Unlocking the Full Power of GA4: Configuration and Optimization Strategies

June 6, 2024 | Maite Beltran | Eliza Shaffer
GA4 Website

As Universal Analytics sunsets for all users (the standard properties were deprecated last year), with a final closure for enterprise users set for June 30th, 2024, it's time to look forward. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the next evolution in analytics and our team is here to guide you through optimizing your data and configurations to fully leverage GA4’s capabilities.

When migrating to GA4, make sure to utilize the ‘Setup Assistant’ in the admin panel.  The recommendation is to check everything as complete but do it yourself. Even though it's tempting to let Google auto-complete these steps, taking control ensures your setup aligns precisely with your business needs. Let’s take a closer look at these seven configuration options to ensure your set-up is optimized for your specific business objectives.  

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1. Turning on Google Signals

Google Signals is a configuration that allows you to gain knowledge of the signed-in users visiting your site, such as demographics (age, gender) and interests.

Google Signals is also a requirement to use audiences from your Google Analytics account in your linked Google Ads account (which is discussed later).

This feature caused thresholding in reports in the interface but was removed from the reporting identity settings earlier this year. Additionally, Google Signals information is not collected in BigQuery which may cause discrepancies in data between GA4 and BigQuery.

Ensure your privacy policy allows for the use of Google Signals before turning it on.

2. Setting up Conversions & Events

Conversions open up additional reporting that can be leveraged to evaluate marketing efforts or optimize your site or app, and ground your reporting back to business requirements. For instance, for an ecommerce website one of the main conversions could be when users make a ‘purchase’, but for a lead generation website, it could be the ‘contact us’ form. In GA4, there are:

  • Automatic events (AKA “out of the box”)
  • Recommended events by Google, which are events that are the same for every website/business
  • Custom events (actions a user can take  on your website that are important to your business)

Once the events have been set up, users must decide which ones they want to establish as key events (what we previously knew as conversions).

Think carefully about and only set up what is relevant as a conversion as there are limitations.

3. Defining Audience Segments

The power to mold your audience segments from the wealth of data you collect is both a strategy and an art. Users can sculpt these segments as broadly or narrowly as needed, ensuring they align with business objectives.

GA4 elevates audience definition to new heights. Not only can you pinpoint audiences critical to your business's success, but you can also seamlessly integrate these segments with your Google Ads account. This integration allows for highly targeted campaign strategies that speak directly to distinct user behaviors and preferences. For example, you can create an audience for users who added the payment information but didn’t finish a purchase and then create a campaign to impact those users with a special discount.

4. Managing users

This is one of the configuration options that hasn’t changed much.

It is always a good idea to check who has access to your account. Some businesses add users and never check back to see if there are users who no longer need access to their accounts. Reviewing access and permissions is important for data governance and security and should be done regularly.

Your organization may have one or more accounts, and each account may have one or more properties. You can manage users and permissions at the account level or property level.

The level of accesses in GA4 are:

  • Administrator: Full control of property, including the ability to manage users.
  • Editor: Edit all data and settings for the property. They can make changes to the Report Library. Cannot manage users.
  • Marketer: Edit audiences, conversions, attribution models, lookback windows, and events for property. Includes Analyst role.
  • Analyst: Create and edit shared assets like dashboards and annotations for a property. Includes the Viewer role. 
  • Viewer: See report data and configuration settings for property

Besides this, you can also select who gets access to cost and revenue metrics.

5. Linking to Google Products

Apart from Analytics, Google has multiple products like BigQuery, Google Ads, and Google Search Console (for SEO purposes mainly) that can be linked to manage and make the most of your data.

Unlike Universal Analytics, GA4 does not backfill BigQuery with historical data that was collected before the link date, so the earlier you link it to your Google Analytics account the better. (Plus standard properties can link to BigQuery now!)

If you are not sure how to link them, we’ve got you:

6. Bidding to GA4 conversions

If you're bidding on Universal Analytics conversions in Google Ads, be sure to switch that bidding to your GA4 conversions. Remember, your key events in GA4 become conversions once you link them in your Google Ads account.

If you're already doing this, you can track key events directly in Google Ads, ignore this, mark this configuration option as complete, and leave it as it is (in Google Ads), or import and set them to secondary.

