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How to Prepare for Google Analytics 4


March 28, 2023


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How to Prepare for Google Analytics 4

After a long and successful run, Google is sunsetting Universal Analytics as we know it. The deadline to switch to Google Analytics 4 is July 2023. However, businesses risk permanently losing valuable website data and functionality if they do nothing. So, companies should not wait to transition.

It’s important to understand that Google Analytics 4 is different. As a result, there will be a learning curve for even the most experienced Analytics users. It's essential to start planning as you would for any data or system migration. Below, we'll share why this isn't just another update and the specific steps you need to take to get ready.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free analytics tool provided by Google to help website owners deliver a better overall experience. Google Analytics (GA for short) provides you with an in-depth look at how your website or app performs and how people interact with it. You gain access to Google Analytics by adding a script code or unique ID to your website.

Universal Analytics is the current version of Google Analytics most websites have. If you signed up for GA before October 2020, this is what you most likely have. However, many don't realize a new version called Google Analytics 4 exists

It offers businesses a 2.0 kind of experience with valuable upgrades. However, we've found many still need to prepare for this transition and need to know they must actively sign up for GA4.

Differences between Universal Analytics and GA4

Around the world, people are increasingly worried about the amount of personal data collected and how companies use it. At the same time, technology is changing and improving. Universal Analytics is over 15 years old. In tech years, that's ancient.

GA4 addresses the growing privacy concerns while integrating more current technologies and user interfaces. As a result, the fields and interfaces will look and work differently.

Ultimately, the changes will make understanding website analytics easier. In addition, it will save you a ton of time collecting and aggregating data, but you'll need to prepare for some significant differences.


Measurement Models Take Different Approaches

This is the main difference. Universal Analytics focuses on "sessions and pages viewed" and the number of interactions (hits). Alternatively, GA4 focuses on "parameters and events." Generally speaking, "Hits" in Universal will correspond to "events" in GA4.

But anything that happens on a page is considered an interactive event, providing insight into how users interact with a previously lacking page. Event-based Analytics provides a more comprehensive (and less fragmented) look at the customer life cycle.

Data-driven ROI Attribution

It has always been hard to choose the more representative attribution model, with most technologies strongly favoring the last touch (bottom of the funnel, end of the buyer's journey). However, we know that's not the whole picture.

Google Analytics 4 will allow you to view the impact of your various marketing campaigns and touchpoints from start to finish.

Revved Up Machine Learning

Develop predictive insights about user behavior and your ideal customers. Of course, you'd typically need expensive analytics tools to access this kind of power. GA4 certainly won't replace the analytics tools you use. But its contribution to the mix is greatly enhanced.

Cross-platform Integration

Integration with other tools like Google Ads and apps to combine data across platforms to reveal a fuller picture of the buyer's journey.

Privacy Protection

GA4 will not store IP addresses and will give users more granular control over what is collected about them and how it's used. People are generally okay with companies collecting data as long as it is used to improve their experience.

New Reporting

If there's one point we want to emphasize here, you'll need to recreate custom reporting in GA4. So, take inventory of the reports you rely on. Historical data from Universal will not be imported into GA4 reports, so you must secure this data for year-over-year comparisons.

Slightly Changing Terminology

Google understands this may represent a significant culture shock for long-time Google Analytics users, so they have compiled a side-by-side "this equals that" document to help you with changing terminology.

For example, where you might see "ga:sessions" in Universal Analytics, you'll see "sessions." With this said, Google points out, "Although the fields listed below may have a similar meaning in Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4, the format and semantics of the values may have changed." They have an additional document that provides a detailed description for every field.

Update Your Tagging Structure

If you currently use Google Tags, you'll have to update your tagging structure to reflect the new way GA4 collects data.


How to Set Up a GA Account

"I Don't Have Any Google Analytics"

  1. Go to Google Analytics.
  2. Hover over the "gear admin tab" in the Account Column.
  3. Click "Create Account."
  4. Give the account a name.
  5. Configure your data-sharing settings.
  6. Click "Next" to add your first "property" (website).
  7. Find your UA code by clicking on the property on which you want to gather data.
  8. Hover over the "gear admin tab" in the Account Column.
  9. Click "Property Settings"
  10. Copy your "measurement ID." That's your UA code or Tracking ID. GA4 calls it a "measurement ID." It may be called different terms on different platforms. But it's all the same thing.
  11. Add the GA measurement ID to your website. (see below)

I Already Have Universal Analytics and Need to Add GA4

  1. Use the GA4 Setup Assistant in Your Google Analytics Account
  2. Create a new GA4 property. Note: this will collect data parallel to Universal as long as Universal is still active.
  3. Now, you can access your GA4 property OR the Universal property you already had... until it's gone.

How to Add a Tracking Code to Your Website

For Hubspot CMS

  1. Have your "measurement ID" ready (see above).
  2. Log into your Hubspot CMS account.
  3. Click the "Settings" icon.
  4. Go to website> Pages.
  5. Click the "Choose a Domain to edit its settings" drop down.
  6. Select domain.
  7. Select "Default settings for all domains.
  8. Click the Integrations tab.
  9. Select integrate with Google Analytics 4 box
  10. Enter the measurement ID
  11. Save.
  12. Visit GA to make sure your code is working.

For WordPress

  1. Get your UA code if you haven't already (see above)
  2. In WordPress, Go to Plugins
  3. Add new
  4. Search for GA and click it.
  5. Click "Plugin Settings" on GA Window. (We're still in WordPress.)
  6. Paste your code in the "GA Tracking Code" field,
  7. Save.
  8. Visit GA to make sure your code is working.

Google Analytics 4 Tools You Need to Know About

We want to highlight some of the GA4 tools we know you will quickly learn to love because of what they offer that Universal Analytics could not.

One of the first things you'll notice is how simplified, streamlined, and intuitive it is. This looks and works more like modern analytics technologies than its predecessor.


Home is where you customize your dashboard so you can see all the most important KPIs in a single view to assess the health of your website quickly.


When you click reports, a menu slides out. You can toggle between:

  • Reports Snapshot
  • Realtime
  • Life Cycle
  • User

For Lifecycle and User, you can drill down. For example, under Life Cycle, you can look at:

  • Acquisition
  • Engagement
  • Monetization
  • Retention


Explore helps you understand how visitors navigate the site to find new pages and content. We don't have to tell you that Universal Analytics could be a bit of a mess here.

Several pre-sets exist, or you can fully customize how you view these website journeys.


Now, move down to the advertising tab. Here you can see the channels and touchpoints driving your conversions the most. But this tab will have limited usefulness until you set up goals and conversions.


This tab is where things get a bit more complicated. But the time you spend configuring you save time and money. You get a more comprehensive, accurate picture of customer behavior you can apply to get better marketing results.

Set up your events, conversions, audiences, as well as other custom definitions. You might start broad. But as you get more familiar with GA4, you'll want to get more granular to uncover insights, solve problems, and predict behaviors to make more data-driven decisions.


Get Help from The Gist

Moving from Universal to GA4 will be a significant transition for those already using Universal Analytics. It would be best if you started getting ready for this migration sooner rather than later. If you're not currently set up with Google Analytics, we hope we've highlighted how beneficial this tool can be to meet your marketing and sales goals.

Either way, The Gist has SEO specialists on our team to handle the transition for our clients, so they don't have to worry about losing data or their ability to meet KPIs. If you're not our client and are interested in learning more about our inbound content marketing offerings, please visit our content marketing services page.