How to set up Google Analytics 4? (Checklist)

Setting up Google Analytics 4 with our checklist prevents you from missing vital steps and data later down the road. Even if you have already set up GA4, you can still profit from it while doing an audit as a beginner, intermediate or power user…

Is a GA4 checklist useful for you, anyway?

The purpose of a Google Analytics 4 checklist is to make sure you have not missed important steps while setting up your account.

However, not all businesses have the same

  • experience with analytics
  • resources
  • hunger for data to create a successful business (A plumber doesn’t care about the shopping card abundance rate)
  • type of website (A one page site is not the same as a web shop with thousands of products)

Therefore, I have split this article into 3 parts:

  1. The GA4 beginner checklist: this is ideal if you are unfamiliar with GA4. Typically, you run a one man show (freelancer, coach, lawyer, etc.). Or you run a local SMB. Unlike your competitors, you realize data can give you an unfair advantage.
  2. GA4 checklist for intermediate users: if you generate the biggest chunk of revenue online, you’d better track and analyze the customer’s journey to and on your site.
  3. Checklist for GA4 power users: if you work in a big organization or manage GA4 accounts for customers, this checklist is the cherry on top of the sweet GA4 cake.

Before we take off, I want to make 2 important remarks:

  • If you are migrating from Universal Analytics, this article will be a valuable resource.
  • For each of the above levels of expertise, the Data Driven U team has created detailed step-by-step GA4 SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure). The checklists below are limited and summarized versions. For instance, I won’t dive into the important details of analytics and measurement strategies.

GA4 checklist for beginner

This checklist contains an overview of the basic steps to set up a Google Analytics 4 account from scratch to the point where you share collected data with others.

Before you begin

  • Make sure you have a Google Account that is linked to your business or work. When in doubt, just open the GA website and you will immediately see if you have the required account.
  • If you are not sure if GA is already installed on the site, here are some ways to do a quick check.
  • When you are not technically skilled, you can also use the GA4 setup assistant.

Set up an account in Google Analytics

In your Google Analytics account, you first need to create an… account. This sounds confusing, but think of it in terms of the structure of your company or organization.

Your business can have several websites, apps, brands, but in the end, all the money flows into the bank account of your company.

To create an account, click on the Admin clog in the left bottom corner.

Then click on the top of your screen, on the blue Create account button.

Now, go through the following 3 steps:

Step 1: Account setup

Use a descriptive Account name, for example, your company name.

The Account Data Sharing Settings are important to comply with privacy legislations.

The one I recommend keeping in all cases is “Modeling contributions and business insights”. This gives you access to e.g. predictive metrics in GA4.

Step 2: Property setup

A property in GA is a website or a mobile app (iOS or Android). Please note that you can also have a dedicated website to promote your app. In that case, you can set up GA4 to access the data of your apps and site in one property.

For the property name, you can best fill in your domain name, or the name of your site.

E.g.: “GA4 – DataDrivenU.com” or “DDU – GA4”

Although you can change them later on, it is best to select the correct values immediately for:

Step 3: About your business

This step is optional. If you want proper benchmarking stats, the best is to pick your Industry as accurately as possible.

What to check for while auditing a GA4 account setup?

Although creating a GA4 account is straightforward, a lot can go wrong or cause confusion later on.

  • Does the name of the GA account give users an idea of what data they can expect? Does it, for instance, show that it is GA4 and not UA?
  • Do the settings of the account really make sense to all the properties? Or are there, for instance, websites that target audiences in different time zones?
  • Do all the properties in the account fall under the same privacy regulations and restrictions? You have to accept the GA terms, but they can differ in each country you target.
  • Are all the properties in the account actually using the same currency? Exchange rates between, for example, pound sterling and the US dollars can give stakeholders false impressions about how the online business is doing in a certain region.
  • Is the account owner aware of the small print mentioned in the Google Analytics Terms of Service Agreement? And what is more important: does the privacy policy of the site mention that you, for instance, run Google remarketing ads?
  • Does the site run Universal Analytics in parallel? And is this really needed at this stage?

Set up a data stream

When your property is created, you need to set up a data stream. When you follow the previous step, this screen will appear next.

Alternatively, you can access these settings under: Admin > Property Column > Data Streams.

Here, fill in the URL and give the stream a descriptive name.

  • In this step, you can also toggle enhanced measurements on or off. Although this requires a bit more expertise, it is easy enough for beginners too.

When switched on, GA4 automatically tracks data of actions users can typically do on a website: download a file, watch a YouTube video, search on the site, etc.

The best you can do is activate only the ones that apply to your site.

For more background information about this step, you can read this in-depth article.

What to double check in the data stream during a GA4 audit?

  • Is the Android or iOS app connected to the GA4 property?
  • Are the proper enhanced measurements activated?
  • Do all of them collect data? Or, for instance, does the site also embed videos from other platforms than YouTube?
  • Is the right Hypertext Transfer Protocol configured in the stream (http versus https)? And does the site actually use this protocol on all of its pages?

All looking good? Then you can proceed with the next step.

Implement the GA4 tag

GA4 doesn’t collect data until you have added the GA4 tag to your site.

If you followed the previous step, you will automatically land on the instruction page in your GA4 account.

You can use different methods for the implementation:

  • Use Google Tag Manager. This is a bit more challenging than adding the script to your site. But it is absolutely the preferred way if you are working with different people or departments on your site.
  • Talk with your developers or web designer.
  • Check your website platform documentation. For instance, you can easily install GA on Squarespace.
  • Use a plugin for your CMS (content management system).

