GA4 Implementation Options – Get the most from your data today!

Google Analytics is the gold standard of data collection and reporting and a must for all businesses. The benefits of understanding who is landing on your website and the way they navigate it can give you a real understanding of your audience.

In terms of leading a user to the point of conversion, whether that be a download, filling in a form or making a purchase, data plays a huge role.

Google recently announced that from July 1 2023, Universal Google Analytics (GA) will be discontinued and GA4 will become the only version of Google Analytics. We’ve spent the last few months assisting clients with the move to the new version and have set out a nine-step approach to help you make the switch regardless of your current position.

So, what is GA4 and how can you make the most of the switch?

Google Analytics 4 is an analytics service that enables you to measure traffic and engagement across your websites and apps.

Below we set out a Now, Next, Future approach that can be taken to implementing GA4 depending upon where you are in your website life cycle and relative to constraints that you may face. Brands and businesses can utilise any number of these options and implement them as part of the future-proofed data strategy.

Phase 1 - Now - To address urgent deadline for YoY tracking for at least baseline data

1. GA4 Enhanced Measurement Tracking - Standard Implementation
2. GA4 Enhanced Measurement tracking - Native Implementation
3. GA4 Enhanced Measurement tracking - Using existing GTM tracking

This is the starting point for those businesses that need to make the change as a matter of urgency. Businesses should consider updating their tracking specification in line with GA4. They should set up web properties for each environment and consider the following:

• Implement GA4 tag
• Implement Measurement ID Lookup in GTM container to start upon cookie acceptance
• Add QA tracking using GTM Preview Mode on pre-production environments
• Deploy tracking on live environment

The benefits of this approach are that using the GA4 analytics library to fire Enhanced Measurement tracking is the fastest way to deploy a basic GA4 configuration on a website to start gathering baseline data and no FED / BED intervention is required.

They also allow you to implement an equivalent of GA4 Enhanced Measurement tracking but by piggybacking the data collection already in place for existing GA3 tracking. Businesses also gain parity of GA3 and GA4 data collection – with the same triggering used by both platforms.

Phase 2 - Next - Tailor GA4 to your requirements to get familiarity with the product and allow similar reporting / analysis to GA3

4. GA4 Conversion Events
5. GA4 Custom Events

The next phase looks at getting the most out of your future data and helps you to define your KPIs.

Things included in phase two include:

• Prioritising KPIs (Conversions) to track in GA4
• Updating analytics specifications to record new GA4 events being sent through custom tracking or through GA4 configuration
• Implementing duplicate GA4 custom events in GTM based upon existing GA3 tracking
• Adding QA tracking using GTM Preview on pre-production environments
• Begin deploying QC tracking on live environment

The benefits here Implements an equivalence of GA3 Goal tracking where that is currently used by a user to tailor GA4 to their reporting and analysis needs.

Custom event-based tracking will have parity with existing GA3 custom events and audience triggered events can have a similar parity to GA3 by setting to Session scope

Again, no FED / BED intervention is required, and this approach also limits technical debt to the analytics-side of your digital strategy.

Phase 3 - Future / Alternative approaches subject to full analytics review, timescales, and budgets

Phase 3 looks to the future and although some are time sensitive there are a broad set of considerations from immediate actions to a full analytics review. Options 6-9 are:

6. Duplicate all GA3 events as GA4 events mimicking GA3 event schema
7. Dual tracking in GA3 and GA4 until sunset of GA3, then continue with non-GA4 data layer for GA4 tracking
8. Full analytics review, redefinition of web analytics KPIs, implement GA4-first tracking and GA3 tracking
9. Full analytics review, redefinition of web analytics KPIs, implement GA4 tracking only

Things included in phase three include:

• Update analytics specification to record GA3 events being replicated as GA4 custom events using the same dimensions for all events
• Update analytics specification to record GA3 and GA4 tracking for future site components, then GA4 only after sunset of GA3
• Implement duplicate GA4 custom events in GTM based upon existing GA3 tracking
• Implement new GA3 and GA4 tracking in GTM based upon GA4-first data layer
• QA tracking using GTM Preview on pre-production environments
• Deploy and QC tracking on live environments

The benefits here are as follows:

• These steps aim to duplicate the events currently being sent to GA3 into GA4 by using an equivalent dimension schema of event_category, event_action and event_label to use the minimum number of GA custom dimensions possible
• They allow for data collection and reporting in GA3 interface until GA3 data collection stops and for historical analysis whilst that data pot remains available
• They allow for baselining GA3 against GA4 data
• They do not require a complete data layer rebuild
• They do not incur cost of specifying, building and testing tracking for both GA3 and GA4

Summary

Typically, brands can match options in a number of ways and a synopsis of the 9 key steps are as follows:

• Options 1, 2 and 3 are all variations of a no pressure set up offering varying degrees of consistency with existing GA3 tracking
• Options 4 and 5 build upon that to tailor GA4 to client specificities starting with Conversions and then detailed Component tracking but without redesigning the data layer for GA4
• Option 6 is a fallback where a client just wants everything they have now thrown into GA4 but without much effort expended upon prioritisation or tailoring to GA4's way of working
• Option 7 is for when GA4 is implemented on an existing site and new features are tracked in GA3 and GA4 but without redesigning the data layer for GA4
• Option 8 is for clients that review their analytics or new builds prior to July 2023 and have the time to implement a GA4 data layer to gather enough GA3 and GA4 data for comparison
• Option 9 is for clients that review their analytics or new builds that will go live after July 2023 when GA3 data collection is scheduled to have ceased.

To find out more about GA4, Google Analytics, taking control of your data or harnessing the power of data and insight to boost your business performance, why not get in touch? Contact our team today...