Upgrading to Google Analytics 4 Without Data Loss


Want to try and tackle your new Google Analytics 4 setup in-house? We’ve outlined the setup steps below to walk you through (most of) it. We’re going to assume you already have an existing Universal analytics property up and running. Here we go!

Let’s Begin 

Click GA4 Setup Assistant (instructions below) to create a Google Analytics 4 property that collects data alongside your existing Universal Analytics property. Your Universal Analytics property is left unchanged and continues to collect data.

GA4 Setup Assistant Wizard

Follow the instructions below to create your Google Analytics 4 property. The instructions are the same regardless of whether your website pages have the Analytics tag or whether you use Google Tag Manager.

  1. In Google Analytics, click Admin.
  2. In the Account column, make sure that your desired account is selected. (If you only have one Google Analytics account, it will already be selected.)
  3. In the Property column, select the Universal Analytics property that currently collects data for your website.
  4. In the Property column, click GA4 Setup Assistant. It is the first option in the Property column (directly above “Property Settings”, which is second.)
  5. Click Get started under “I want to create a new Google Analytics 4 property”.
  6. If your site uses the gtag.js, tag, you have the option to Enable data collection using your existing tags. However, if you use a website builder/CMS (e.g. GoDaddy, etc), Google Tag Manager, or your website is tagged with analytics.js, the wizard can’t reuse your existing tagging and you’ll need to add the tag yourself (instructions below).
  7. Click Create Property.

Once you click Create Property, the setup wizard:

  • Creates your new Google Analytics 4 property 
  • Copies the property name, website URL, timezone, and currency settings from your Universal Analytics property
  • Creates a connected site tag between your Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 properties (if your site is tagged with gtag.js and you elected to Enable data collection using your existing tags in step 6, above)
  • Creates a connection between your Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 properties. This connection makes it possible for you to use Setup Assistant in your Google Analytics 4 property to migrate configurations from your Universal Analytics property to your Google Analytics 4 property.
  • Activates enhanced measurement in your Google Analytics 4 property

You should see this page:

  1. Click See your GA4 property.
  2. This will take you to the Setup Assistant for your new GA4 property:
  3. GA4 is setup, but you’ll need to add a tag via Tag Manager to begin seeing data in your new Google Analytics 4 property

Add your tag using Google Tag Manager

In Google Tag Manager, create a Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration tag:

  1. Click Tags and then New.
  2. Click Tag Configuration.
  3. Select Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration.
  4. Enter your Measurement ID. This can be found by clicking into Data Streams and selecting your web property data stream. In the stream details, you will find your Measurement ID.
  1. Optional: Add Fields to Set, User Properties, or other Advanced Settings
  2. Click Triggering and select “All Pages”
  3. Save the tag and publish your container.

Events in Google Analytics 4

In Google Analytics 4, you can use events to track any action or piece of information you like. Here are some examples of what you can track with events:

  • Pages people load on your website
  • Actions people perform within a page
  • Elements people have clicked
  • Information from the URL of the page
  • Transaction and product details
  • Elements that are visible in the browser
  • Details you’ve collected about a user

Events can be sent to Google Analytics with parameters. Parameters are extra pieces of information that are tied to the event. For example, the page_view event is sent to your reports with the page_location and the page_referrer parameters. The page_location parameter lets you see the URL of the page that someone viewed, and the page_referrer parameter lets you see the URL of the previous page they viewed.

When you add the Google Analytics 4 tag to your website, it will automatically track the number of events when someone views a page. For example, Google Analytics will automatically track an event when someone spends at least 10 seconds on your website. These are called Automatic Events.

Automatic Events

  • The first_visit event is collected the first time someone visits your website. This event is also used to calculate the ‘New Users’ metric in your reports.
  • The page_view event is used to report on the page the user is viewing.
  • The session_start event is used to determine when the user’s session started. A new session_start event is triggered when there is a period of inactivity of 30 minutes.
  • The user_engagement event can be collected periodically and is used to report when someone has spent at least 10 seconds on your website.

