This is the ultimate guide to the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) for bloggers. Learn what it is and what you need to do now to prepare for it.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Analytics. With it, owners of websites and apps can get a more complete understanding of their customer's lifecycle.
Think about it this way. I'm on my desktop looking at something on Amazon that I want to buy, and I have to leave to take my kids to soccer practice. While I'm waiting on them, I open up the Amazon app and finish my purchase there.
With GA4, Amazon will be able to track my “lifecycle” from researching on desktop to purchasing on their app.
GA4 uses machine learning to uncover insights from your data by using modeling. According to Search Engine Land,
“Google is bringing two new modeling capabilities — conversion modeling and behavioral modeling — to GA4, which may help marketers fill in gaps in their understanding of customer behavior when cookies or other identifiers aren’t available.”Search Engine Land
Almost every time I conduct Google Analytics training, I remind folks that it was created for all types of websites–not just blogs. Ecommerce sites need a lot more data to help run their business than we do. That's why you see so many numbers when you open analytics.
Most of the new features in GA4 are really aimed at ecommerce sites or really big sites that have both a website and an app.
But there are a few cool things in GA4 for bloggers too.
Differences Between UA and GA4
Frankly, there's a lot. Going through all of them is beyond the scope of this blog post, but I do want to mention a few.
GA4 is Event Based
Universal Analytics (UA) that we're using now is a session-based model. It groups the interactions within a given time frame together. GA4 uses an event-based model where each user interaction is considered a standalone event.
In addition to pageviews, GA4 will allow us to track several more events such as these:
- Scrolls – “the first time a user reaches the bottom of each page (i.e., when a 90% vertical depth becomes visible)”
- Outbound clicks – “each time a user clicks a link that leads away from the current domain”
- Site search – “each time a user performs a site search, indicated by the presence of a URL query parameter”
- Video engagement – “For embedded videos that have JS API support enabled,” video start, video progress, and video complete events will be tracked.
- File downloads – “when a user clicks a link leading to a file (with a common file extension)”
- User engagement – “when webpage is in focus for at least one second”
There are a lot more events, but these are the ones that I think bloggers will be interested in.
GA4 Has More Flexible Reporting
In UA, we have a pre-defined set of reports. While these are fairly robust, they don't cover everything that we might want to know about our blogs. GA4 makes it easier to create a custom report and to customize the default reports.
Now, if you're like me, it's going to take a bit to get used to the new reports interface. I'll have more blog posts and videos about this later in the year.
Why did Google Decide to Change?
Readers want more privacy, and we've seen regulations such as GDPR passed to help ensure that. Because of this, browsers need to change their technology so that they aren't relying on third party cookies as they have been in the past.
In addition, businesses are relying more heavily on data to help drive their sales and marketing efforts. So, Google built what they call “the next generation of Google Analytics,” Google Analytics 4.
Bottom line is that GA4 is the tool that we'll all have to use in the future.
Do I have to Switch to GA4?
Right now, no. Your current Universal Analytics will continue to work until July 1, 2023.
But you do want to set up Google Analytics 4 now and allow it to run concurrently with UA. None of your blog's historical data will transfer over, so if you want until that date, you won't have any data at all.
Here's what Google says:
“On July 1, 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties will no longer process data. You'll be able to see your Universal Analytics reports for a period of time after July 1, 2023. However, new data will only flow into Google Analytics 4 properties.”Google
I'm writing this in April 2022. If you install GA4 now, you'll have over a year's data.
Note: This will not cause any duplication of your data.
How to Set Up GA4 for Bloggers
This video will show you how to install GA4. If you prefer, you can follow the written directions below the video.
When you're in Google Analytics, click the Admin button at the bottom left of the screen. Make sure you're in the right account if you have more than one by clicking on the down arrow next to account.
After you've confirmed that, click on the down arrow button next to your property name to ensure that you don't have GA4 already installed. Then click the GA4 Setup Assistant.
Click the Get Started button to create a new GA4 property.
You'll see the setup wizard box pop up. Depending on how you have Universal Analytics set up, the “enable data collection using your existing tags” box may be checked. Click Create Property.
You should see a screen that says “you have successfully connected your properties. Click the “See Your GA4 Property” button.
This will open the admin section of your GA4 property. You can either click the “Open Connected Property” button or click the home button.
You will probably see a screen that says “No data received from your website yet.” That's because it takes about 30 minutes or so for Google Analytics to start collecting data.
In about an hour, go back to your GA4 property, click reports, then click realtime. You should see traffic.
If you don't, click “Get Tagging Instructions.”
Click the copy button next to the measurement ID code. Next, click “Use existing on-page tag” which is under the tagging instructions section in the middle of the page.
It'll give you the instructions, but here's what you do next. Go back into the admin section for your Universal Analytics, and click “tracking info” then “tracking code.”
Scroll down until you see “Connected Site Tags” then click the arrow on the right side of the screen.
Paste the ID that you copied earlier into the field and give the property a nickname (if you want). Then click connect.
You should see your tag connected.
Go back to your GA4 home page. You may still see the message that data isn't being received, but if you see numbers in the user section, GA4 is getting data. It may take a bit longer, but the message will go away.
Should I Delete UA?
The big question that everyone asks is “should I delete my Universal Analytics code?” The answer is NO!
Do NOT delete the UA code–especially if you're using an ad network such as Mediavine.
That's all you need to do! Google Analytics 4 will start collecting your data.
While we'll all need a little time to get used to it, GA4 for bloggers isn't too hard to install.