Your website exists to drive traffic and generate sales for your business. And you should be tracking your web traffic and sales funnels religiously in order to keep it running smoothly. Google Analytics (GA) is a free and powerful analytic software that many small businesses rely on.
Google has announced that in 2023, they’ll be sunsetting Universal Analytics (UA), the version of Google Analytics that most websites are running on at the point of writing. From July 2023, UA will stop processing new hits on your website (and if you’re using US360, you have till Oct 2023) and it will be replaced by Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
Why are we forced to switch to Google Analytics 4?
As the world places more emphasis on consumer privacy, the internet is slowly shifting towards a cookie-less future. Previously, consumer behavior can be tracked easily using browser cookies, which are tiny files created by the websites you visit.
Cookies make browsing experiences seamless as they help keep you signed in and remember your browsing preference. At the same time, they could be used to serve relevant content to consumers. However, they raise the question of privacy as websites can identify the preferences of users via their unique cookies.
Those who do not consent to it may not be able to fully experience the website. And this is bad for both the user and the business.
Hence, we are moving towards a cookie-less future where user tracking no longer rely on third party cookies. Instead, publishers (that’s you) will have to rely on first party data – aka data that is collected only on your properties (and not installed onto the users browsers, to understand their customer behavior.
GA4 aims to help small business owners like us to prepare for this future. Hence, we are being forced to shift towards GA4.
If you rely on Google Analytics to improve your web traffic and drive sales (which you should be doing), then it’s time to start setting up your new GA4. Here’s how:
How to set up Google Analytics 4
If you have an existing UA account, here’s what you need to do:
1) Log into your Google Analytics account
Access your existing Google Analytics account, you should be able to login via this link.
2) Click on Admin tab for options
Locate the Admin tab (look for the gear icon at the bottom left of your screen).
Click on it.
3) Use “GA4 Setup Assistant”
Within your Admin tab, you’ll see a bunch of options.
Look for “GA4 Setup Assistant”, which should be the 1st option under the “Property” column:
Clicking on it opens up the following options. Click on “Get Started”:
You should see this pop-up next:
Click on “Create property” to proceed.
Then viola, your GA4 property should be created instantaneously:
But wait, there’s more…
You’ll need to install the GA4 tag onto your website or web property so that GA4 can collect traffic data and allow you to do all kinds of cool analysis later.
4) Install GA4 Tag according to instructions
Click on the “See your GA4 property” button via the GA4 setup assistant (see Image 5 above).
You’ll be brought to your spanking new GA4 account. On the top right, you should see the property name with a “-GA4” suffix. Don’t worry, your existing UA account is still accessible.
Locate the “Tag installation” item and click on the arrow to procceed:
And you’ll see this page. Check that your Property Name, URL and ID are correct, click on the arrow on the right:
If you have 1 property only, this shouldn’t be too confusing. However if you are managing multiple web properties, make sure you select the correct Data Stream if not your GA4 data will not be accurate.
Click the arrow in the above image will open up the following page:
Here, you’ll want to copy your Measurement ID (red box at top right), you can do so by clicking on the copy icon. Save it somewhere as you’ll need it for verification in the next step.
There are two methods to install your tag:
- Use Google Tag Manager
As most small businesses may not be using Google Tag Manager, here’s how you can install the gtag.js file into your website using Method 1:
- Click the down arrow in the red box of Image 8
- Paste it into the <head> section of your website.
- Save changes
- Refresh your website
If you’re using WordPress, you should use a plugin that allows you to add scripts as you don’t want to be editing the theme’s code directly. Some useful (free) plugins are “Custom JS and CSS” or “Code Snippets“.
If you’re running an ecommerce store on Shopify, go to your store “Preferences” and paste your code into the “Google Analytics” section. See full instructions here.
If you’re using Google Tag Manager, you might want to go with Method 2. You can refer to this video tutorial.
If you are unsure about this process, check with your web developer.
5) Verify installation
After you have paste your gtag.js code into your website, you should double check if it has been successfully installed. Here’s how:
- Copy your measurement ID from step 4
- Reload your website
- Right click and select “View Page Source” (“ctrl+u” on windows or “command+option+U” on mac)
- Do a search for it in your page source (use “ctrl+f”/”command+f” to pull out search box)
You should be able to find the measurement ID within your page’s source code:
If you are unable to find it, make sure you have saved changes when adding your tag in step 4. You’ll also need to refresh your website after making changes. If you need help, use the comments section below. Provide screenshots where possible.
And, you’re done!
6) Check your GA4 property in 24 hours
It takes a while for GA4 to detect your gtag.js (usually a couple of hours). I would recommend you to check your GA4 property the next day instead of waiting for it to be activated.
If you have installed your tag correctly, you should be able to see a day of traffic data when you login to your GA4 the next day:
Congratulations, you have successfully set up your Google Analytics 4 account!
As mentioned above, you can continue to use your Universal Analytics account as per usual till July 2023. However, you should start getting familiar with your new GA4 account too.
Here’re some Google Analytics 4 guides to help you get started:
- Google’s official GA4 guide
- 1 hour course by Analytics Mania (on YouTube)
- MeasureSchool’s YouTube Channel
- Data Driven’s article on GA4 features (Jeff Sauer is my go-to for GA knowhow, but he doesn’t seem to have guides written on them)
Frequently Asked Questions
Who should set up Google Analytics 4?
If you have Google Analytics set up on your website before 14 Oct 2020, you’re likely running on UA. This means you should set up your GA4 immediately. Google has made it easy for you to make the switch. See section below for instructions.
If you had set up Google Analytics after 14 Oct 2020, you’re likely already on Google Analytics 4. You don’t have to set it up again.
How to access my UA account?
If you are stuck in your GA4 property after the set up, don’t panic. Here’s how to access your old Universal Analytics account.
Simply navigate to the top right corner and click on your property name:
You should see a dropdown list of all your google analytics properties.
How do I know which account I’m on?
If you’re not sure whether you’re on UA or GA4, here’s a quick way to tell the difference:
Your Universal Analytics account’s ID will start with “UA-” followed by a bunch of unique numbers while your new GA4 account ID will be a string of 9 digits (at the point of writing). Your GA4 account will now be conveniently labelled with “-GA4” if you created it from an existing UA account.
You’ll also notice that their interfaces are slightly different:
When should you set up Google Analytics 4?
As soon as possible.
Although Google has announced that new hit processing would stop in July 2023, you shouldn’t be procrastinating on setting up your GA4 property!
Your GA4 property will start collecting traffic data the day you set it up. Doing it now allows you to start collecting traffic data asap.
The good news is that your current Universal Analytics will remain accessible even after you switch over to GA4, so you don’t have to worry about losing existing data.
As regulations evolve, technology has to keep up. Google Analytics 4 is Google’s move to prepare its users for the cookie-less future.
I hope this guide has been useful for you, if you need help, use the comments section below. Provide screenshots where possible.