If you’ve recently transitioned from Universal Analytics or are a new Google Analytics 4 user who just created a property, you’re likely eager to ensure your GA4 setup is on the right track. We’re here to assist you!
In this guide, we will delve into the recommended practices for configuring Google Analytics 4 and the essential settings you should check to ensure your account runs properly.
Let’s dive in!
1. GA4 Account Settings
You can find the architecture of your Google Analytics account in the Admin section of your account.
To the left, you’ll find your account settings, while to the right, you’ll discover all settings associated with the property.
First, we will check out Account settings.
Here, you can view fundamental details such as the name of your account, country, and a few options for data sharing.
Account Access Management
Moving on, let’s discuss the Account Access Management section.
This section lets you gain insights into the account managers and those who can access your properties.
You’ll find a user list, their email addresses, and the roles and data restrictions associated with their access to this account. If you want to grant access to other users, you can do so individually or collectively by creating user groups.
- Tap the plus (+) icon, then choose “Add users.”
- In this stage, you’ll enter the email addresses they use and then assign them a role.
One of the handy features of GA4 is the ability to limit the data that a particular user can see. You can hide the cost, revenue metrics, or both. For example, if you hire a new intern and prefer not to share this data with them, you can easily keep it hidden by selecting these options.
Account Change History
In the Account Change History, you can review a list of all the changes on the account.
GA 4 Property Settings
Now, let’s dive into the more intriguing aspect of reviewing our GA4 setup: the property settings.
Now, let’s move on to the reporting time zone and currency categories, which you should always double-check.
Typically, you would choose the time zone and currency based on your business’s headquarters, but there could be instances where you’re targeting a different location.
You should consistently review this section because it directly influences the information displayed in your reports.
Property Access Management
Now, let’s shift our focus to Property Access Management.
The users with access to this property are listed here, with information on their roles, email addresses, and data limitations.
It is crucial to review both the account and property access management sections. Adding a user at the account level when they should only have access to a specific property is a common mistake.
Within the Data Settings, you can see the Data Collection section.
You can choose to activate Google Signals here. Google Signals are session data from websites and applications associated with users who have signed into their Google accounts.
Remarketing, cross-device reporting, and the export of conversions to Google Ads are all made possible by this data linkage. You can use it to thoroughly understand how users engage with your online platform using different browsers and mobile devices.
If your report or analysis lacks data, it could be due to Google Analytics applying a data threshold. These thresholds are in place to prevent individuals from identifying specific users based on limited demographic information, which occurs when there’s only a small number of users in the dataset.
These system-defined data thresholds cannot be changed. You may check this by switching to device-only reporting if you’ve generated a custom event in a property with Google Signals enabled and data thresholding is active.
When you apply a threshold, you’ll see that the data indicator adjacent to the tile turns orange. Hovering over the indication displays additional information about this data threshold.
Data Retention Settings
Data retention controls help determine how long user-level and event-level data remains on Google Analytics servers before automatic deletion.
When establishing a Google Analytics 4 property, the default data retention period is two months. However, you can extend this period for up to 14 months.
We strongly recommend considering an extension to 14 months for this data retention period, provided there are no legal restrictions and it’s been confirmed with your legal department.
These settings won’t significantly impact most typical reports, as they depend on summarized data. Nevertheless, anything linked to cookies, user identifiers, or advertising identifiers will become obsolete once the chosen time frame passes.
Let’s examine the Data filters section to understand better how it operates.
Applying internal traffic filters usually ensures your reports remain accurate and free from unwanted data. For example, you can discount the traffic you and your colleagues generate.
To implement this filter, select “Internal Traffic” as the filter type.
Unlike Universal Analytics, there isn’t much more to configure in Google Analytics 4 besides the filter type. GA4’s data filtering options are relatively limited.
Further down the page, you’ll find the filter state, which you can change to “Testing,” “Active,” or “Inactive.” The “Active” and “Inactive” options are self-explanatory, but what about the “Testing” option?
GA4 allows you to test your created filters because they cannot be applied retroactively. This will enable you to ensure the filter works as expected before becoming active.
To properly remove internal traffic, you must first define what comprises internal traffic.
Navigate to “Data Streams”, then select the stream you want to mark as internal traffic.
Next, tap on the “Configure tag settings.”
Expand that and select “Define internal traffic.”
Here, you can enter your and your colleagues’ IP addresses of the devices. Google Analytics will detect that traffic from these devices or networks should be considered internal.
