Young Folks

Upgrading your Google Analytics Universal Account to GA4

Google Analytics is one of the most widely used analytics platforms currently, with an estimated 58% of all websites using it and wow, has it come a long way since its launch in 2005. 

In 2020, Google started rolling out the latest version of its analytics platform GA4 and while things were off to a slightly buggy start, the platform is now continually improving itself and has some epic new features (which we dive into below). GA4 is a big change from Universal Analytics which it is officially replacing on 1 July 2023. Yep, you’ve got less than six months to transition to the new version of Google Analytics.

But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s take a look at the new Google Analytics GA4 and why it’s important to upgrade before 1 July 2023. 

Side note: If you’re looking to DIY your upgrade, this blog has everything you need to know. If you’d prefer to have your Google Analytics upgrade handled by the experts – we’ve got you covered with our GA4 upgrade package. Learn more here.

What is it and why do I need to upgrade?

Great question. GA4 is the latest version of Google Analytics and was designed to give you a more complete picture of who your customers are and the actions they are taking across all devices (think: website and apps). GA4 offers a range of new features including enhanced data collection, improved machine learning capabilities, and enhanced integration with other Google products.

To keep us all on our toes, Google has announced that Universal Analytics (UA) will stop processing data on 1 July 2023, meaning that businesses using Google Analytics will need to upgrade to GA4 before then – eek! From 1 July 2023, you will only be able to access ‘read-only’ data until the end of 2023 before Universal Analytics is officially retired. 

Bear with me though – things aren’t as dire as they seem. Although we are under a time crunch, GA4 does have some pretty epic features that will benefit businesses of all sizes. With GA4, businesses can see how customers interact with their website (or app), determine the kind of content they are engaging with and where they drop off.

But hey, doesn’t Universal Analytics already offer that?

Well yes, you’re not wrong, but the benefits of GA4 don’t stop there. One of the biggest changes in GA4 is the switch to a ‘unified data model’ which combines data from different sources (web, app and IoT) into a single dataset, making it easier to analyse and report on data from multiple sources in a single platform. 

Another key benefit is the enhanced data security and privacy features which are ever so important in today’s environment. With GA4, you can choose to have your data processed in the customer’s country rather than automatically in the US. This helps to ensure that the customer data is protected in accordance with local laws and regulations. 

GA4 also sees the introduction of ‘machine learning’ features which enables the GA4 property to automatically detect and report on anomalies and patterns in your data.

So, how does GA4 work?

First, let’s compare the difference in models between the two versions (Universal Analytics and Analytics4). Universal Analytics (UA) is based on a page view data model, relying on cookies and JavaScript to track visitor behaviour on websites. Whereas GA4 is based on an events data model, with data being collected in real-time using a first-party cookie and an app+web measurement protocol, which allows for more accurate and comprehensive data collection. What this means is we are now able to gather much more detailed insights into how users are interacting with the content, providing a more holistic view of the customer’s journey. 

To break it down in simple terms, the events in GA4 can track the following: 

  • Pages people load on your website
  • Actions people perform within a page
  • Elements people have clicked (such as button clicks)
  • Information from the URL of the page (such as specific pages your users interact with)
  • Transaction and product details 
  • Elements that are visible in the browser
  • Details you’ve collected about a user

Tell me a little more about these ‘events’

Sure. There are four types of events and they are broken down into two categories: the events that are automatically collected and the events that require some form of implementation in order for the data to flow through into Analytics.

Let’s take a look at the events that are collected automatically:

  1. Automatically collected events are the events that Google Analytics collects by default when implementing the Google Tag. These events include:
Cropped GA4 blog table

2. Enhanced measurement events are events that Analytics collects from websites when enhanced measurement has been enabled. These include: 

  • Page views 
  • Scrolls
  • Outbound clicks
  • Site search
  • Video engagement (such as: video start, progress, and completion)
  • File downloads
  • Form interactions  (such as: form start and form submission)

And now for the events that require some manual implementation: 

  1. Recommended events are events that you are required to implement yourself, but they have predefined names and parameters to follow. These events diversify the reporting capabilities. There are far too many of these events to list here but to give you an idea, below are the recommended events for online sales businesses: 
  • Add payment info 
  • Add shipping info
  • Add to cart
  • Add to wishlist 
  • Begin checkout 
  • Generate lead
  • Purchase
  • Refund
  • Remove from cart
  • Select item
  • Select promotion 
  • View cart
  • View item 
  • View item list
  • View promotion 

You can view the full list here.

2. Custom events are the events that need to be defined. These are to be used when there are no other events that work for your unique case. It’s important to note that custom events don’t show up in most standard reports so custom reports need to be created in order to analysis the data. 

Setting up a Google Analytics 4 property

It’s time to set up (or in the case you already have an analytics account, then it will be upgrade) your Google Analytics 4 property – yew! 

Let’s walk through the steps: 

If you already have a Universal Analytics account, you can sign into your Google Analytics account and at the top of the property column, click on GA4 setup assistant. This will allow you to follow the steps to connect your existing Universal Analytics property to a GA4 property.

