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An Introductory Guide to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

An Introductory Guide to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)


What it is, when it’s coming, and why you should care

We are less than a year away from Google putting standard Universal Analytics properties out to pasture. On July 1, 2023, UA properties will no longer process data, as all new data will flow into Google Analytics 4 properties. To prepare for this inevitability, we suggest you get up and running on GA4 as soon as possible. This will allow you to begin collecting data to use as an historical reference point in the future, and also get you up to speed on navigating what can be an intimidating GA4 dashboard.

Before we get into the weeds on GA4, let’s get some logistical details out of the way.

When should I switch to GA4?

Today! Google Analytics 4 does not retroactively capture data, which means that it will only begin capturing data from the date of implementation. The sooner you get it up and running, the sooner you start collecting data to create those all-important historical touchpoints. Universal Analytics is set to expire data collection on July 1, 2023 and it is expected that the ability to access the data will expire near the end of 2023. 

Can I run Universal Analytics and GA4 simultaneously?

Yes, and in fact, Google recommends that you do so. This will allow you to get a feel for the differences between the two, of which there are many.

What steps do I need to take to get GA4 up and running?

If you have a website that is already collecting UA data, you can set up a new GA4 Property via the Admin panel of your existing UA account. If your site uses Google Tag Manager, you can simply select the option to ‘enable data collection using your existing tags’. If not, you will need to add a script tag to the <head> section of your website. As always, if you have any questions, your developer will be able to assist. If you are a Crafted Site Care & Hosting client, we can do this for you upon request. 

Can I add UA data to GA4?

No, GA4 is only able to collect new data. You can, however, export your UA data and blend it with GA4 data in a separate data visualization tool, but keep in mind that the way that GA4 collects data and the type of data it collects is fairly dissimilar to the data that UA collects.

My Google Ads account is linked with UA. What do I need to do?

UA data will stop flowing to your Google Ads account after July 1, 2023, which means that you should think about migrating your Google Ads links to your GA4 property as soon as possible. Your Google Ads Sales Rep, or your development team, can help you with this process, and help flesh out what other steps may be necessary.

What’s so different?

While Universal Analytics placed an emphasis on Total Users, GA4 is all about engagement. You will notice significant differences in the number of Users being reported on your site between UA and GA4 due to the different way that Google is calculating Users. GA4 is concerned with ‘Active Users’, while UA is counting ‘Total Users’. GA4 also has full cross-device and cross-platform reporting, meaning that you can collect both App and Website data in the same place. GA4 has also incorporated machine learning capable of providing a suite of predictive metrics, such as purchase probability, churn probability, and predicted revenue.

Event Based Model

As opposed to the Universal Analytics model of placing emphasis on sessions, GA4 places a strong emphasis on what users are actually doing once they reach your site. Because of this, you will notice a discrepancy between the number of users reported on UA and GA4. The bulk of this discrepancy will be related to UA showing total users, while GA4 is showing ‘active users’ (any user who has an engaged session ).

  • User interactions are stored as ‘events’
  • Events more fully specify the action the user took while on your site/app
  • Allows you to measure many common web events like pageviews, scrolls, file downloads, and video views


A group or subset of users that you can use in your analysis. Audiences can be based on dimensions, metrics, and/or events. Some examples of custom Audiences include:

  • Signed-in users
  • People shopping for shoes
  • People from a specific geographic region
  • People who have added an item to the cart, but not purchased yet

In this video I will show you how to create a custom audience, for users who land on a specific page.

Identity Types

This is how google is able to follow a user’s journey so as to better understand what each user is doing on your site. This also allows google to follow users across multiple devices, instead of counting each device as a unique user. The identity types that google uses are as follows:

  • User-ID | if you create your own persistent IDs for signed-in users
  • Google signals | data from users who are signed in to Google
  • Device ID | Browser or app-instance ID

Get to Know GA4 Properties


This is the section of GA4 that is the most similar to Universal Analytics. Examples of some reports that will look familiar to users of UA:

  • Users in the last 30 minutes
  • Users by Location
  • User acquisition (where do your users come from)
  • User retention over time
  • Views by page title


Explorations allow you to uncover deeper insights about your customer’s behavior. Want to create a report for which page signed-in users visit immediately after logging in? This is the place for you. The 6 types of explorations are as follows:

Free form exploration

easily create graphs/charts from a multitude of variables

Funnel exploration

visualize the steps a user takes toward a key task or conversion; where do they enter, where do they drop off, etc.

Path Exploration

free-flowing and can follow any number of undefined paths

Segment overlap

can define up to three user segments to quickly see how those segments overlap and relate to each-other

User exploration

select specific groups of users and learn more about their activities

Cohort exploration

a group of users who share a common characteristic identified by a specific event they have triggered

In the following video, I will show you how to create a custom, free-form, exploration that will show us the average purchase revenue per user by traffic source.


This is the place to go if you want to edit/create existing items, such as events, conversions, audiences, etc.


This is where to find your property’s existing events and see a snapshot of how each one is performing.


Like the Events page, Conversions shows you existing conversion events and a snapshot of how each is performing. If you want to create a new conversion, head back over to Events and mark the event as a conversion. 


Audiences shows you your property’s existing audiences and information about each one, such as the number of users and the creation date

Custom definitions

Custom definitions shows you your property’s custom dimensions and metrics. These are the same as the default dimensions and metrics in your property, except you create them yourself.


Use DebugView to monitor the events coming from a device or browser for which you’ve enabled debugging.


A conversion is a type of event: Conversions are events that you’ve assigned a specific value, like a purchase or a download. Think of it like this, you can make anything that happens on your site an event, and any event can be marked as a conversion.


Studies have shown that it takes a number of user interactions before the user considers purchasing or subscribing to your product. This means that the typical customer attribution method of assigning credit for the conversion to the last ad a customer interacted with is only telling part of the story. Was it really this last ad that converted them into paying customers, or was it a combination of all the ads they had interacted with before it?

Attribution is the act of assigning credit for conversions to different ads, clicks, and factors along a user’s path to completing a conversion. With GA4, it is possible to attribute credit in a number of different ways that we will outline below. 

Last click

Ignores direct traffic and attributes 100% of the conversion value to the last channel that the customer clicked through (or engaged view through for YouTube) before converting.

First click

Gives all credit for the conversion to the first channel that a customer clicked (or engaged view through for YouTube) before converting.


Distributes the credit for the conversion equally across all the channels a customer clicked (or engaged view through for YouTube) before converting


Attributes 40% credit to the first and last interaction, and the remaining 20% credit is distributed evenly to the middle interactions

Time decay

Gives more credit to the touchpoints that happened closer in time to the conversion. Credit is distributed using a 7-day half-life. In other words, a click 8 days before a conversion gets half as much credit as a click 1 day before a conversion.

Ok, Now What?

Whether it’s following a customers journey from first interaction through purchase, better targeting ads to maximize conversion, or simply measuring which page visitors from Sioux Falls visit after landing on your site, Google Analytics 4 truly has the power to measure just about anything you can dream up. 

So, whether you want to get started yourself, or set up a 10 minute consultation with one of our experts, the time is now!

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