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How to set up Google Analytics 4 for a beginner

How to set up Google Analytics 4 with reporting and charts

10 Steps to Set Up Your GA4 Property

In this post, we will explain how you can set up your Google Analytics 4 property as a beginner and guide you through the process.

Updated: May 2024 – to include recent changes on the platform.

You’ll find some steps below missing from Google Analytics setup assistant but are key to ensuring you collect the right level of data for your website and or app.

One of the main benefits of Google Analytics 4, compared to Universal Analytics, is its event capabilities. You can tag up and track these events to understand better users and what actions they do and do not take. We have tailored packages depending on your website that dive deeper into the setup and assist you with tracking key events on your website.

Step 1: Set up your GA4 Property

The first step is to ensure you are signed in to the Google account you want the Analytics account associated with.

Then, head to Google Analytics.

If you’ve set up an account before, your screen will show you any existing accounts. In this case, you’ll want to click the Admin (gear icon) in the bottom left corner. Then, at the top left, look for the “Create” button to create a new account or property.

Use the account function to create a separate account (e.g., setting up a property for a different business/person). To create a property under your existing account, select the property option.

Button to create a Google Analytics 4 account or property in an existing account

If there is none, the screen will entice you to create a GA4 property.

How to set up a Google Analytics property as a beginner in property settings step

Property name: your website address or preferred name, e.g. Business Name.

Reporting time zone: choose the country and region where your website operates. Or you’ll be using reports from. You can only have one-time zone per property.

Currency: your local currency.

Then press the “Next” button.

Good to know: If things change in your Google Analytics 4 setup or website, or you’ve missed a selection, you can adjust your details later. 

Describe your business

This step aims for Google Analytics to understand who is using its platform. However, it may also be used down the track for benchmarks if Google brings this feature back from Universal Analytics.

Describe your business in the GA4 set up for beginners with industry category and business size settings

Industry category: select the closest industry that matches your website or business.

Business size: choose the size of your website based on how many employees you have.

Select “Next” to go to the next slide.

Business objectives

This step was added in March 2023 and is designed to tailor what reports show in your Google Analytics property.

For those who set up GA4 prior, you would have Lifecycle reports.

Generate leads:

  • Overview
  • Audiences
  • User Acquisition
  • Traffic Acquisition
  • Landing page
  • User acquisition cohorts

Drive online sales:

  • Overview
  • ECommerce purchases
  • Promotions
  • Purchase journey (funnel)
  • Checkout journey (funnel)

Raise brand awareness:

  • Overview
  • Demographic details
  • Pages and screens

Examine user behaviour:

  • Overview
  • Events
  • Pages and screens

Baseline reports:

A combination of the above reports.

Select the reports you need, then press “Create” to jump to the next step.

Good to know: You can change the reports and their names later in the report library. You can also bring back the Lifecycle report menu if you prefer this.

Start collecting data

In Google Analytics 4, rather than views, we have something called data streams.

A data stream brings data into GA4 reporting. There are three types of data streams. Most people will have only the web platform option, as most do not run Android or iOS apps.

Start collecting data step in GA4 with platform options like web, android app or iOS app

Web: a website. The website includes sub-domains, e.g. member.mydomain.com.

If other websites are attached to the same business or organisation, Google Analytics recommends cross-domain tracking (you’ll find this in the advanced settings later). You can set this up and use one data stream to simplify the setup. Or decide to create a second web data stream at your discretion.

Android app: if you run an Android device app for your business, e.g. an app on Google Play store.

iOS app: for those with an app on Apple’s App store.

Setup data stream

The data stream is where you pop in the website (or app details).

It’s also where you decide what enhanced measurement events you want to toggle on or off.

Enhanced measurements are the auto-tagged events available in Google Analytics 4.

You have the following options:

  • Pages: cannot be toggled off.
  • Scrolls: measures when a user gets to 90% down your page.
  • Outbound clicks: when someone clicks a link on your website to another website.
  • Site search: collects user searches in a search bar when the browser URL changes.
  • Form interactions: meant to measure the form start and submit, but can be finicky.
  • Video engagement: adds extra data when a user watches a YouTube-embedded video.
  • File downloads: when someone opens a file such as a Word doc or PDF stored on your site.

