What is Google Analytics and Why Do You Need It?
You can do a lot with Google Analytics, but to keep it simple, it’s a tracking code that you add to your website. The code is used to track and collect data from traffic to your website to measure and analyze your website and marketing efforts.
Google Analytics is a free tool!
I recommend anyone with a website have it set up and view reports on your website traffic. It is useful when running online campaigns to see how they are performing and if they need tweaking.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Google likes to change things up – I think it might even be to keep us on our toes, but who knows! In 2012 Google Analytics introduced Universal Analytics (UA), and it’s what most websites currently use.
In October 2020, Google released Google Analytics 4 (GA4). At some point in the future, yet to be announced by Google, UA will go away. This means you need to be prepared.
The reason it’s essential to add GA4 to your Google Analytics account is that your account will not automatically change over from UA to GA4. You have to set up GA4 for it to work and collect data.
The kicker is that you shouldn’t just change from UA to GA4. It’s complicated, but basically, GA4 really isn’t ready for primetime, but Google released it anyway. While you do need to add GA4, it’s not fully functioning at the moment.
Don’t remove UA yet either; you need it for your reports while Google is still ironing out the details of GA4.
Why Add GA4 if it’s Not Working?
Data, Data, Data!! It’s one of your business’s most valuable assets.
When you install Google Analytics on your website, it does NOT collect previous data, meaning that you cannot see any analytics data for your website traffic before the time you added it to your website.
Unfortunately, Google is not connecting the UA and GA4 codes. If you don’t add GA4 to your website now, when Google switches to GA4, you won’t have any historical data!
If you add GA4, it’ll be collecting data now, so when Google switches over and removes UA, you’ll be prepared.
Let’s Set Up GA4
Again, Google hasn’t made setting up GA4 easy at all. I’ve set it up on various websites, and every single time, it’s been different. Because of the inconsistency, there isn’t a list of steps I can give you. I recommend you talk with your website developer or online marketer to set it up.
Once GA4 has been added to your account, then you need to check it!
Just because you’ve added it to your website doesn’t mean it’s properly working. You need to test it.
I would open a new browser, go to your website, and then see if it shows “realtime” traffic.
Find your Realtime Traffic
- Login to Google Analytics
- Make sure you have selected your GA4 account
- Click on “Realtime” on the left menu
- Open your website and click on something (a different page in your menu)
- Confirm the number of users has increased by 1.
If your number of realtime users increased by 1, then it’s working and collecting data.
Don’t Track Yourself in Google Analytics
If you are using an extension like Ghostery, you’ll need to turn it off before checking traffic with the method above and then turn it back on when you are done. I highly recommend using something like Ghostery, which will block visits you make to your website that would otherwise skew your data.
Another alternative is to exclude your IP address from Google Analytics; however, this won’t work for most unless you work for a large company that uses static IP addresses. Most internet companies give us a dynamic IP address, meaning it will change, often. This is why I recommend an extension like Ghostery.
Bottom Line – GA4
Make sure you have Universal Analytics installed on your website.
Install Google Analytics 4 on your website.
Test them to make sure they’re collecting data.
If you are thinking that Google Analytics 4 sounds like a bit of a headache, you’re right. I’ve pulled a few purple strands of hair out over the last few weeks figuring it all out myself.
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