Test if GA4 collects data

Once you have implemented GA4, you want to be sure it works properly. You can wait 1-2 days or you can debug GA4 immediately.

That sounds much nerdier than it is. Even as a beginner, you can quickly find out if there is any activity in GA4 or not.

  • Open Reports > Real-time Report.
  • Visit your site in another browser window.
  • If you have 0 visitors in your report, there may be something wrong with your GA4 setup.

What data collection errors can you look for during an audit?

When you perform an audit of a GA4 account, you want to make sure the data is actually collected.

  • Is GA4 installed on all the pages of your site? Or at least on the most critical ones that make money or generate leads?
  • Is your cookie bar configured correctly to fire GA4 after a visitor gives consent?

Once GA4 is set up correctly, it is time to share it with others.

Share your GA4 account with others

You can share your GA account with team members or external service providers. Think, for example, of people who manage Google Ads for your business.

You can add and manage users on account and property level in the Admin section of GA.

In GA4, you can assign 5 access roles to users.

  1. Administrator: full control.
  2. Editor: similar to administrator but cannot manage users.
  3. Analyst: no access to account settings.
  4. Viewer: cannot create reports.
  5. None: no specific role for this account, but can have a role for another.

On the property level, you can exclude access to sensitive business data for every user:

  • No cost Metrics
  • No Revenue Metrics

What is important when sharing your GA4 account?

When performing an audit of a GA4 account, make sure to answer these questions:

  • Does the business owner have the admin role?
  • Do users really need to have access or are there other ways to present the data they need to do their job?
  • Does everyone have the right access to do their job?
  • Do the users still need access? Or have some of them left your organization?

If you have finished the steps above, your GA4 account is ready to collect data.

Now, you will need to learn how to use GA4 to your advantage. The learning curve can be challenging, but don’t let that hold you back.

GA4 checklist for intermediate users

Working as a team on your site and marketing, or providing GA services to customers, implies that you need more reliable data. The following steps will get you closer to your goal.

Exclude internal traffic sources

There are several ways to exclude traffic from your own people (developers, marketers, support team). In GA4 you can filter out visits based on the IP address.

Go to Admin > Data Settings > Data Filters > Internal traffic

And here you can set a range of IP filters.

Although this is a possibility, this may not be your best option.

Adding IP addresses from team members who work remotely into GA4 can be subject to privacy regulations in your country.

Talk with your legal department or tech team before implementing this. Or demand from your team that they use tracking blockers when they visit your site.

Link GA4 with other Google products

Google Analytics 4 is only one tool of the Google Marketing Platform. Since it can serve as your data hub, it is definitely the most powerful of all.

Connect it with other Google products and you will get more insights and better value for your marketing budget in return.

You can find the complete list of Google products under Admin > Property > Product links.

Here are the 3 most important ones for almost any business:

Google Ads links

Connecting your Google Ads account to GA4 opens a world of novelties in the advertising platform, such as automated bidding.

BigQuery links

Do you want more control over your data? Then you must absolutely read our extensive guide on how you can link BigQuery to GA4.

Search Console links

GSC reports in GA4 contain valuable information about the performance of your site in Google search. To link both products, simply follow these instructions.

Adjust data retention settings

GA4’s default data retention for data related to cookies, user or advertising identifiers is only 2 months. You definitely want a longer period. To change this, go to Admin > Data Settings > Data Retention

Here you can change this to 14 months.

Data collection settings

You can find the settings for GA4 data collection under Admin > Data Settings > Data Collection.

Google Signals

If you run Google Ads campaigns, you definitely want this feature to be active.

Make sure you check out this article by Jeff Sauer, the founder of Data Driven U.

Granular location and device data collection

This one is useful if you run a local business, or want to know in which cities your visitors are.

Advanced Settings to Allow for Ads Personalization

When activated, you can retarget users based on your GA4 audiences.

This checklist will keep you busy for a bit.

But if you can’t get enough of it, there is more…

Expert GA4 checklist

Use this checklist in combination with the previous two. Setting up, or auditing, these steps requires a deep understanding of both GA4 and marketing. But the reward for activating and configuring these features is high.

Set up content groupings

Content groupings will give you a deeper understanding of the performance of your content marketing efforts.

Custom exploration reports

Besides the standard reports, you can create your own custom explorations.

  • Custom events

You cannot activate all your conversions based on built-in events. Luckily, you can create custom events.

  • Debug GA4

Add debugging GA4 to your skill sets and you will make your life as a data-analyst or marketer so much more relaxed.

Debugging is the oxygen tank you need while deep diving into the sea of data

Is that it?

No.

As an expert, you can even do and check a lot more. To name a few things: ecommerce tracking, using predictive metrics, setting up annotations in GA4.

The reason they are not included in the checklist? You will discover that in the next paragraph…

Final note

Google Analytics 4 is not a finished product. It is clear that many changes will happen before we all wave goodbye to Universal Analytics.

Some changes were even happening during Jeff Sauer’s live courses. In those situations, you can react in three ways:

  • Panic. Or curse like a pirate.
  • Try to find a solution.
  • Rely on experts, like Jeff, our team and community of motivated students. If you let them figure it out, you will have more time to focus on your business instead of diving into the Google support rabbit hole.

On behalf of the DDU team, thanks for being here. We sincerely hope that our GA4 setup checklists will get you in no time closer to your success. But if you encounter problems along the way, we have plenty of resources to help you troubleshoot.

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