Five common mistakes businesses are making with GA4

Despite its significant attribution flaws, the most common tool that most businesses use to track and measure traffic and engagement is Google Analytics. (As of July 2023, Google Analytics had an 85.4% market share.)

Recently though, Google made a significant change to their Analytics tool. They have ‘sunsetted’ their classic version, forcing anyone who still wants to use Google Analytics to use their new tool, Google Analytics 4 instead.

Are you using GA4? If so, find out five common mistakes you need to avoid.

What’s new about Google Analytics 4?

Unlike older versions, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) collects both website and app data to help you better understand your customer journey.

GA4 uses event-based data rather than session-based data, and includes privacy controls such as cookieless measurement, and behavioural and conversion modelling. Its predictive capabilities offer guidance without complex models, and its direct integrations to media platforms can help drive actions on your website or app.

GA4 was launched in October 2020 and, at the end of June 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties stopped processing data. So if you still want to track your website data using Google Analytics, you now need to switch over to GA4.

How to get started with GA4

If you aren’t yet using GA4, there are three ways you can get started, as long as you are an editor or administrator:

  1. If you’re new to Analytics you’ll need to set up Analytics data collection for the first time.
  2. If you have the old version of Analytics (Universal Analytics) you’ll need to add GA4 to your site.
  3. If you use a CMS-hosted website, you’ll need to add GA4 to your website builder platform or CMS.

Five common mistakes businesses are making with GA4

Like any tool, there are mistakes you need to avoid in order to get the most from it. Let’s look at five of the most common.

1) Not making the most of custom reports and metrics

An important aspect of GA4 is your ability to customise reports and metrics. Yes, you can use predefined reports if you wish, but these reports don’t necessarily give you the exact insights you need to make informed decisions about your websites, apps and sales and marketing campaigns.

By personalising your reports, you’ll have insights that will prompt actions that, in turn, will increase your return on investment (ROI). So if you haven’t yet explored GA4’s customisable reports and metrics, make sure you check them out now.

2) Not changing the length of time Google stores tracking data

Reports and metrics aren’t the only things you can customise in GA4; you can also adjust the length of time it retains data.

By default, GA4 is set to retain data for just two months, which is fine if you’re just checking standard reports on a day-to-day basis. But if you want to do more with GA4 then you can extend it to the full 14 months available. This is essential if you want to dig deep into your data, and conduct granular and comparative analysis over time.

3) Not excluding unwanted traffic data

Like the classic Google Analytics, GA4 records all traffic coming into your site. For some purposes this is great, but it’s not always helpful.

As well as search traffic, GA4 records referrals – that is any traffic coming to your website from another source, such as third-party links. While this can be useful to track your website’s SEO efforts, it’s not always great when analysing data.

Luckily with GA4 you can identify and exclude unwanted referrals by creating a set of conditions that identify the domains whose traffic you don’t want to identify as referrals. This ensures your data includes only referrals that you’re interested in, and that have value to you.

4) Not linking all relevant Google tools

With GA4 it is easy to connect all Google Tools, including Google Search Console, Google Ads, Ad Manager, and the Google Merchant Center dashboard, in one place. This will give you far greater visibility on your data, and what it means to your business.

For example, by linking your Google Ads account to your GA4 property you will be able to see the full customer lifecycle, from how people are engaging with your marketing, to how they complete the conversions you set on your site or app. So, over time, you can make changes to your campaigns that will increase your ROI.

5) Not activating Google signals for GA4

Google signals are session data from sites and apps that Google connects with users who have signed in to their Google accounts, and turned on Ads Personalization. This gives you a wealth of invaluable data, such as:

  • Demographics: Get insights into users’ language, age, gender, interests, and location.
  • Cross-platform reporting: Get an understanding of user behaviour at each step of the conversion process.
  • Remarketing: Create remarketing audiences from your GA4 data to share with your linked advertising accounts.

But in order to benefit from this data, you need to actively switch it on. To activate Google signals for your GA 4 property, you need to be an Editor. Here’s what to do:

  • In Google Analytics, click Admin.
  • Check you are in the right account and property.
  • In the PROPERTY column, click Data Settings > Data Collection, then turn on the switch for Enable Google signals data collection.

You can find out more about Google signals and how to choose specific regions in which Google signals data is collected here.

Avoid these five mistakes and make the most of GA4

GA4 has plenty of powerful features that can help you gain valuable insights into the performance of your website and apps, and improve your customer journey and advertising campaigns. But they’ll only work for you if you’re aware of them and using them properly.

We hope you’ve found this article helpful and it’s given you some ideas to use on your business going forward.

Love more advice on how to more accurately track the success of your advertising and marketing campaigns? Get in touch and speak to one of our experts.