There has been a lot of noise over the last six months or so around Google Analytics 4 (GA4), especially since it was announced that Universal Analytics (the standard version of Google Analytics everyone is already used to) will stop processing new data on 1st July, 2023. After this date, GA4 will be the only tool available from Google to track your website activity.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about GA4 as a marketer, including the following:

• What is Google Analytics 4?
• Features & Benefits of Google Analytics 4?
• How to Migrate your Website to Google Analytics 4
• How to Set Up Google Analytics 4

First off, we’ll get going with the basics.

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google’s latest analytics platform employs enhanced machine learning techniques to build information around users and events, rather than sessions.

This events-based model processes each user interaction as a standalone event, instead of relying on a session-based model that grouped user interactions within a given time frame.

By changing this focus from sessions to events, marketers can benefit from cross-platform analysis and more a more in-depth picture of user journeys and how customers have behaved on their website.

This means user behaviour becomes easier to predict, by providing more data throughout the whole lifecycle of a customer journey, including their level of engagement, monetization, and retention.

In October 2020, when Google announced their new GA4 property (previously known as “App+Webb”), one of the main reasons given for their upgrade was a shift in the pattern of consumer behaviour and significant changes to online privacy policies.

This was in addition to new research on the future of analytics carried out by Forrester Consulting, who discovered that cross-platform analytics are key to long-term success.

With only 43% of decision-makers saying that they have cross-platform analytics tools implemented, it makes it difficult for organisations to see the complete picture in terms of their data.

How does Google Analytics 4 work?

To help with this problem, GA4 offers a machine learning approach at its core to automatically surface helpful insights, and give a complete understanding of customers across all platforms and devices.

With its privacy-centric design, marketers can now rely on Google Analytics 4 even when industries change in terms of cookies and identifiers that can create gaps in data.

With smarter insights, Google’s new Analytics tool can alert you to significant trends in your data, e.g. an increase in demand for a particular product, and help you anticipate future actions your customers may take by calculating churn probability.

Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: What are the main features and benefits?

Now we’ve looked at what Google Analytics 4 is and why this upgrade has been introduced, let’s dive deeper into the differences you’ll see in the new platform, and the benefits this can bring to your marketing.

1. Better integration with Google Ads

GA4 allows you to measure app and web applications together, including in-app and web conversions for Google Ads, YouTube Ads, other non-Google paid channels such as Facebook, and organic channels such as search, social, and email.

This mobile and app data integration helps simplify measuring the overall impact of all your marketing investments, regardless of the acquisition channel.

2. Complete user journey measurement

GA4 gives you a complete view of how customers interact with your business, using multiple identity spaces, including marketer-provided User IDs and unique Google signals from users who opted into ads personalisation.

Marketers will discover a new section in GA4 called Life Cycle, where you will find reports on Acquisition, Engagement, Monetisation, and Retention can be found. You will also see that all these categories align with the customer journey.

By being able to zoom in on customer behaviour, you can gain insights into where your business should focus more efforts or change their marketing strategy. The acquisition and engagement reports could tell you which of your awareness campaigns or paid ads, for example, are working and which types of content bring the most value to your users (or even those that aren’t).

You will also w know how much of your revenue goals you are hitting and if you’re doing enough to build customer loyalty. The monetization and retention reports show data on revenue and how well you are keeping your customers.

3. More intelligent tracking

Thankfully, GA4 doesn’t rely on cookies for its tracking, instead using the AI and machine learning methods we mentioned earlier. With it becoming more and more difficult to track users with cookies, due to new and stricter privacy laws implemented by governments and regulatory bodies.

Google has told us that GA4 can adapt and evolve to a life without cookies and identifiers, so there’s no need to worry about this in the future:

“It uses a flexible approach to measurement, and in the future, will include modeling to fill in the gaps where the data may be incomplete. This means that you can rely on Google Analytics to help you measure your marketing results and meet customer needs now as you navigate the recovery and as you face uncertainty in the future.”

Vidhya Srinivasan, Vice President, Engineering, Google Ads, Google

4. Advanced analysis and ad hoc funnels

Paying GA360 users had a suite of tools for carrying out advanced analysis and ad hoc funnels. Happily, in GA4, these tools are now included for free, allowing marketers to:

• Set up specific, customised funnels
• Identify the most common paths taken by users
• Look at heat maps to see where users are most active on a given page
• View relationships between segments you are targeting
• Analyse user segments that are most relevant to your analysis.

5. Free BigQuery data exports

The inclusion of BigQuery in GA4 also means you’ll have the ability to export and analyse terabytes of raw data and take advantage of the insights GA4 can deliver, without the need to upgrade to GA360.

Although there are quotas and limits on the data you can store and query via the free tier, there’s still lots you can do with the monthly free data allowance. Currently, you get 10GB of free storage and free processing of up to 1TB of query data.

6. Predictive metrics

These new metrics introduced in GA4 let you assess how much users are likely to buy within the next month and how much revenue this is likely to generate. This includes:

Purchase probability – the probability that a user who has been active in the last 28 days will make a purchase within the next 7 days
Churn probability – the probability that a user who was active within the last 7 days will be inactive within the next 7 days
Revenue prediction – the expected revenue within the next 28 days from a user who has been active in the past 28 days.

Marketers can then use these metrics to create predictive audiences that can be implemented in highly targeted campaigns, and during periods of time when conversions are more likely, e.g. Christmas, summer holidays, Easter, etc.