It’s a good idea to test whether these events are firing correctly. Some websites, such as single-page application sites, may experience scroll issues.

Enhanced measurements settings in google analytics 4

Good to know: Your data streams automatically exclude known bots and spiders!

Step 2: Install your Google Analytics tag

You now have your stream/s set up; the next step is to install the tag. You’ll want a tag on every page from which you wish to collect data. 

You can use an existing on-page tag or create a new one. 

Web stream details in Google Analytics 4 settings for setup process

As you reach this page, the “View tag instructions” button can be used, and you may also find a window that opens up to that page to help you install the tag.

There are two main types of ways to install a Google Analytics 4 tag:

  1. Measurement ID: this number is often used in plugins, Google Tag Manager or software as a service setting, e.g. Squarespace.
  2. Google tag (javascript): the full length of the code. This is often placed in the theme header file or a plugin.

Good to know: Google promotes Google Tag Manager for this task and offers detailed instructions. Google Tag Manager is a free tool that keeps your website tracking tags tidy across multiple platforms. For example, you can use Google Tag Manager to create tags for Linkedin, Meta, Hotjar (scroll and heatmaps) and many other tools. It’s a bit techy, so you may need our help.

GA4 Tag configuration options and recommendations

Google provides you with two tabs for the installation.

Install code manually or choose a common website builder or Content Management System.

Or the Google Tag Manager option.

Installation instructions tab with install code manually or install with a website builder or CMS option in GA4

Google has provided thorough details relating to setup options for common websites.

Currently, the tool has the following:

  • BigCommerce
  • Drupal
  • Duda
  • GoDaddy
  • MonsterInsights plugin (WordPress)
  • one.com
  • Shopify
  • Site Kit plugin (WordPress)
  • Squarespace
  • Typo3
  • Wix
  • WooCommerce plugin (WordPress)

We’ve collated the most common ones here with our top recommendations.

WordPress

WordPress is a leading content management system that powers more than 40% of websites on the World Wide Web.

You can install Google Analytics in a few ways, and the option you choose will depend on your preference.

Plugins: one-click connection or the G Measurement ID

  • Google Site Kit: a basic plugin that lets you connect your Google Analytics to your WordPress site in seconds. Not recommended for those using eCommerce.
  • MonsterInsights: offers a free version, but the paid version will allow you also to track additional events, along with eCommerce options. The reporting features also benefit those who like to keep their data simple.
  • GTM4WP: If you use Google Tag Manager, this is the best free plugin to add extra layers of event tracking and eCommerce values. It’s techy and is part of our eCommerce package.

Website builder level: full javascript code method

  • Elementor: In your WordPress backend, select the left sidebar menu “Elementor” and look for “Custom code”. Then, “Add new”. Your Google tag will be on the “Header” option. The advantage of this option is you can also set conditions for when the code should fire on specific pages.
  • Divi: Divi theme builder lets you add head and body tags to the theme settings. Find “Divi” in your backend, then “Theme Options” and “Integrations” to find the code snippet section.

Theme file: full javascript code method

  • WordPress backend: go to “Appearance” > “Themes” and look for the “header.php” file. Then paste the code just after the <head> open tag before the </head> close tag.
  • cPanel: most web hosting companies provide access to something called cPanel. Log in, find “File Manager, ” then look for the “public.html” file. Once there, select the website, or if only one, it will be “wp-content”, then “themes”, and choose the active theme on the website. Select the “header.php” file with your mouse and click “Edit”. Here, look for the open <head> tag and paste the code after this before the end </head> closing tag.
cPanel tools include file manager to change code in backend for wordpress install of GA4

Be mindful that if you change themes, you’ll need to remember to repeat this step. It’s also recommended to copy the full code as a backup, in case your code change causes any issues.

Shopify

The Google and YouTube channel app is a great option and free for Shopify stores.

If you want to set up server-side tracking because you accept a large volume of sales and want fewer discrepancies with your data, then paid options like Littledata from $99 USD a month or Elevar ($0 option for up to 100 orders a month) provide these options and more data for your Google Analytics 4.

There is also Analazify, which offers lifetime access but is not server-side tracing, for $749 USD.

