A Guide to Understanding Google Analytics 4

The anticipation of the rollout of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has been sweeping digital marketing headlines for months – I’m sure you’ve received countless emails from Google alone about this shift. 

Officially launched on July 1st, we are parting ways with the analytics platform we’ve all known for years, Universal Analytics (UA).

In this article, we’ll explore the intricacies of GA4, covering everything from its migration process and key differences compared to UA, to recommended events, custom dimensions and events, and more!

What is GA4?

GA4, short for Google Analytics 4, is the latest analytics platform developed by Google. It represents a significant shift from its predecessor, Universal Analytics, by offering a host of new features and capabilities to help businesses gain deeper insights into user behavior, optimize their marketing strategies, and drive growth.

The biggest change with Google’s new platform is the revamped data collection model which places greater emphasis on “events” as the primary unit of measurement, which replaces “hits” previously used in UA.

This shift in data collection brings greater flexibility and customization, allowing you to tailor your analytics to match your unique business goals.

Google Analytics 4 Migration: Step-by-Step

In order to leverage all the capabilities of this new platform, we need to take the first crucial step of migrating from Universal Analytics to GA4.

Follow the steps below to start the migration process:

  1. Begin by signing in to your Google Analytics account and identifying the properties you need to migrate.
  2. Check if you have a Universal Analytics property that needs migration. You can do this by navigating to the Property column and selecting the Universal Analytics property you want to assess. Use the GA4 Setup Assistant to determine if the property is “Not Connected,” indicating the need for migration.
  3. While still in the GA4 Setup Assistant follow the instructions to create a new GA4 property for your website.
  4. After creating the GA4 property, add the GA4 tracking tag to your website. If you’re using Google Tag Manager, this process becomes easier and more streamlined. Ensure the tag deployment is successful, and monitor your GA4 property over the following days to confirm the accurate tracking of traffic data.

Extra Set-Up Tips: Connect to Google Search Console

In addition to the migration process, it’s essential to set up a connection between your GA4 property and Google Search Console.

This connection allows you to access valuable data and insights regarding your website’s performance in search results. Follow these steps to establish the connection with your existing account:

1. Sign in to your Google Search Console account.

2. Navigate to “Settings” and select “Associations”.


3. Find where it says “Connect a Google Analytics property to this property” and hit “Associate”.

4. Select the correct GA4 property from the list and hit “Continue”.

5. Follow the prompts and after you confirm the GA4 account information hit “Associate”.

6. Navigate to the GA4 Reports tab, hit “Library” and find the Search Console collection to publish.

After this is complete a section labeled “Search Console” with query and search traffic data will be available in your reports tab!

UA vs. GA4

Now that you have successfully migrated to GA4, let’s explore the key differences between UA and GA4. Whether you are new to Google Analytics or familiar with UA, learning the key differences is crucial for understanding the full potential of GA4.

1. GA4’s Event-Based Data Model

One of the primary differences between GA4 and UA lies in their data models.

In UA, user interactions are classified as page hits, event hits, eCommerce hits, or social interaction hits. However, GA4 simplifies the data model by treating every interaction as an event.

This means that instead of categorizing user interactions, GA4 captures them as individual events. For example, page views in UA correspond to the page_view event in GA4. By adopting this event-based approach, GA4 offers a more streamlined and flexible data structure.

2. User-Centric Metrics: Total Users, New Users, and Active Users

While UA primarily focuses on two user metrics—Total Users and New Users—GA4 introduces an additional user metric called Active Users.

Active Users refer to the number of distinct users who visited your website or app, taking into account engaged sessions and specific events. This user-centric approach in GA4 provides deeper insights into user behavior and engagement over time.

3. Customization and Tailored Reporting

Another significant difference between GA4 and UA is their approach to reporting and customization. While UA provides default reporting views, advanced filters, query string removal, and configurable bot detection, GA4 emphasizes customization and encourages businesses to create custom reports that align with their specific analytics needs.

GA4 Recommended Events and Automatically Collected Events

If you’re going to begin anywhere with GA4 data collection and analysis, start with recommended events and automatically collected events. It’s worth noting that while automatically collected events are sent by default, recommended events require additional implementation.

However, the effort is well worth it as recommended events offer a wealth of insights into user interactions, enabling you to measure additional features, and behaviors and generate more useful reports.

Recommended Events for All Properties:

No matter what your business vertical is, the following recommended events are critical to gain actionable insights and make informed decisions.


Recommended Events for Online Sales:

If you’re interested in measuring sales on your website or app, the following events are particularly useful for retail, e-commerce, education, real estate, and travel businesses. These events populate the E-commerce Purchases report https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/9267735?hl=en[/caption]

Automatically Collected Events in GA4

Automatically collected events are triggered by basic interactions with your app or website without the need for any additional code implementation. Some common examples of these events include:

ad_click: Triggered when a user clicks on an ad.

ad_impression: Triggered when a user sees an ad impression.

file_download: Triggered when a user downloads a file from a website.

first_visit: Triggered when a user visits a website for the first time.

in_app_purchase: Triggered when a user completes an in-app purchase.

click: Triggered when a user clicks on a page element.

form_submission: Triggered when a user submits a form on a website.

page_view: Triggered when a user loads a web page.

By tapping into the benefits of both recommended events and automatically collected events, you’ll have a solid foundation for GA4. But we’re just scratching the surface!

In the next section, we’ll delve into the realm of custom events and dimensions, where you can further tailor your tracking to meet your unique business needs.

So, let’s continue!

Custom Events and Dimensions

Custom events and dimensions are powerful tools in Google Analytics 4 that allow you to gather and analyze data beyond the automatically collected and recommended events. But before you start creating events double check to ensure the event you are looking for isn’t already an automatically created event, enhanced measurement event, or recommended event!

GA4 Custom Events

A custom event is an event whose name and parameters you define to collect data that GA4 doesn’t capture automatically or recommend. To set up a custom event, you have several options depending on your platform:

When someone performs an action that triggers a custom event, it will appear in the Realtime report and DebugView of GA4. This allows you to monitor the occurrence of these events in real time and gain immediate insights into user interactions.

To gain a better understanding of how to set up and utilize custom events in GA4, watch the following video:


GA4 Custom Dimensions

Custom dimensions allow you to capture additional information about your users and their interactions that is not currently available through the predefined dimensions in GA4.

There are 4 types of custom dimensions that you can create based on the data you want to analyze:

User-scoped custom dimensions

These dimensions analyze attributes about users and are defined based on custom user properties. Examples could include demographic information or user preferences.

Event-scoped custom dimensions

These dimensions analyze attributes about specific events, such as the value of an event or the completion of a specific action. They are defined based on custom event parameters.

Item-scoped custom dimensions

These dimensions analyze attributes of products or services sold on your online store. For example, you can track the color, size, rating, or status of a product within an item array in an event parameter.

Custom metrics

Similar to custom dimensions, custom metrics allow you to analyze data points from event parameters. For instance, you can track the value of a transaction as a custom metric.

Watch the video below to understand why you need custom dimensions and how to create them in GA4:

How To Get Google Analytics 4 Ready

It’s clear Google Analytics 4 is a game-changer for businesses seeking to gain deeper insights into user behavior and how they understand their digital presence.

Our digital marketing team at Jungle Communications is here to simplify the process for you by focusing on maximizing the value of GA4 for you while you focus on what you do best – growing your business.

Contact us to learn more about how GA4 can benefit your business!

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