7. Better return on investment

With more insightful reports to work with, marketers can now take advantage of being able to plan their campaigns better, and target your prime audiences better within a specific timeframe.

This will lead to a better return on advertising investment, as your campaigns become more successful and start meeting (and perhaps even exceeding) your goals.

How to migrate to Google Analytics 4

With these benefits in mind, you may be wondering how you can start to migrate your website over to GA4.

If you’re setting up an entirely new property, you’ll be using GA4 by default, although here we’ll discuss how to make the transition if you’re still using the legacy version.

Since Google Analytics 4 isn’t just a revamp of the old version and is a completely new tool, you’ll need to start the transition by having both implementations set up simultaneously—one for Universal Analytics and one for GA4.

Creating a new GA4 property as quickly as possible is recommended since you can’t import data from the legacy version. This means all marketers will want to start collecting data and familiarising themselves with GA4 before completely replacing the Universal Analytics version (which is also how Google recommends you start transitioning to GA4).

The resource Google provides to add a GA4 property to a site that’s already using Universal Analytics says that while you can’t import all your previous data, the two accounts will be “linked.” This means you can use the Setup Assistant in GA4 to migrate configurations from your Universal Analytics property to the new property.

Remember that GA4 does not use the “Views” reporting structure (as we’ve seen in UA), but uses “Data Streams” instead. During the setup process, you’ll have to connect a data stream and configure it based on whether it’s a web or app data stream.

To do this, look for the “Enhanced measurement” option when creating a web data stream. This is a plug-and-play event tracking system that can be quickly set up, and shouldn’t require any other tracking settings.

If you wish to set up an app data stream, you’ll be guided through data stream configuration before being instructed to install the Firebase SDK.

Remember that the Universal Analytics property won’t be removed until next summer (July 2023), but to stay ahead of the competition regarding analytics, you’ll need to start setting up and getting to grips with GA4 today.

How to set up Google Analytics 4

If you’re a marketer that wants to start setting up GA4 for the first time, follow these steps and you should be up and running in no time:

  1. If you don’t already have a Google Analytics account set up, you can easily sign up. Alternatively, if you already have an account, just sign in and you’re ready to go.
  2. For first-time GA users, head to the Admin area and click Create Account. This account structure will allow you to track the analytics on one or many separate properties such as websites, mobile apps, and/or point-of-sale devices. After choosing a name, which should be easily identifiable, such as your organisation’s name, click ‘Next’ to add a property to the account. For existing users, go to the ‘Admin’ section and select the correct client account. Navigate to the ‘Property’ subsection and click ‘Create Property’. You may have to request Editor access if you don’t already have this.
  3. Enter a name, time zone, and currency. Next, you’ll be prompted to enter an industry category and business size. After that, accept Google’s terms and conditions, and you will have created your first Google Analytics 4 property! As a rule of thumb, you should only need to use one GA4 property for each website. So if you only run or own one website, then you should only set up one GA4 property.

How do I add data streams?

When a customer fills in information (through a website form or an app for example), it feeds into the Google Analytics 4 property that you created. That way, the analytics and customer behavior is tracked across different devices. Google Analytics 4 includes 3 data streams: Web, iOS, and Android.
To add a data stream to Google Analytics 4, follow these simple steps:

  1. Go to Admin > Data Streams > Property
  2. Select Web, iOS, or Android and follow the instructions to configure each platform type.
  3. Click ‘Create Stream’
  4. Repeat these steps to add an additional data stream.

Add tags on your website to enable GA4

For Google Analytics to gather information about your website, you’ll need to add tags.
To do this, go to the Google Analytics 4 property you previously created and click on the ‘Web’ data stream.

How to add tags to common CMS platforms

If your website is built on a popular CMS platform such as Wix, WordPress, or WooCommerce, you’ll have to find a “G”-ID code to input on the Google Analytics field on the CMS backend. To do this:

  1. Go to Admin > Property > Data Streams > Web
  2. You’ll see a code at the top right under “Measurement ID”, which is your “G”-ID. Copy and paste this code by following the instructions for the respective CMS platform you’re using. Instruction resources for Wix, WooCommerce, and WordPress can all be found online.

Further assistance can also be found over at Google Tag Manager Help.

How to add tags to other CMS platforms

For other CMS platforms that don’t support the “G”-ID, you’ll have to copy and paste a global tag into the custom HTML section. To do this:

1. Go to Admin > Property > Data Streams > Web

2. Scroll to Tagging Instructions and look for the Add new on-page tag column.

3. Click on the first option which is Global site tag (gtag.js).

4. Copy and paste this entire code into the custom HTML feature of the CMS platform.

What about my marketing reports?

If you’re wondering what’s happened to all the reporting features in GA4, Google want you to use Looker Studio for all reporting purposes, or creating your own reports from scratch using the Explorations Reports Templates.

With these other options in place, you’ll find GA4 no longer carries many reports.


In summary, GA4 is more simple and powerful to use than UA, and makes it easier for marketers to make use of the available data. By running them both at the same time, you can get used to the new interface and figure out how to get the data you need for your reports and analysis.

Remember that the sooner you start learning how to use GA4, the less of a hardship it will be when UA is retired in July next year. You’ll also be putting your business ahead of competitors by creating and running more successful marketing campaigns thanks to the better insights provided by GA4. So why wait? Dust off your tracking setup and check if it matches your KPI plan by getting started with GA4 today!

If you require additional help with setting up and running GA4, please contact us today at: