Technically, you don’t need Google Analytics 4 (GA4) to measure your holiday sales efforts this season because Universal Analytics (UA) is still active.
However, next year at this time UA will no longer track data, and individual accounts will likely be closed and closed permanently around January 2024.
From next year, the only analytics data you’ll get (from a Google-owned analytics platform, anyway) will be from GA4.
GA4 measures website activity very differently than UA, so the only way to get a year-over-year comparison for this holiday season vs. next holiday season is if you have the latest platform set up correctly now. Here’s why you should worry.
So, here are 10 things you would like to make sure are properly monitored today.
(Author’s note: the configuration paths listed below are accessible within the GA4 platform itself and you must have administrator privileges)
1. Does your ecommerce platform already have a simple app or plugin to allow GA4 monitoring?
Six months ago, solid support for GA4 from platforms (eg Shopify, BigCommerce) was not yet available.
There are now apps out there that position themselves for simpler GA4 support.
Many of them are very new, so they don’t have a huge user base yet. Do your homework before installing one.
In fact, it may be best to consult a professional. You need to make sure that any app or plugin meets your specific measurement needs.
2. Do you have any referral exclusions that need to be added?
You may have a number of referral exclusions to consider. For example, PayPal, GooglePay, AmazonPay, ApplePay, etc.
Here is the path to configure it within GA4:
- Admin> Properties> Data Flow> Configure Tag Settings> Show More> List Unwanted Referrals
3. Is domain monitoring necessary?
If your ecommerce site is all about one domain, then no. You are good.
However, if you have multiple domains, make sure they are set up correctly. An example of this would be a site that has the following:
4. Are you driving traffic through Google Ads?
If so, do you have audiences built into Google Analytics to use in Google Ads?
Do you import conversions from Google Analytics into Google Ads?
It’s a great idea to do this, but if you’re currently using UA for conversion optimization, be sure to list your GA4 audiences as secondary, not primary.
To connect to Google Ads:
- Admin> Properties> Product Links> Google Ads Link
To connect to Google Merchant Center:
- Admin> Properties> Product Links> Google Merchant Center
5. Which analytics account is your Google Search Console linked to?
You can only link your Search Console to one analytics account at a time, so if UA is your source of truth and the primary usage platform for this holiday season, keep it logged in there.
However, if you’re ready to fully upgrade to GA4, it’s pretty straightforward.
To make that connection:
- Admin> Properties> Product Links> Link to Search Console
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6. Have you set up reports on the landing page?
Landing pages are often recycled for the following year, so for the purposes of YOY data comparison, you’ll want to make sure you’re ready for it.
- Reports> Lifecycle> Engagement> Pages and Screens> Customize Report (pencil icon on the top right page)
For a full tutorial, be sure to check out How to Create a GA4 Landing Page in 10 Easy Steps by Search Engine Land Contributor Krista Seiden.
7. Have you enabled the “advanced measurement” options for key events?
In GA4, all that is worth measuring is an event. Get used to it and make sure you’re ready. Everything about the conversion journey is an event.
For e-commerce, this includes critical touchpoints such as:
- Search the site
- Product list display page
- Product detail page
- View product video or gallery
- Add to Cart
- Visit the payment page
- Confirm the order
- Support page / chat
If your GA4 account does not show any of the above actions as events, you must configure them accordingly.
Many of the actions you will want to monitor (site search, video views, scrolls, etc.) require the “advanced measurement” feature to be activated.
In addition, tracking of form submission subscriptions, button clicks, phone and email must be set up as custom events.
To enable advanced measurement:
- Analytics> Properties> Data Streams> Advanced metering toggle switch
8. Are your attributions and search windows set up correctly?
While (according to the author) cookie cutter attribution models have questionable value in terms of what actually drove the conversion, they are relevant when running a campaign with multiple touchpoints in a buying process.
When it comes to search windows, the concept is pretty simple: “How far back in time do you look when measuring what helped drive the conversion?”
A good rule of thumb is 30 days for acquisition-related events and 90 for others.
It’s perfect? Far from it.
However, the default of 30 days should cover you in most cases (but there are exceptions, of course).
To make sure the attribution and search windows are set up correctly:
- Administrator> Properties> Attribution Settings
9. Have you looked into the GA4 threshold (smaller accounts) issue?
What is the “threshold”?
If you have activated Google signals in your GA4 account, you can get session details from sites and apps associated with a Google account.
While this can be useful for understanding user behavior, Google does not want you to be able to personally identify an individual via GA4.
For example, if your ecommerce site has a dozen products and receives 10-20 orders per day, there’s a good chance you can identify a single user by taking the order information and comparing it to the data you can see. through GA4.
If you’ve ever seen the threshold in a GA4 report, it’s terrible.
The good news is that there is a way around the threshold (for now), but you need to know where to look. Here’s where:
- Admin> Account Settings> Identity Reporting> Show All
Once there, click “based on device” and this will reduce the threshold issue:
10. How will you take the annotations?
In UA, the user can add an annotation to add critical context to a number.
For example, bad winter weather could have shut down the entire state for an entire weekend causing an anomalous spike in website traffic and conversions while people were stuck at home bored.
Know Why an anomalous peak in traffic has occurred is fundamental from the point of view of forecasting because the cause must not be considered a reliable and repeatable event.
As of this writing, annotations are not yet available on the native GA4 platform. (Remember the whole point in this article about the importance of year-over-year monitoring?)
Having annotations to provide proper context to key numbers is critical.
Right now, your best options are to document them separately or install a browser extension that gives you this capability.
Do a simple Google search for “GA4 browser extension” and you’ll see a list of choices.
(This author is neither endorsing nor rejecting the use of a browser extension, but will always recommend using only those with a solid installation base, are well supported, and are highly recommended by renowned industry experts.)
Annotations will no doubt be added natively to GA4 in the future, so documenting them in a spreadsheet in a safe place is definitely a viable option for now.
Make sure you have solid GA4 data for future use
GA4 has many possibilities, but also many complexities when it comes to configuration and use.
This article is by no means a complete checklist, as the platform continues to evolve.
But hopefully it will give you a solid foundation to make sure you can have solid data from this holiday period to use in future YOY comparisons.
The views expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily of Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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