Updated: Jul 12
Google Analytics 4 (aka GA4) is finally happening; all standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits on July 1, 2023. That is only 134 days to learn about a new platform that looks (and acts) so different.
GA4 works distinctly and has a considerable learning curve. On top of that, the product has constantly been updating and making changes since Google rolled it out.
We have asked four experts from the SEO, PPC and Data fields to share their best practices and advice. So, if you want to accelerate the learning curve, take advantage of this.
Customise your GA4 reports
All experts agreed that customising your reports based on relevant data to your business is one of the key benefits of GA4. GA4 only includes reports on top-level results. So if you're looking for more detailed or specific in-depth information, use the analysis tab.
The best tip would be to make custom reports that showcase your key metrics like traffic, conversions or more. I have made them in my GA, and they have made the process so much easier. (Preeti Gupta)
Customise your reports, use the Standard Reports customisation option, and create reports in the Explore section to get more details about user behaviour. If we were stuck with what we have in UA, one of the best things about GA4 is that you do not even need to go to Looker studio to analyse the data you do not see in the standard view. (Irina Serdyukovskaya)
GTM superpowers GA4
According to our experts, Google Tag Manager is the best way to install GA4. It can easily deploy events and give you more control over the data collected.
Use GTM with GA4. There are some pre-build events in GA4, but you can get much better data using GTM tags and triggers to pull the data to GA4. While using in-build events might seem easier, not all of them are working 100% correctly. (Irina Serdyukovskaya)
If you want to become a GTM pro, don't miss the presentation by Tiffany Shears
Test GA4 before going live (ask for help if you need to)
Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics use different approaches to measuring user sessions. It didn't come as a surprise that the experts emphasised the importance of testing and debugging GA4. If GA4 is not implemented correctly, our reports can duplicate/mislocate data across all channels.
I have clients who Google have 'supported' to set up GA4. I don't know how, but they broke it, double reporting session and lots of random crazy things. So my tip would be to make sure you validate your data. Also, review GA4 Default Channels vs Source / Medium as you may find traffic in different channels. E.g. Some Paid Search traffic sits in "Cross Network". Thank you PMax... (Meriem Nacer)
Don't use the GA setup assistant to migrate. If you are not sure what to do, reach out to someone who does. If you want to learn how to do it, there are a few people worth following on YouTube or LinkedIn. (Thuha Wright)
Think about your KPIs
GA4 is built around users and events (instead of sessions). This move provides a new menu of in-depth data options such as pathing and cross-platform analysis.
So, despite having fewer predefined reports, GA4 gives far more options to create your ones based on your specific needs. Defining your reporting needs becomes key in the new GA4 world.
Use this opportunity to clean out your data and declutter. Whenever a client asks me to set up their GA4, they ask me what to track, but this needs to be corrected on so many levels. As the marketer, you should ask yourself, 'what do I need GA4 to tell me? What questions will I be asking the analytics? What decisions will I be making from the information?'. For example, how much traffic are you getting every week? which platforms are sending traffic? Which pages have the most views? How many people are purchasing, and where did they come from? What do you want people to do on your website that shows you they are interested in what you offer? If you don't know what will move the needle for your business, then you don't know your business as well as you thought (Thuha Wright).
If you want some inspiration to define your KPIs, have a look at What it Really Means to be Data Driven by Veronica Ruiz.
The experts are clear, GA4 brings great new features that improve and future-proof Google Analytics. Defining your relevant custom reports and running them in parallel with Universal Analytics will help you to make the most of this new version of Google Analytics while ensuring that you are not missing or duplicating relevant data. These GA4 resources would help improve your understanding.
About our experts:
Name: Preeti Gupta
About you: Founder of Packted
Name: Irina Serdyukovskaya
About you: Irina is SEO Consultant & Analyst helping with organic visibility of websites using SEO and improving data collection to make better business decisions using GA4 & GTM.
Name: Meriem Nacer
About you: Performance marketing freelance consultant with 12 years’ experience specialising in PPC and paid social.
Name: Thuha Wright
About you: Paid Search Freelancer