You can also install the Google Analytics code in your theme, but is less recommended as you have to remember not to forget it when changing themes. If you prefer to do this, Go to online store > themes > actions (on relevant themes) > edit code > theme.liquid > add code to <head> tag section.

Squarespace

  • Settings: Go to “Settings”, then “Developer Tools” and “External API keys”, and add your Google Tag measurement ID.
Squarespace settings to setup Google Analytics 4 on Squarespace website

Squarespace supports eCommerce tracking automatically after you enter the Google Tag, making it the best option to add Google Analytics 4.

  • Code injection (somewhat techy): Add Google Tag script or Google Tag Manager from the data stream to the code injection section. Note that this option is only available for paid business or commerce plans. The code injection is now in “Website” then “Website Tools” Scroll down to “Utilities” and go to “Website Tools” and “Code injection”. You can also get there quicker by typing “code injection” into the main search bar for settings.

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager is a free tool to add Google Analytics and create custom events to track interactions that ocurr on your website.

Google Tag Manager can also be used for other platforms such as Meta, Linkedin Insight tag and other tools for marketing and website professionals.

The Google Analytics tag can be added to Google Tag Manager by adding the Google Tag option. If you use Google Tag Manager to track custom events, but prefer to keep Google Analytics tracking natively in a platform (e.g. BigCommerce, WordPress or Squarespace) you can make sure the Google Tag has no page view trigger to fire that tag.

Steps to set up Google Tag Manager account

  1. Ensure you’re signed into the Google account you want the GTM account to be associated with.
  2. Open a new tab or click Google Tag Manager.
  3. Click “Create Account”
How to setup a new Google Tag Manager account with settings

Account name: website or business name.

Country: your origin e.g. we’re in Australia.

You have the option to share data anonymously with Google (optional).

Under the container setup

Container name: website is usually best.

Target platform: if you’re tracking a website and it’s not server-side tracking select “Web”.

After doing this, you will install Google Tag Manager on your platform. The main difference is there is also an opening <body> tag to install GTM if you’re adding the full javascript code method.

How to add Google Analytics tag to Google Tag Manager

Once you’ve created the account now press “Add new tag”.

Google Tag Manager add a new tag option
  1. Start by naming the tag: for example, “GA4 Tag” or whatever makes sense to you.
  2. Select the option “Google tag”.
  3. Enter the Google Measurement ID under “Tag ID”.
  4. Select the “Triggering” box and select “All Pages” or make a new trigger to exclude some pages or scenarios.
GA4 Tag set up for Google Tag Manager by selecting Google Tag
Choose a trigger for the Google Tag to fire in Google Tag Manager

Then press “Save” and after closing the box “Submit” the tag.

For Google Tag Manager to work, make sure you have installed the Google Tag Manager base code to your website.

Step 3: Check that your tag is working

You can check whether the tag is firing in the data stream section.

Or you can use the free Google Tag Assistant.

How to use the Google Tag Assistant

  1. Head to Google Tag Assistant.
  2. Click “Add domain”.
  3. Type in the website you’ve installed the GA4 tag including the https:// part.
  4. Click “Connect” and leave the debug URL setting ticked.
  5. A new window or tab will appear with your website. Scroll down and go to a few pages.
  6. Look in the other window to see if you can see the Google Tag showing.
Google tag assistant to test if the google analytics 4 tag is working or not
Google Tag assistant shows what tags are firing and when for website to test if GA4 is working

Look for the Google Tag. When visiting a page make sure you get a “Page view” on your Google Analytics 4 tab.

Good to know: You can use this tool to test other events e.g. Scrolls when you scroll down 90% your page and other custom events.

Troubleshooting Google Tag issues

If something is not connecting, you can do a few things. Check:

  • you added the correct measurement ID or tag;
  • tag is placed in the correct theme file or spot;
  • whether your changes, e.g. file manager / edit codes, are saved or published;
  • whether there are any users on your website at this particular time, if not, try accessing your website on a different tab and refresh the page.
  • if you have created a filter previously excluding your IP address.

Step 4: Set up internal filters

Use filters to exclude your own traffic or your teams. GA4 no longer has a View setting, which means getting the filters right is crucial *see also Step 7.