However, upgrading your account via this method has been known to cause issues for people and proven to be more difficult compared to starting GA4 from scratch.

So, to make your life easier, we have created a three step process on how to create a brand new GA4 property. Let’s dive into it!

Step one: Account creation 
  1. Input the account name and then click ‘create property button’ at the top of the property column and rename it with your desired name.
  2. Select your personal reporting time zone and currency and then click next.
  3. This then gives you the option to provide personal details about the business. You can provide as much or as little information as you’d like in this section.
Creating a property in Google Analytics 4
Step two: Creating the data stream

What is a data stream you ask? Well to put it simply, the data stream is used to send data to GA4. Once the stream is created it will mean you can either add the Google Tag for the stream to your website, or you can use the measurement ID for the stream to configure a tag for the Google Tag Manager. Don’t fret if this is sounding like another language right now. 

We’ve got you. Let’s break this part down into clear actions for you to follow: 

  1. Enter URL and stream name.
  2. Ensure enhanced measurement is on. This is to automatically measure interactions and content on your site/s in addition to standard page view measurement.
  3. Click configurations to see what will be automatically tracked. Here you can disable any actions that you don’t want tracked.
  4. Click create stream to establish it.
  5. Copy the measurement ID on the top right corner and add this to your website using Google Tag Manager. Make sure you migrate your tracking code to Tag Manager. Just a hint, using google tag manager makes it easier to install multiple tags on your website. To learn more about Google Tag Manager, watch this video here.
Start collecting data Google Analytics 4
Start collecting data Google Analytics 4 part 2
Google Analytics 4 Tracking Installation Instructions
Step three: Creating a tag in Google Tag Manager
  1. Log in to your Google Tag Manager account and select the correct container.
  2. Click on the “Tags” tab and then click the “New” button.
  3. In the “Tag Configuration” section, select “Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration” from the list of tag types.
  4. In the “Tracking ID” field, enter your GA4 tracking ID. You can find this in the “Admin” section of your GA4 account, under the “Tracking Info” submenu.
  5. In the “Event Type” field, select the type of event you want to track. This could be a pageview, a click on a specific button, or any other action that you want to track.
  6. In the “Fields to Set” section, you can set additional parameters for the event, such as the event category or the event label.
  7. In the “Triggering” section, select the trigger that will fire the tag. This could be a pageview, a click on a specific element, or any other trigger that you have set up in your Google Tag Manager account.
  8. Click the “Save” button to save your new tag.

After you have created your GA4 tag, you will need to preview and publish it in order for it to start tracking events on your website or app. To do this, click on the “Preview” button in the top right corner of the screen and follow the prompts to preview and publish your changes.

Keep in mind that it may take some time for your GA4 data to appear in your account, as it can take up to 24 hours for data to be processed and displayed.

How to find the data in Google Analytics 4

Now that you’ve set up your GA4 property, let’s discuss what data is available to you and where to find it. 

First, navigate to the section which reads ‘real time reports’. In this section of the toolbar you can click between the different reports:

  • Home: Summary of your personalised data and automated insights.
  • Reports: You can view your pre-configured reports here.
  • Explore: This section allows you to create custom reports.
  • Advertising: You can view the dedicated attribution reports here. This is where you can see the relationships between the different channels and how they lead to conversions on your website. 
  • Configure: Where you can customise data that is included in your reports and configure reports.
  • Admin: Here you can access additional settings for your account and property.

Within ‘reports’ you can access the data for the following areas: acquisition, engagement and demographics. 

If you’re looking to find out how people are finding your website, you’ll need to search in the acquisition overview. This can be found by following Reports > Acquisition > Acquisition Overview. 

Google Analytics 4 Screenshot 3

If you’re on the hunt for the top-performing pages on the site, you can click into engagement > pages and screens. Keep in mind, the data will be ordered by number of views by default. If you would like it to be ordered based on URL, change the order to page path. Does this ordering approach sound familiar? Well you’re spot on because it is like using the ‘all pages’ report on Universal Analytics. See, you already know more than you think!

Google Analytics 4 Screenshot 1

And finally, if you’re looking to see where consumers are geographically located by country, city, or language, then click into demographics > demographics overview. 

Google Analytics 4 Screenshot 2

Alright, now you’re officially all set up. It’s time to see that juicy data flow through and receive those insights that will allow you to make data-informed decisions within your business moving forward – yew! 

Overall, Google Analytics 4 offers a number of benefits that can be extremely valuable for businesses of all sizes/types. By getting a complete picture of the customer journey, businesses can make data-driven decisions to improve the customer experience and drive conversions. Additionally, the enhanced data security and privacy features help to protect customer data and ensure compliance with local laws and regulations.

Written by

She’s got a sneaky certificate three in patisserie, which makes her a chef, but Taylah is a self-described marketing nerd who likes to do deep-dive analyses of the data from her Apple Watch. Early mornings are nothing for Taylah, who starts the day with a 5am gym session. Her favourite place in the world is Victoria’s High Country – not surprisingly she heads in that direction to ski in winter, but doesn’t mind a spot of wake boarding on the Murray during summer.

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