This is the second of five articles that I plan to write about Google Analytics 4. In the first piece, I broke down three key changes (out of the myriad of information currently available online) in Google Analytics 4 that are crucial to understand before getting started. If you haven't read that article yet, I strongly urge you to do so.
This article will serve as your step-by-step guide to installing Google Analytics 4. Much like the first installment, I've distilled the process down to only the essential steps you need to know so as not to drown in a sea of information right out of the gate. You can use it as a checklist or a roadmap for setting up GA4.
Download and save the checklist
Step 1: Create an Account
Click on the "Create Account" button in the main menu.
Step 2: Fill in Account Information
At this stage, you will need to provide basic information about your company and account. This includes the account name, your company name, your website's URL, and your business industry.
Step 3: Create a "Property"
Create a Property by filling in the necessary information in the corresponding fields. A Property in Google Analytics is your website or app that you want to track. We discussed what a "property" is and how its settings differ from Universal Analytics in a previous tutorial.
Step 4: Provide Details About Your Business
In this section, add more specific information about your business, including its size and geographical location.
Step 5: Define Business Goals
Choose your business goals. Depending on the goals you choose, Google Analytics 4 will prepare pre-configured report templates. For instance, if you aim to increase user engagement, you will get reports focused on relevant metrics. We discussed the capabilities of the "Library" of reports in detail in a previous article. Don't worry if you make a mistake at this stage, you can always make corrections later.
Step 6: Enable Data Collection
At this stage, add a Data Stream by specifying the URL and name. Note that in GA4, Data Streams have replaced the "View" function. "Data Streams" in Google Analytics 4 represent a method of segmenting data collected from different sources. Sources can be a website, mobile application, or any other data source.
Each Data Stream has a unique Measurement ID, which links the data from a single source to your property in Google Analytics 4. Organizing separate data streams for each source enhances your control and flexibility in data analysis. You are given the opportunity to compare the performance of your website and mobile application in one report or analyze them separately.
Each "Data Stream" can be configured individually. We discussed the topic of streams in more detail in the first part of our guide. At this stage, it is recommended to create at least one stream, for example, for your website. If you have other domains, you can create additional streams for them.
Step 7: Enable Enhanced Measurement
Don't forget to enable "Enhanced Measurement" for deeper data analysis. This Google Analytics 4 feature allows for the collection of more detailed data about user interactions with your site or app. It automatically tracks certain types of events, simplifying the setup process.
Step 8: Save Your Measurement ID
After creating a Data Stream, you will receive a Measurement ID. Further setup is now required. At this stage, we only choose the basic settings.
Step 9: Configure Your Domain
Add the URL of the domain you want to track. You don't need to specify subdomains - it's sufficient to enter the main domain, and GA4 will collect information from subdomains too.
IMPORTANT: If you specify two domains in the settings, cross-domain tracking is activated, and Google Analytics will track the user's journey across different domains of your company. Cross-domain tracking allows for monitoring user activity across multiple websites and enables you to link domains and maintain a unique user identifier when transitioning between sites, providing more accurate tracking of user actions and traffic sources. You can read more about cross-domain tracking in Google's help information.
Step 10: Set the Session Duration
You can configure the session duration, which determines how long a user stays active on your site. By default, this duration is 30 minutes in Google Analytics. This affects user engagement metrics.
Step 11: Set Tracking Tag and Stream Code
Once you have obtained the tracking tag and data stream code, go to Google Tag Manager to install the code on your site. Copy the received code and paste it into GTM, selecting "New Tag -> GA4 Configuration" and inserting your Measurement ID. After that, publish the changes, and the setup will be complete.
Step 12: Enable Google Signals and Data Collection
Return to the property settings in Google Analytics and select the "Data Collection" section. Activate **Google Signals. This feature is turned off by default.
Google Analytics 4 uses a hierarchical user definition system, consisting of three levels:
- First, GA4 checks if a User ID has been assigned to the user when generating an event on your website or mobile app.
- If no User ID is found, GA4 attempts to recognize the user based on Google Signals data.
- If Google Signals are also unavailable, GA4 identifies the user by the device identifier - this could be a Client ID for websites or an Instance ID for apps.
- Google Analytics Signals allow you to link data about actions on your site with information about users who have logged into their Google accounts and agreed to data collection.
Activate "User Data Collection Acknowledgement" Google insists on clear confirmation of your intentions to collect information from users who visit your site or use your mobile app. This prevents issues with the laws of those countries where you apply Google Analytics 4.
The owner of each counter can independently determine the types of data they plan to track and transfer to GA4. Google cannot be entirely sure that you are not collecting personal user data that cannot be transferred to the analytics system - such as email, phone number, IP address, mailing address, etc.
Step 13: Set Up Data Retention
In settings, go to the "Data Retention" section and set the data retention period. This period determines how long user activity data will be stored in Google Analytics. You can choose a period from 2 months to 14 months.
Step 14: Set Up User Identification
After activating Google signals in the GA4 resource settings, make sure that the first method “Blended” - by User-ID, Google signals, then by device type is selected as the default identification method. This setting allows you to combine data on user actions taken in different sessions or on different devices.
Step 15: Enable Attribution
Go to Attribution settings and choose "Data driven". This attribution model uses machine learning to determine which channels and touchpoints are most important for achieving goals.
Data-driven attribution uses machine learning technology to assess the contribution of different stages of the user journey to the final conversion. It considers the entire path of the user to the conversion, including the search for your brand and interaction with advertising, not just the last click.
In Google Analytics 4, data-driven attribution is available to all users, unlike Universal Analytics, where this feature was offered only in the paid version of Google Analytics 360 and in Attribution projects. Now it is also synchronized with the attribution feature in Google Ads. Thus, Google has fully moved to a data-driven attribution model in the Google Ads - Google Analytics 4 bundle.
In the attribution settings, it is possible to set a retrospective analysis period for conversion events related to user acquisition, as well as for all other events. The following settings are recommended:
Step 16: Check the Setting in Debug Mode
Your Google Analytics 4 settings are now complete! Now you can fully analyze data on user interactions with your site or application.