  • Go to Admin (gear icon) bottom left corner.
  • Under “Data collection and modification” select “Data streams”.
  • Then select the given data stream next to the right one, using the > symbol. 
  • Next, scroll down and select “Configure tag settings”.
  • Press the “Show more” option.
  • Select “define internal traffic” by using the > symbol.
  • Press the “Create” option.
  • Enter a rule name, e.g. internal IP Office
  • Leave it as internal unless you want to differentiate the rules, then select the dropdown for the IP option you have.
  • Find your IP address at whatismyip.com or something similar and paste it in. Choose the match type as equals.
  • Press Create to save your settings.
Filter out your own Internet Protocol address in GA4 settings

Rule name: to represent whose IP it is.

Traffic_type value: internal should be left as default (unless advanced user).

IP addresses: select the match type and then enter the value. Usually suggest “equals”.

Limitations of the IP address exclusion

  • You can have up to 10 filters per property.
  • If your IP address is not static (dynamically changing) after a few days, you may need to speak to your Internet Service Provider, e.g. Optus, if you can switch to a static IP.
  • Your IP address may change if your power goes out or your internet modem resets.
  • Use other tools like plugins or Google Tag Manager to exclude other use cases if the IP one fails. For example, on WordPress sites, you may want to exclude a user that goes to /wp-admin.

Step 5: Set up referral exclusions

A referral exclusion prevents users from starting a new session when they come from a given website. It turns the traffic from a referral to direct traffic. 

For instance, if you have a membership site on another domain that users then come back to yours, you may find it useful to exclude the membership site domain as a referrer.

Another important use case is for eCommerce stores that have payment gateways, such as Afterpay, which may take the user out of the site before completing the purchase. Doing this takes away the previously known information about the user, incorrectly attributing a sale to Afterpay compared to the channel they came from.

List unwanted referrals step in google analytics 4 to exclude payment gateways and other sites in between conversion
  • Go to the page before or Admin in the bottom left corner > Properties > Data streams. 
  • Select the data stream using the > symbol.
  • Choose the “Configure tag settings”.
  • Select “Show more” option.
  • Look for “List unwanted referrals”.
  • Press “Add condition” and add the websites in.

Good to know: Add your domain as a backup. Google Analytics is meant to exclude your domain automatically, but if that fails, you’ve added a plan B.

Step 6: Refine your data settings

It’s now time to improve your data collection. 

Google Signals

Google Signals is a cross-device data capture tool from Google.

Previously, it would cause issues with reporting. However, Google Analytics has resolved this pain point.

Google Signals helps to obtain additional signals from users, such as when someone is signed in to YouTube, to understand them better across devices. In the past, without this, Google could count the same user twice, once on desktop and again on mobile.

The tool is also used for ad personalisation and is needed if you plan to use Google Analytics Audiences in Google Ads or do remarketing.

By turning Google Signals on, you’ll also benefit from age, gender and interest category data. However, due to privacy constraints on web browser tracking and iOS devices, most users will get 10% or less of this data in their demographic reports.

How to turn on Google Signals

  • Click on the Admin (gear icon) bottom left corner.
  • Go to “Setup assistant” in the top left hand side.
  • View “Turn on Google Signals” if not already enabled by selecting the > symbol.
  • Click “Manage Google Signals”.
  • Toggle on “Google Signals data collection”.
  • Decide whether you want to enable hashed user data to be shared with Google for audience matching purposes. Select the industry you’re in and press “Save”. This feature is not recommended for financial services and healthcare data collection websites.
  • Toggle on “Granular location and device data collection”.
  • Check the ad personalisation settings if you’re in a exclude region.
  • Toggle the acknowledgement setting to enable Google Signals.
Google Signals data collection settings for advanced data matching and audience building for Google Ads

Data retention

Another key setting is known as data retention.

You can also find this option under the Admin menu for “Data collection and modification”.

The setting only impacts the drag-and-drop Explore (Exploration) reports. All other reports collect and retain data forever.

The default setting for these reports is 2 months. However, you should change this to a maximum of 14.

Data retention setting in Google Analytics 4 impacts explore reports only

How to change data retention in Google Analytics 4

  1. Go to Admin (gear icon) bottom left-hand side.
  2. Under the “Data collection and modification” menu, select “Data retention”.
  3. Change the default “2 months” dropdown to “14 months” or maximum (if it changes in future).
  4. Leave the ‘Reset user data on new activity’ toggled on.
  5. Press “Save”.

