Best practice settings in Google Analytics, GA4
Whether you are just setting up GA4 or you have already set up GA4 a long time ago, this blog post is intended to help you make sure you have the right basic settings in GA4.
In GA4, you can choose to start from the basic settings or modify and customize to better match your company's needs and business model.
Data is only valuable if it is accurate and relevant data that is collected and if you understand what kind of data you are analyzing. Therefore, it is also important to understand the settings you set up in GA4.
We will start with the basics - the settings in the account structure.
Users and permissions:
The first setting to be checked is users and permissions.
At the account level, you have to look overall at who has access to the account and all the assets under the account. Here it is common to forget to remove people who have left or agencies you no longer work with. Once you have set up GA4, it can be a perfect opportunity to take an inventory of permissions.
In GA4, Google has updated the access management and added the ability to restrict visibility of costs and revenues if desired. This only works for GA4 properties (see the image below for the permissions you now have to choose from).
It is worth noting that users and permissions also exist at property level. In connection with reviewing permissions at account level, it is a strong recommendation to also review users and permissions at property level.
Under "access management for properties" you will see users and permissions linked to the property. These may differ from the account level and are therefore good to go through here as well.
The account settings section contains settings for sharing data with Google. Here you can also change the name of the account and declare which country the account belongs to. All settings for sharing with Google can be declined and reactivated if you need to. For example, if you need help from Google specialists, you can activate data sharing at that time.
Filter in account level:
In the account level there is a section called filters (this section is completely uninteresting for those who are moving to GA4 as filters from this view only regulate UA properties).
Change History and Recycle Bin:
The last two sections under the account view are change history and trash can. They are exactly what they sound like. Under change history, you can find changes made to the account's properties. In the trash can, you'll find properties and views that have been deleted. They are stored there for 35 days after you delete something. After 35 days, you cannot restore these deleted items, they are permanently deleted.
Under the property you will find many more sections where you have the possibility to insert your property in the way you want it to be displayed.
At the top of the menu you will find the configuration assistant. Here you can get help and guidance on what you can set up in GA4.
But after reading this entire guide, you can skip it as we will go through everything you need to set up to make your GA4 property work perfectly :)
Settings for the property:
Underproperty settings you will find basic settings that most people don't spend much time on. But there are some important elements to consider here. First of all, the time zone and currency are important to get the right data on income and expenses, but also to ensure that events are on the right day.
It is also interesting to check the industry to make sure it matches your business. Based on the industry you specify, the standard reports in GA4 will change.
See the pictures below where we first have "business and industry" and then switch to "Games".
Under data streams you will (hopefully) find your GA4 data feed.
Here you can go in and fix settings for the specific data flow. If you click on your data flow, you will find, among other things, your flow and measurement ID, which is needed, for example, to add the GA4 script to your website, either directly or via Google Tag Manager.
You can also adjust, delete or add default parameters for events. Or change and create new events that you want to measure. You can also find these settings in the main menu under "events". However, our recommendation is to set up events via Google Tag Manager and import them into GA4.
Under "enter tag settings" we find some features that are worth looking at.
Under these settings you will find, among other things, settings for "Crossdomain tracking" under "configure your domains". This is important to set up if you have multiple domains or subdomains that you want to track.
It is also possible to set up internal traffic which you can find a detailed guide on here: Filter internal traffic in GA4.
Events and conversions:
Under the sections "events and conversions" you can view and add events and conversions.
Here you get an overview of both standard events that are set up under events directly in GA4 and events that are imported from Google Tag Manager. You can choose to mark events as conversions and then they will also be visible under conversions. The only standard conversion that is automatically under conversions is "Purchase". Conversions are what has replaced what was called "goals" in Universal Analytics.
In thetarget groups section you can see a list of created target groups and create your own target groups or segments.
Automatically, GA4 will have created two target groups for you; "Purchasers" and "All users". You can also create your own target groups to help you analyze some of your visitors once you start collecting data.
If you work with e-commerce, Purchasers is a good target group and we would recommend adding a target group that is "non Purchasers" to be able to compare these two target groups against each other.
Similarly, we recommend setting up two target groups for other users that are "converted users" and "non-converting users". Here it is up to you to create audiences that best suit your goals and help you make the best analysis possible.
Adapted definitions and metrics:
In the custom definitions section, you can create your own definitions and metrics. This is not a setting that is important to set up right away unless you have a specific goal with it. If you need to create a custom definition or metric, there will be a separate blog post just for that where you can learn when to create custom definitions and metrics and how to do it.
Under "data settings" there is a submenu starting with "data collection". Here you can enable data collection with Google signals. This will allow you to track users who are logged into their Google account across multiple devices. For example, you can follow a user who is logged into their Google account via Google Chrome at work and then uses the same Google account on their mobile phone later that day.
This helps you get a better picture of how users interact with your website.
The next section in the submenu is "data storage".
Here you can decide how long user data and event data should be saved in Google Analytics 4. By default, this is set to 2 months. But if you have the opportunity, our recommendation is to change it to 14 months. But this should also be checked with your legal team to be on the safe side :)
Under "data filters" you will find settings to activate filters for certain traffic. For example, here you need to activate the filter for internal traffic if you have set up a definition for it in your GA4 tag setting. See full instructions about filters for internal traffic in this blog post: Filters for internal traffic in GA4.
An important setting that you should know and understand can be found under "report identity". Here you can choose how GA4 should collect information about users. By default, GA4 sets this to "Mixed" which is what we recommend you to have.
This means that GA4 tries to identify users in the following order: User ID, Google Signals, Device ID and lastly Modeling.
In practice, this means that GA4 first tries to match a user through a customer journey. As mentioned in the section on Google signals, GA4 tries to match users even if they use different devices at different times to follow the user in their customer journey. If GA4 cannot identify the user in any way, it will appear in reports that there are several users when a user first visits the website via the computer and then the phone. We want to avoid this as much as possible so that we can get as good a picture of our users as possible and how many they actually are.
Identifying a user can be done in many different ways and this setting determines how this is done. If you use "mixed" as a setting, GA4 first tries to identify the user via User-ID and if that is not available, it tries to see if the user uses a google account and further down to device ID and finally modeling. Modeling is GA4's machine-learned algorithm that tries to pair multiple sessions to one user. This is called de-duplication.
The last important setting that we will go through to get the right settings in your GA4 property is attribution. Attribution is about which source should be credited with a conversion.
Imagine a user who visits your website three times. The first time the user finds your website via Google, the second time the user finds the website via an ad on LinkedIn and the third time they click on an ad on Google. On the last occasion, the user converts.
Which source should be credited with the conversion?
In GA4 you can decide how this should be distributed. Either you use last click attribution which only gives the Google ad attribution for the conversion, or you distribute it equally for all sources and give 0.33 conversions to Google Search, 0.33 to LinkedIn Ads and 0.33 to Google Ads.
In GA4, the default setting is "Data-driven Attribution". There, GA4 will use its algorithm to determine the allocation.
What works best for your business is up to you, but our recommendation is to start with the data-driven model and then evaluate what works best by examining this in the "Ad View" in GA4.
Then you can also select the look-back period for attribution. Here you can determine the time for both acquisition conversion events and all other conversion events. Our recommendation is to set this to 30 days and 90 days.
To learn more about GA4, you can attend Contitude's GA4 training "Introduction to GA4".