Google Analytics 4 – The Beginner’s Guide

The big news in tracking is that Google Analytics 4 will be taking over from Universal Analytics very soon. This new and updated version of UA isn’t just a refresh – it’s almost a completely new product. And if you want to track your website (and app) visits, conversions and engagement, you’re going to need GA4.

If you’re after a more in-depth setup you can check out our full GA4 implementation guide here. If you’re new to analytics or just want to learn more about GA4, then you’re in the right place!

What is GA4?

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google’s groundbreaking analytics platform. GA4 combines information from both websites and applications to store their data in one location for the first time in the platform’s history.

Currently, both Universal Analytics (UA) and GA4 are available. But, come July 1, 2023, UA will be switched off. So you’ll need to move to GA4 – we recommend making the move now.

Google Analytics 4 is essentially the newer, better version of UA. As GA4 is a separate entity from UA, it will require its own implementation (more of that to come later).

Google Analytics 4 is a lot more cross-device focused when it comes to tracking data, putting non-desktop analytics at centre stage.

Promoted as privacy-centric, it has been designed to work with or without cookies through highly advanced, machine-learning AI. This allows GA4’s more robust model to help fill in your data gaps that can’t be tracked as we enter a world that becomes less and less dependent on cookies.

How does Google Analytics work?

Analytics tracks your website data via small tracking codes that are implemented on your website either manually by developers, or in the form of tags with Google Tag Manager.

These snippets of code then report back to Analytics with the relevant data that you’ve specified to track. This allows you to see how your visitor’s behaviour on your website.

Why is analytics important for your business?

Analytics not only allow you to see how users behave on your website, but the data gives a better insight into your website functionality off the back of this.

Based on the data provided, we can see issues in your website and/or positives that your visitors face. From there, we can then make changes to either replicate the positive aspects or alter the negatives to better optimise the site. This allows SEO improvements across the board from increased conversions, optimise drop off points, better search rankings and much more.

It’s worthwhile to note that if you’re currently using Universal Analytics and are reading this guide to learn about the new version, we recommend setting up GA4 to run alongside UA. This allows you to use pre-GA4 data from UA to compare with the new data you will begin collecting. Providing you with a seamless switch when UA ceases to exist from July 2023.

Setting up GA4

If you’re already comfortable with using analytics and Google Tag Manager, then the following guide can be used to get you started with GA4.

If you’re brand new or need a more in-depth guide to ensure everything is implemented thoroughly and checked, then follow our in-depth guide to Google Analytics 4 setup.

Additionally, the guide also shows you how you can set up GA4 to run in parallel with UA, which as previously mentioned is a must for current users. If you’re brand new, just focus on GA4.

GA Setup summary

  • Create your Google Analytics account or log into an existing one.
  • On GA, a new ‘Property’ will need to be created, this will be a new GA4 property instead of the older UA property.
  • Once your GA4 property has been created the installation for tracking data is split into two methods.
  • Method 1 – Google Tag Manager installation
  • Method 2 – Global Site Tag installation (gtag.js)

For simplicity and scalability we recommend using Google Tag Manager (GTM):

  • GTM: Step 1 – Not already installed? This requires the installation of a new container on your website or via a CMS plugin
  • GTM: Step 2 – GTM already installed? Then it’s just a case of configuring GA4 tracking tags or migrating existing ones
  • Once step 2 has been completed, you can ensure you have configured the configuration tag correctly by using Tag Assistant in GTM. Then check in Google Analytics using the ‘DebugView’ data feed feature

If you’d like to know more about GA4 such as a more in-depth setup guide or how to navigate around the platform, check out our GA4 series of blogs to find this and more! Or contact us for help setting up GA4 for your website. Alternatively, check out our SEO Training Courses.