These automatic events can’t be switched off or disabled. They are the critical components needed for Google Analytics, so you will find them in all Google Analytics 4 properties.

When Enhanced Measurement is selected, additional automatic events will be tracked.

  • The click event is collected when someone clicks on an outbound link.
  • The file_download event is collected when someone clicks to download a file from your website. Events are triggered for popular file formats, including the following file extensions: pdf, xls, xlsx, doc, docx, txt, csv, key, ppt, pkg, zip, mov, mp4, mp3, wav, and more.
  • The scroll event is collected when someone scrolls 90% of a page.
  • The video_start event when someone starts playing an embedded YouTube video.
  • The video_progress event when 10%, 25%, 50%, and 75% of the video’s duration is played.
  • The video_complete event when the video ends.
  • The view_search_results event when people view a page with a query parameter of ‘q’, ’s’, ‘search’, ‘query’, or ‘keyword’.

Recommended Events

Google’s list of recommended events is designed to give you a starting point for anything custom you want to track into Google Analytics 4. They’re grouped by industry, but you can use any recommended events that fit your needs. Recommended events are given for:

Here are some top picks from the list of recommended events:

  • The select_content event for tracking actions within a page
  • The select_promotion event for tracking the number of times a special offer was clicked
  • The view_promotion event to understand the number of impressions of a special offer 
  • The generate_lead event to track the number of leads you’ve captured
  • The view_item event to understand when people view particular products
  • The add_to_cart event to track people adding items to their shopping cart
  • The purchase event for successful ecommerce transactions

Once you’ve found an event name for what you need to track, you can then choose from the recommended parameters to send additional details to your reports.

Sending Events to Google Analytics 4

There are different ways you can create new events and send them to Google Analytics 4. The first option is creating a new event based on an existing event. For example, if you want to create an event for people viewing a specific thank you page on your website, you can create a new event using the existing page_view event.

This new event will be reported every time the page_location parameter from the existing page_view event contains thank-you.

Creating New Events in the Interface

Navigate to ‘Events’ and select ‘Create Event’ on the top-right corner.

After selecting the data stream that contains the existing event, you can then name your new event, enter the conditions you want to use for matching, and then choose if you want to copy (or modify) the parameters for your new event. Once the conditions for your new event match an existing incoming event, you will begin to see your new event in the ‘Events’ report.

Conversions Based on Events

Once events are available in Google Analytics, you can enable them as a conversion in the interface. This lets you define important actions as a conversion. To do this, navigate to ‘All Events’ and then use the ‘Mark As Conversion’ toggle switch on the right.

Once you’ve marked an event as a conversion, it will be included in the ‘Conversions’ report.

Event Goals

Click Events

There are a variety of “click events” you might need to set up, such as our example below “click to call”, others you’ll need to set up custom event tracking for might be contact form clicks that don’t redirect to ‘thank you’ pages, click to email, or button clicks like a newsletter sign up, or PDF downloads. 

Click to Call

For this, you’ll have to set up a GA4 event in GTM.

Name the tag: GA4 – Event – phone_click

Configuration tag: GA4

Event Name: phone_click

Parameter Name: link_url

Parameter Value: {{Click URL}}

Set the trigger to fire on link clicks that contain “tel:”

Click Save

Still With Us?

By no means is this a fully exhaustive list of instructions for everything you can do in the new Google Analytics 4. But it will definitely help get you started on the right foot. 

Did you get part of the way through this and then deeply regret your decision? No worries, we love this stuff and would be happy to do it for you.

Reach out to get started. 

About the Author

Autumn Buck

With expertise in both Paid Media and SEO, Autumn Buck is a Digital Analyst who is passionate about data analysis, writing impactful ad copy, and everything in between. She is committed to driving success and prides herself on being a strong advocate for partners and their business objectives. When not at her desk, Autumn can be found gardening with her Border Collie, hitting the slopes, or unleashing her artistic side.

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