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Getting Started with Google Analytics 4 (GA4): First Steps

Let’s talk Google Analytics 4, or as the internet lovingly refers to it, GA4. This freshly upgraded version of the classic Universal Analytics is Google’s solution to an increasing analytics performance problem. Thanks to a shift in consumer behavior and recent data privacy updates (like Apple IOS 14), Google is rethinking not only how it collects user data, but how it displays user data to marketers.

We won’t sugarcoat things, GA4 is a very different user experience. This is a highly complex digital marketing tool with new features not made for the novice user. But don’t worry, since its release last October, the Mighty Citizen marketing team has been getting to know how this new platform works so we can help guide you through the changes.

In this article we’ll cover:

  • How to set up GA4
  • The importance of Google Tag Manager
  • Checking your data’s health
  • IP address filters

    How to Set Up Google Analytics 4

    To begin, it’s important to know that GA4 is not mandatory for Google Analytics users. However, Google is expected to begin phasing out the GA we all know and love over the next year. For that reason, we recommend going through the process we outline below NOW as opposed to waiting. If you don’t make the transition sooner than later, you’ll risk losing historic data.

    When it comes to GA4, you’ll start with your existing Google Analytics account. We recommend simply upgrading an existing web Property as opposed to creating a brand new account. Upgrading a Property means you can collect data in GA4 and in your existing GA account without disrupting any of your data flows. Double your data, double your fun!

    Step 1: Navigate to your Google Analytics Admin page from the gear icon in the bottom left corner

    Step 2: Under the Property Column select “GA4 Setup Assistant”

    Step 3: Click the “Get Started” option

    google analytics 4 setup assistant with a button to create a new property

    Step 4: When prompted, click the “Create Property” button

    Step 5: Select “See your GA4 Property” to navigate to GA4

    Congratulations! You are now a GA4 user! At this point, we recommend exploring GA4 for a bit. Take a look and see if you notice some of the big differences between the previous Universal Analytics Property of GA and the new GA4. There’s a lot you might see.

    The Importance of Google Tag Manager

    We know setting up your Property was easy, but this is just the first step in your new GA4 journey. To get the most out of your data collection (and specifically event tracking) in GA4, you’ll need to connect it to Google Tag Manager (GTM).

    Google Tag Manager is a tag management system that allows website owners to add event tags, javascript, and advertising pixels to the GTM platform which will update the website’s code.

    If you’re new to GTM, we recommend you start with this tutorial from Google. Once you have your GTM account up and running, it’s time to link your GA4 and GTM accounts.

    Step 1: Login into your GTM account at tagmanager.google.com

    Step 2: Towards the top of the page, select “Add a New Tag”

    google tag manager button to create a new tag from 50 options

    Step 3: Name the tag. We recommend using “GA4 Property ID”

    Step 4: Hover over the “Tag Configuration” module. When the pencil in the top right corner appears, click.

    google tag configuration window

    Step 5: From the list select “Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration”

    Step 6: You’ll add your Measurement ID. To find this ID, open your GA4 Property in a new tab. From the Property column, select “Set Up Assistant” and take the following steps:

    • Click the arrow icon (>) to the right of “Tag Installation”

    google analytics 4 setup assistant with the property window open. button that connects a selected property
    • Click on the data stream. Since you’ve only upgraded one Property, there should only be one Data Stream to select from the list.
    • In the upper right corner, you’ll see “Measurement ID” with a code below it (it begins with a G-)
    • Copy that code
    • Go back to GTM
    • Paste the code into the “Measurement ID” form field

    Step 7: Click into the “Triggering” module

    google analytics 4 triggering module

    Step 8: Select “All Pages” and then click the blue “Add” button

    Step 9: Click Save

    Step 10: Click Submit. You must click Submit for the tag to apply and for data to begin collecting in GA4 properly. When you submit, you will be prompted to label the action. We recommend writing “GA4 ID Added”

    Checking Your Data’s Health

    Now that your GA4 and GTM are linked, you’ll notice data populating in your Property. Google Analytics is an amazing tool, but even great things can sometimes go wrong. For that reason, it’s important to check in on your data.

    Step 1: In GA4 select the clock icon on the left panel. This will open your real-time data. You may already notice a few dots on the map. These indicate actual users that are on your website right now.

    Step 2: In a new tab, go to your website.

    Step 3: Leave your website tab open and hop back over to your GA4 tab. Within a few minutes, you should notice a dot on the map signifying YOU.

    If your location is not being picked up within 5 minutes, open your website in Incognito mode in Google Chrome. If your location is still not showing, double-check you have added the correct Measurement ID into the GTM tag.

    google analytics 4 realtime overview map

    Once your location populates on the map, you have proven that your GA4 account is successfully healthy and working!

    IP Address Filters

    A best practice when it comes to Google Analytics (and this goes for both the Universal Analytics and the GA4 versions), is filtering out your team member’s IP Addresses. This way, if you or anyone you work with visits your organization’s website, your visit will not count in your analytics data. This ensures all of the traffic that is being tracked is outside users. Otherwise, your data could be skewed by internal users visiting the site repeatedly for different reasons.

    Step 1: From the Admin dashboard in GA4, select “Data Streams” under the Property column

    Step 2: Select your data stream

    Step 3: Scroll down and select “More Tagging Settings”

    Step 4: Click “Define Internal Traffic”

    Step 5: Click “Create” to create a new internal traffic rule

    Step 6: Here is where you’ll enter your IP Address information. If you don’t know what your IP Address is you can find it from a website like this. Enter your IP Address in the form. Be sure to select from the drop-down how your IP Address should be read by the filter.

    In the example below, these are our exact IP Addresses so I selected “IP address equals”

    You can add up to 10 IP Addresses in each rule by selecting the “Add Condition” button.

    google analytics 4 IP address configuration window

    Step 7: Once you have added in all of your IP Addresses click “Create” and navigate back to the Realtime dashboard

    Step 8: Check the health of your data. If you are no longer showing up on the map, your IP Addresses have been successfully blocked.

    In Conclusion…For Now

    As we’ve previously stated, GA4 is a very different and complex platform. With your new Property set up, we recommend you simply sit back and let GA4 automatically populate with your data for a while.

    In the coming months, we’ll be releasing Part 2 of this article, where we will deep dive into goals and conversions. We’ll cover topics and metrics that live in the Analysis Hub like sessions, pageviews, user behavior, event tracking, and conversions related to custom events. As the Mighty Citizen team is continuing our journey to learn how to best use this new Google Analytics platform be sure to check back on our Insights page for more updated articles. And as always, if you need 1:1 support to get your GA4 Property off the ground, please reach out to our team.

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