With Google’s announcement on the sunsetting of Universal Analytics (UA) on July 1, 2023, there is now even greater impetus to transition your analytics setup to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). While UA has been the standard for website analytics for the better part of a decade, the internet has evolved over that time and Google’s shift toward GA4 reflects the “app” based view that they see for the modern web. But if you’re a business that just has a website, then GA4 can still work for you. In this blog, we’ll run through how to setup a GA4 property for a website.
Firstly, go over to https://analytics.google.com/ and login using a Google Account. If you’re starting afresh and don’t already have a Google Analytics account, you’ll need to create one first. If you already have a pre-existing Google Analytics account and a property, then you can select your account, navigate to settings and Create Property:
After creating your new property, you’ll need to start populating it with data for the dashboards and reports to begin showing. To do this, you’ll need to setup a Data Stream.
GA4 was designed to integrate data from various sources, such as a brand’s website and app, and unify them within a single platform. The data coming from these various sources are known within GA4 as Data Streams. For websites, you’ll generally only need one Data Stream no matter how many websites or domains are sending data to this property.
To setup a Data Stream, go to Admin -> Property -> Data Streams. Then click on Add Stream and choose the Web type.
Enter a website URL and a name for the Stream. It’s also nice to turn on Enhanced Measurement, as it will automatically track some useful events for you.
Once done, click Create stream to create the new data stream.
While you’ve now setup your new web data stream, you may need to configure it further. Clicking on the data stream and then More Tagging Settings brings up a menu of some often used configuration options:
Configure your domains: Adding a list of domains here will configure Cross Domain Tracking within GA4.
Define internal traffic: Adding IP addresses here will exclude data sent from them in GA4. This is useful for filtering out traffic coming from staff members working on the website.
List unwanted referrals: This is the new referral exclusion list and is used to ignore referrals from domains you do not want, such as payment gateways like Paypal.
Adjust session timeout: This allows you to define the length of a session is within GA4, as well as the timer for “engaged sessions”, GA4’s new replacement for the old “Bounce Rate” metric.
Now that you’ve configured your data stream, it’s time to start sending data to it. Much like Universal Analytics, this can be done through two main methods: gtag.js or Google Tag Manager:
Gtag.js method: If you’re setting up tracking through gtag.js, you’ll need to copy the code given to you within the Data Stream options in GA4 and add that to the <head> section of your website’s HTML.
Google Tag Manager method: If you’re using Google Tag Manager, you’ll need to configure the GA4 tag with the new data stream’s Measurement ID, and then trigger the event off of an all pages Page View trigger.
Note: If you’ve only recently setup the Data Stream, it can take 10 mins to several hours for the Google’s backend to setup, so you may not see new data coming in straight away.
Once you’ve setup your tracking method, you can check its working by either looking at the Realtime overview in the Reports section:
Alternatively, you can use GA4’s new DebugView tool. To use the DebugView, you’ll need to install the Google Analytics Debugger extension for Chrome. Once installed, activate it and then visit the website you’re attempting to track. In a different browser tab, within GA4, navigate to Configure -> DebugView. Once there, if your tracking is working, you should begin to see the timeline populate with events:
If you do see the events appearing, then congratulations, you have setup the basics of your GA4 property. This should give you the basics you need to start utilising GA4, but much like Universal Analytics, to get the most out of your analytics setup you’ll need to take advantage of GA4’s new event structure, which we will cover in our next blogs.
Looking to start using GA4?