The new &  amazing Google Analytics 4: Activate, record but don’t replace

It’s been fifteen years since Google launched Google Analytics (urchin) and with that a revolution in digital analytics.  But that’s all about to change with the release of Google Analytics 4. 

So how is GA4 different from GA3 (Universal) and should you upgrade?

Switch on but don’t use

One of the key features of Google analytics (any version) is that data collections are not retroactive. So you may get to spring of 2021 and think, “Hey, let’s start using all those cool GA4 features”.   However, if you did not install it previously,  then you have no historical  data to use. 

The solution is to track everything in parallel but whatever you do, do NOT replace GA3 with GA4. GA4 is in beta and is way too immature to replace GA3 for at least the next three to six months.

There is a lot of information here so we have  broken down  this article into three sections:

  • Key features of GA4
  • Upgrade to GA4 in your Google analytics platform
  • Installing GA4 using Google Tag Manager

GA4 – it’s all about events (event-driven data model) 

So the big news is that GA4 is moving away from the “page views” model of GA and instead its focus is on events. Traditionally, the page view model serviced web analytics well; however, with GA4 designed to embrace all devices, whether they be mobile or single page apps, the concept of page views does not apply any more. So the “old” session model, where it’s all about page views, has been replaced with a flexible system of events, parameters and user properties.

This new approach is actually not new; instead, it comes from Firebase analytics and reflects the “omni” approach of GA4 which is replacing “Google app + web”, recognising that your users are as likely coming to you from their mobile devices as they are from their desktop.

Business Insights & Privacy

GA4 has events and business insights at its core, with machine learning doing duty by automatically surfacing helpful insights and giving you a complete understanding of your customers across devices and platforms. 

It’s privacy-centric by design, so you can rely on Analytics even as industry changes like restrictions on cookies and identifiers create gaps in your data. 

GA4 is also playing the competitive card by giving users access to features previously available to Google 360 users. These feature along its built-in integration with BigQuery (part of the Google Cloud Platform) which (I predict)  will be the analytics game changer of ‘21. These benefits, indeed some of these features, are still being finished by Google which is why it’s essential not to use GA4 as your default analytics.

So, without labouring the point,  GA4 is an early stage product (BETA) with a roadmap that will move google analytics from measurement to customer-centric measurement. 

Upgrade to GA4 in your Google analytics platform

We have documented the process of setting up GA4 in Google Analytics & GTM below; however, we have also created a short video tutorial below.

In your google analytics account, click the link in the property column that says “Upgrade to GA4”


On the next screen, under “I need to create a new Google Analytics 4 property”, click “Get Started”. On the wizard, leave the enable checkbox unchecked and click “Create Property.”


Choose Create property

Choose “See your GA property”

This will bring you into your property “Stream”.  Click into the stream and you will see the following screen:


By default, a feature called “Enhanced Measurement” is enabled and this feature will automatically track the following events:

  • Page view (event name: page_view)
  • Scroll (event name: scroll)
  • Outbound link click (event name: click with the parameter outbound: true)
  • Site search (event name: view_search_results)
  • Video Engagement (events: video_start, video_progress, video_complete)
  • File Download (event name: file_download)

These are considered by Google to be the most common events. There is a full list of Google recommend events categorised by industry  here

Step 2: Add the GA4 tracking code to your website via GTM

There are several ways to implement  GA4 depending on your current GA setup.

However, the easiest is via Google Tag Manager (GTM)  by  adding  a new tag for GA4 alongside the existing GA3 (Universal) tag.

  • Navigate to GTM
  • Choose New Tag
  • Give the Tag a name (We recommend you use “GA4” in the name)
  • Select GA4 as the tag type

You can then paste the measure ID into the GA4 tag configuration in Google Tag Manager. 

Choose a trigger for the Tag. In this example we will use “All Pages”


When completed, you should see both tags listed in Tag Manager. Your basic GA4 setup is complete.

So that concludes the tutorial, and as previously mentioned, this is the most basic version of GA4. As GA4 evolves you will build out your event profile and we will document and share with you these updates in our continuing series of “How to”s. 

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