply with the most recent privacy regulations. You can edit settings by, for example, excluding specific events and user properties from ad personalization.

This new analytics platform is designed to be more flexible and adaptable, especially as we move to a future where cookies will be less commonly used. Privacy is a growing concern for users and regulators, so by using GA4 you are actively taking steps to work with them.

New goals and events set up

This new tool allows you to track your goals and access behavioral data with little requirement for editing code. With GA3, this feature may have been challenging for someone with no coding experience. Now, this straightforward way of tracking will be useful when transactional functions, such as checkouts, are hosted on a different sub-domain or even third-party website.

To start, GA4 is able to pre-create a number of actions and events without the hassle of manual setup as with GA3. You can include clicks, user behavior, transactions, file downloads to extract PDF pages, and information about the user’s first visit. It may still be difficult to track form submissions and e-commerce goals automatically, but at least now you can set it up much more easily. It is much quicker to do than with GA3.

Starting the switch to Google Analytics 4

Now you have an idea of what GA4 is and how it can benefit your business, you may want to make the switch. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started with Google Analytics 4.

Step 1 - Create a GA4 account

If you are using Google Analytics for the first time, click ‘Create Account’ in the ‘Admin’ section of your Google Analytics account. This lets you track the analytics on your website, app, and any other point-of-sale platforms. Select a name, and then click ‘Next’ to add a property to the account. The name should be easily identifiable, such as your business name. This can be useful if you are managing multiple properties. You can add up to 100 properties.

If you are an existing Google Analytics user, go to ‘Admin’ and select the client account. Head to the ‘Property’ subsection and ‘Create Property’. If needed, you may have to request editor access.

Then, enter a name, time zone, and currency. You’ll then be asked to enter an industry category and business size before accepting the terms and conditions.

Step 2 - Add data streams

Now that you have created a GA4 property, when a customer enters their information into your website, it will feed into this. So the analytics and customer behavior can now be tracked across different devices. GA4 includes 3 data streams: website, iOS and Android.

Below is how you would go about adding a data stream to GA4:

1. Head to ‘Admin’ > ‘Data Streams’ > ‘Property’

2. Click on Web, iOS, or Android and follow the instructions to set up each platform type.

3. Click ‘Create Stream’

4. Repeat any time you want to add additional data streams

Step 3 - Add tags to enable GA4

To funnel website information into Google Analytics, you need to use tags. To do this, go to the property you created and click on the ‘Web’ data stream. The steps then differ according to whether you are adding tags to frequently used CMS platforms, or whether you are adding it to less-known CMS platforms.
  • For Commonly Used CMS Platforms
This includes hosting sites such as Wix, GoDaddy, WordPress and WooCommerce. Find a ‘G’-ID code to input into the Google Analytics field on the CMS backend. To do this:

1. Click on ‘Admin’ > ‘Property’ > ‘Data Streams’ > ‘Web’

2. There should be a code under “Measurement ID” which is your ‘G’-ID. Copy and paste this code into Google Analytics as your CMS platform instructs.
  • For other CMS Platforms
Some CMS platforms don’t support ‘G’-ID. In this case, you’ll have to copy and paste a global tag into the custom HTML section. To do this:

1. Go to ‘Admin’ > ‘Property’ > ‘Data Streams’ > ‘Web’

2. Head to ‘Tagging Instructions’ and look for the ‘Add new on-page’ tag column.

3. Click ‘Global site tag’ (gtag.js).

4. Copy and paste this code into the custom HTML feature of your CMS platform.

Embrace the move to GA4

Although it can be unsettling having to move from one system to another, GA4 offers many advantages that can truly benefit your business’s website. Follow the steps above to start your new journey with Google Analytics 4 and see what this tool can do for you and your growing business.
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