Linking GA4 to Other Tools
The final step is to ensure you’ve linked your GA4 property to various essential tools. These often include Google Ads, the Search Console, BigQuery, and Merchant Center, though the precise tools will depend on your requirements.
The process of linking is quite simple. For instance, to link Google Ads, click “Google Ads Links” and select “Link.“
Select your Google account to complete the linking setup.
Linking GA4 to Search Console
In the GA4 property, go to Admin, then Search Console Links.
Click the Link button in the upper right corner.
Then, go to Google Search Console Property, and select Accounts.
There will be a new list of properties where you are a verified site owner. Select a property and then click Confirm. Only one GSC property can be linked to one GA4 property/web stream.
Then, choose which web stream you wish to associate with that Search Console property. Select the stream by clicking Select
Finally, you must review everything and click Submit.
Following that, you will notice a green badge Link Created. This shows that you successfully linked two properties. You will see data in the reports after 24 hours.
3. Unwanted Referrals
Referrals represent the portion of visitors who come to your website from somewhere else, such as by clicking a link on a different website. Analytics automatically figures out the previous web address people were on before landing on your site and shows the names of those websites in your reports as the sources of referral traffic.
To ensure that your data includes only the referrals you want, you can establish a set of criteria to pinpoint the domains whose traffic you prefer not to classify as referrals.
When you set up these conditions, Analytics reviews the events coming from your website and adds the “ignore_referrer” parameter with a value of true to each event that meets the criteria (ignore_referrer=true). This parameter signals to Analytics that the referrer should not be shown as a traffic source.
Every website where you have the Google tag is subject to the conditions.
Common Uses for Unwanted Referrals
Let’s go over situations where you wouldn’t want to classify traffic from a domain as referrals:
- Third-party payment processors
An online store utilizing an external payment processor, where customers return to your website after completing their purchase on the third-party platform.
- Website-managed interactions
Transactions coordinated via a website but involving various third-party domains, such as a password recovery process that sends emails to users, resulting in traffic from the email domain returning to the website. In this context, the email domain serves as a component of your business rather than a traffic source.
- Automatic self-referral detection
Self-referral traffic is traffic that comes from pages on your domain. Analytics will not consider traffic as a referral by default if:
- The referring website matches the current page’s domain or any of its subdomains (for example, your own website).
- When the referring website results from a cross-domain measurement setup, like when a user moves between domains you’ve configured in your domain list, and the current page includes the linker parameter “_gl.”
Unwanted Referrals Setup
You must have the Editor role on the property to configure undesired referrals.
You can set up a maximum of 50 undesired referrals for each data stream.
- In the Admin section, select Data Streams in the Property column.
2. Choose Web, and select a specific web data stream.
3. Tap on Configure tag settings located at the bottom.
4. Head over to the Settings section, then Show All. You will see all available settings.
5. Select List unwanted referrals.
In the Include referrals that match any of the following conditions:
- Opt for a match type.
- Under Domain, provide the identifier for the domain you want to match.
- The Add condition option allows you to include another domain.
- The OR logic is used to evaluate conditions.
- Tap on Save.
4. Reporting Identity
GA4 has three alternative reporting identity options, which we will explain below.
By default, when you create a GA4 property, it employs the blended reporting identity option. This option utilizes the first accessible data by following these four methods in the specified sequence: User-id, Google signals, Device-id, and modeling. The blended reporting identity option is highly versatile, encompassing both observed and modeled data.
The observed reporting identity option exclusively relies on observed data and excludes modeled data. This means it won’t consider situations where user data cannot be observed, such as when a user has declined cookies. The observed reporting identity option utilizes the first accessible data by cycling through the remaining three methods in this order: User-id, Google signals, and Device-id.
The device-based reporting identity option relies solely on observed data obtained through the device-id method. While it is the least flexible among the three options, it closely aligns with user calculations in Universal Analytics.
And there you have it! We hope our article helped you understand the key settings to consider during your Google Analytics 4 setup. You can follow our recommendations or experiment with the settings to determine what works best for your specific needs and objectives. Ultimately, tailoring these settings to align with your goals is vital to effectively using Google Analytics 4.
Explore GA4 With Us!
At Play Media, we use GA4 to monitor and analyze engagement and traffic on your website. Our team analyzes this data, offering insightful perspectives that can fuel your digital strategy. Stay updated on the latest advancements in Google Analytics 4 by following our blog.
Contact us to learn how we can help you utilize data and make informed business decisions!