Step 7: Test your internal filter (refer to step 4)

We recommend you test your filters to ensure you’ve excluded – or included- the right event data. If you didn’t set up a filter in step 4, skip this. To test your filter setup:

  • Go to Reports in the main menu on the left-hand side of your screen.
  • Select “Realtime” in the reporting section and ask the user to visit the website in a new tab.
  • You’ll get to real-time overview, select add comparison, and then search for test data filter name.
  • Select Internal traffic. Please note that if you create a new differentiator, you must enable it first.
  • If the data in the comparison table shows the filtered traffic correctly, activate the filter.
  • To do this, go to your Admin in the bottom left corner, > look for “Data collection and modification” menu and select “Data Filters”.
  • Next to the filter, look for three dots, select that and press “Activate filter”.

Important to know:  Only activate once you’ve verified everything is working. GA4 no longer has a separate View setting, so getting this wrong will mean a permanent data loss within a defined period. 

Step 8: Setting up Events

Previous Universal Analytics users will know events as goals. Goals are no more in Google Analytics 4.

The new events setup is harder than the previous one and is similar to the event setup in Google Tag Manager.

How to setup a form submit event in GA4

If you want to track a page view or a form submission, the easiest way is to create a custom thank you page on your website for each form.

The thank you page redirects the user after they submit the form. It’s also a great way to tailor the message depending on which form the user has submitted.

A redirect is an option you’ll find in most form builders and website builders such as Elementor.

Good to know: Make sure to mark the thank you page as non-index so search engines and people cannot find the page elsewhere.

Once you’ve created your thank you page, it’s time to set it up as an event in GA4.

How to create a page view event in GA4

  1. Go to the Admin (gear icon) bottom left-side.
  2. Under “Data display” menu look for “Events”.
  3. Press “Create Event”.
  4. Select “Create” again.
  5. Name the event using _ underscore in between spaces. Keep the event name short.
  6. Make the first parameter “event_name” “equals” “page_view” (no change)
  7. Select the “page_location” “contains” and enter the page name in “value” excluding the https, www. etc.
  8. Leave the copy parameters from the source event as ticked.
  9. Press “Create” to save the event.
Setting up a page view event for a thank you page in Google Analytics 4

How to create other custom events in Google Analytics

We recommend using a plugin depending on your platform or Google Tag Manager.

You can also check out our event packages so we can do the hard work for you.

As each platform differs, it is hard to provide specifics. The code to track events can also differ between websites because it utilises the code in your theme known as cascade styling sheets (CSS).

Step 9: Connect your Google products

You can add key items such as Google Search Console (all types), Google Ads, and Google Merchant Center to Google Analytics, so you can import more data and make custom reports.

Google Ads connection is also useful when you turn on Google Signals to use Audiences from Google Analytics.

  1. Go to to the Admin (gear icon) bottom left.
  2. Look for “Product links”.
  3. Select the service you want to connect to and follow the prompts.

Good to know: Some permissions are required. For example, you need to be the site owner of the Google Search Console. 

Step 10: Cross-domain tracking (if applicable)

If you are tracking more than one website on your GA4 property, then you need to define these websites in the cross-domain tracking settings of Google Analytics 4.

However, if your domain is a subdomain, this step does not apply. A subdomain is your primary domain but with something else at the start. For example, say your site is raypastoors.au and you have another site called member.raypastoors.au (example only); this would be automatically tracked and does not need cross-domain tracking set up.

  1. Go to your Admin (gear icon).
  2. Look for “Data collection and modification” and select “Data streams”.
  3. Select the data stream using the > symbol next to it.
  4. Scroll down and click the “Configure tag settings” option under Google tag.
  5. Select “Configure your domains”.
  6. Add condition (or accept the suggestion). Use the “contains” and enter the domain (website address into each line item.
  7. Press “Save”.
  8. Test your website/s still works post the changes.
Cross domain linking configuration in Google Analytics 4 with settings to accept suggestion or add condition

Congrats! You’re done

After you’ve completed all these steps, congrats!

You are ready to enjoy the benefits of Google Analytics 4 and are well prepared to deep dive into your data. We also suggest checking out our event tag packages to get the most from your reports.

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