Learn more about bidding to GA4 conversions, this functionality provides valuable opportunities for advertisers to optimize their Google Ads campaigns and understand their impact on conversions—but it also comes with considerations regarding data accuracy, privacy, and dependency on the Google ecosystem. As an advertiser, you should carefully evaluate these factors to determine whether the benefits outweigh the potential challenges for your specific needs and objectives.

7. Targeting ads to GA4 audiences

As previously mentioned, you need to have these two tools linked to use GA4 audiences available for Google Ads remarketing.

When linking, keep the default option as Enable Personalized Advertising, if you disable it, you won’t be able to use the audiences for personalization.

Once you have done that, in Google Ads, you need to go to tools and settings > audience manager, and then look for the audiences from GA4 and you will be able to apply them to any campaign or ad group.

Additional steps for our overachievers

Once you have covered these steps, there are a few more things you can do to make the most out of this “brand new” tool:

GTM Cleanup

Remove outdated Universal Analytics (UA) tags: To have a more organized tag manager and be able to locate our GA4 tags, we should delete all UA tags.

GA4 Modifications

Stay updated with new GA4 features and adapt your setup accordingly to harness the latest capabilities. You can see what is new here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/9164320?hl=en

Ensure key custom dimensions/metrics are registered

List the parameters (custom dimensions/metrics) in a sheet and check them off as you register them. Be intentional; you may not want to register everything, and parameters not registered in the interface will still pass to BigQuery.

Review UA Filters as in GA4 we don’t have as many filters anymore

By default, we have two options for filtering traffic in GA4: developer traffic and internal traffic. 
This means that the useful filters we had on Universal Analytics must now be done differently or that we might not even be able to apply them. (We hope this changes in the future).

Things to consider:

  • We can lowercase variables within GTM.
  • IP filters have been moved to the admin settings under the datastream at the property level.
  • Any channel/attribution rewrites can be done within Custom Channel Groupings at the property level.
  • If you had Universal Analytics views, you probably know that views are now unavailable. 
    • If you have GA4 360, you could create subproperties.
    • If you don’t have GA4 360,, the only option is to create more properties.
    • Hint: Create a new property for DEV/QA or lower environment data.
Set Up Alerts/Insights

Implement automated alerts and insights to promptly identify anomalies or trends in your data.

When something unexpected happens on our website, we can configure GA4 to send us emails and let us know that something is not working as it should.

To create new alerts or insights, you can start from your GA4 homepage, scroll down, and click on "view all insights":


From there, you will be able to create new ones (or manage the ones that you have already created):


If you haven't created any and don't know where to start, you can use Google's suggestions or create a new one from scratch:


Or, we have a list here.

Some of the most popular alerts are:

  • Your overall traffic decreases by a certain percentage (e.g.: 50%) over the previous day.
  • Your organic traffic decreases by a specific percentage week over week.
  • There’s a spike in direct traffic or a decrease in campaign traffic.
  • You had a certain percentage less purchase event count yesterday than the day before.
  • You had a spike in overall traffic or conversions.
Reporting and Dashboards

Another update, besides changing the whole tool, is that the reporting tool, Data Studio has changed to Looker Studio and we need to update the data sources to GA4.

The best way is to catalog our existing reports and update them to make sure that new reports use GA4.

Find here how to migrate your dashboards from UA to GA4.

Similarly, there is also a custom report section in the interface that is now available to both free and paid properties called the Explore section. This is a great place to do ad-hoc reporting or in-depth analysis, but there are report-sharing limitations and no collaboration capabilities.

If you need more consistent reporting, the ability to share with a wider audience or multiple stakeholders, have complex custom calculations or charts, or work on a team that all need to edit and access the report, then LookerStudio is going to work best.

Train your team

It is important that, with so many changes, we are on top of the latest updates and understand how to use GA4 to be able to squeeze its potential to the maximum.

Embracing GA4 is not just about adapting to a new analytics tool; it's about setting your business up for deeper insights, improved data control, and enhanced decision-making capabilities. Bounteous x  Accolite ensures your transition to GA4 is smooth, allowing you to capitalize on the full spectrum of features it offers. We offer personalized training for beginners to intermediate and advanced users. Stay ahead by embracing the future of analytics now.