July 24

Need Help Setting up Google Analytics 4 (GA4)? A Step-by-Step Guide

By Kelly Stark

July 24, 2023

Is it too late to migrate to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)? If you have been putting off switching to GA4 and missed the July 1, 2023 deadline (when Google stopped processing new data from Universal Analytics (UA), GA4’s predecessor), we’re here to help.

Google started automatically migrating UA properties to GA4 back in March 2023 unless you opted out. However, make sure that you check that things are set up correctly.

If you opted out of the automatic migration or have a new website, our step-by-step guide will walk you through how to create a GA4 property in five steps.

But first, what makes Google Analytics 4 different from previous versions? A new user interface (UI) and reporting structure are just the beginning. GA4 brings a range of features that enhance user experience and provide a more comprehensive overview of your digital presence.

If you’re seeking assistance setting up GA4 for your company globally, look no further! Forward Vision Marketing is here to guide you through the process and will set up your GA4 and Looker Studio reporting for you as part of our one-time $500 SEO Setup Fee.*

Let’s explore the top 5 GA4 setup steps to get you started on the right track.

Setting up ga4 Reports
Source: Google Support

Step 1: What do you need to know about Google Analytics 4?

Before diving into the setup process, it’s essential to understand the key features of GA4. The new UI offers an improved user experience, designed using Material Design principles. Its cleaner and simpler interface makes it easier to navigate, whether you’re using it on desktop computers, mobile devices, or tablets. The UI also incorporates powerful visualizations and integrates with Google Search Console, allowing you to see search traffic alongside other data sources in one place.

Setting up GA4 Setup Assistant
Source Google

Note that there are differences between Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Universal Analytics (UA) metrics. For example, even though “Users” appear in both UA and GA4, “Users” in UA refers to “Total Users,” whereas “Users” in GA4 shows “Active Users” only and not the total. You can use Explorations in GA4 to find your total users number, which may be more comparable to UA’s total users.

There may also be instances when you’ll have more “New Users” than “Active Users” because not every new visitor will actively engage with your site. The table below highlights some of the key differences between UA and GA4. Refer to the UA vs. GA4 metrics comparison in Google Help Center for a complete list. 

UA vs. GA4
MetricUniversal Analytics (UA)Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
Total Users (shown as Users)Primary user metric in UA: Total number of usersTotal number of unique users who logged an event
Active Users (shown as Users)N/APrimary user metric in GA4: Number of distinct users who visited your website or application. An active user is any user who has an engaged session or when Analytics collects:

the first_visit event or engagement_time_msec parameter from a website

the first_open event or engagement_time_msec parameter from an Android app

the first_open or user_engagement event from an iOS app
New Users Number of users who interacted with your site for the first timeNumber of users who interacted with your site or launched your app for the first time The metric is measured by the number of new unique user IDs that logged the first_open or first_visit event.
PageviewTotal number of pages viewed. Repeated views of a single page are counted.Or Views in GA4: Total number of app screens and/or web pages your users saw. (The Views metric found in the reporting interface is the combination of pageviews and screenviews.) Repeated views of a single screen or page are counted.
SessionPeriod of time a user is actively engaged with your website or app.

Has defined parameters for what may cause it to end e.g. a session will end when there has been more than a 30-minute period of inactivity (depending on the session timeout settings), the timestamp has been cut off at midnight (according to the timezone the view is set up in), or new campaign parameters are encountered. 

If a user comes back after a session timeout, it will start a new session.

If the user is on the website when midnight arrives, a new session will be started.

If a user picks up new campaign parameters while on the website, a new session will be started.  
aka Session Start

To determine the session that each event comes from, the session_start event generates a session ID and Analytics associates the session ID with each subsequent event in the session.

A session will end when there has been more than a 30-minute period of inactivity (depending on the session timeout settings).

Sessions are not restarted at midnight or when new campaign parameters are encountered.

If a user comes back after a session timeout, it will start a new session.  
ConversionsYou define a goal to indicate that a particular user action is to be considered a conversion. For example, if you define a “Form Submit” goal, a conversion will be registered each time a user submits the form.

UA counts only one conversion per session for each goal. So, if a user submits the form twice during the same session, only one conversion will be counted for the “Form Submit” goal.  
You specify a conversion event for each action that you want to count as a conversion. For example, if you specify that the “Form Submit” event is a conversion event, a conversion will be registered each time a user submits the form. GA4 usually counts every instance of the conversion event, even if the same conversion event is recorded multiple times during the same session. So, if a user submits the form twice during the same session, two conversions will be counted.

Step 2: Set Up a GA4 Property

To begin using GA4, create a new property in your Google Analytics account. This property will act as the container for your data collection and reporting. GA4 introduces a unified data model, eliminating the need for separate tracking codes for mobile apps and web pages. This provides a consistent tracking experience across platforms and simplifies analysis.

Setting up GA4 with Google Tag Manager
Source Google

Step 3: Set Up Google Tag Manager to Implement Tracking Codes and Data Streams

With GA4, you’ll implement tracking codes, such as the Global Site Tag (gtag.js), across all pages of your website. These codes enable GA4 to collect data on user interactions and provide insights into website performance. You can also set up data streams to gather data from various sources like mobile apps, YouTube channels, or offline interactions. Integrating all relevant data streams ensures a holistic view of your customers’ journey.

In a Universal Analytics property, a hit type …is captured in a Google Analytics 4 property as an …
Page ViewEvent
User timingEvent
App/screen viewEvent
Source: Google

Step 4: Configure Events and Conversions

Events and conversions are pivotal in GA4, allowing you to track specific user interactions and measure marketing success. Identify the key events and conversions you want to track, such as button clicks, form submissions, or purchases. Configure these events in GA4, utilizing event parameters for additional context and deeper analysis of user behavior.

Setting up GA4 Audience overview

Step 5: How do I share customized GA4 metrics as a dashboard?

To further enhance your data analysis and reporting capabilities, we recommend setting up GA4 reports in Looker Studio. Looker Studio is a free Google product that transforms your data into informative, easy-to-read, customizable dashboards and reports that you can customize, add your logo and branding, that updates real-time.  With Looker Studio, you can connect to:

  1. Google Marketing Platform products, including Google Ads, Analytics, Display & Video 360, Search Ads 360, YouTube, and Search Console
  2. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter
  3. Databases: including BigQuery, MySQL, and PostgreSQL
  4. Flat files via CSV file upload, Google Sheets, and Google Cloud Storage

If setting up Google Analytics 4 (GA4) for your company seems daunting, let Forward Vision Marketing set up your GA4 and Looker Studio reporting for you as part of our one-time $500 SEO Setup Fee.*

GA4 brings a range of features that enhance data analysis and provide a comprehensive understanding of user behavior. By following the steps outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to harnessing the power of GA4 and gaining valuable insights to optimize your marketing efforts. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Forward Vision Marketing for expert assistance in setting up GA4 Google Analytics for your global business today!

*Forward Vision Marketing offers three SEO and Content Marketing Packages to fit your business needs. A one-time $500 setup fee includes optimizing your GA4 setup, creating real-time reporting using Looker Studio (formerly known as Google Data Studio), website audit, keyword mapping, keyword research, setting up social media, email accounts, and more.

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