5 Common Google Analytic 4 (GA4) Setup Mistakes

Reporting & Analytics | Strategy

If you didn’t already know, Universal Analytics was replaced in July 2023 with Google Analytics 4 (GA4). It isn’t the first (and likely not the last!) time Google Analytics has made an update like this. While GA4 is similar to Universal Analytics, there are a few nuances to be aware of. You can read the full scoop on GA4 here

Because you’re here, you probably already know the importance of GA4 setup. If you’re going through this process, there are several important items to keep in mind so that you set your account up with as much (accurate) data as possible.

Here are 5 tips and common mistakes to avoid during your GA4 setup.

1. 14-Month Data Retention

By default, your new GA4 account will be set up to retain data from the last 2 months. This will make reporting year-over-year data impossible to track, let alone compare quarterly data. Trust us that you will want to have the ability to see long-term comparisons!

Fortunately, there is a simple solution if you know where to find it. In GA4, head to Admin > Data Settings > Data Retention and select “14 Months”

GA4 14 month data retention

2. Don’t forget to link Search Console and Google Ads! 

After the GA4 setup, your account will not automatically sync with other Google products like Google Search Console or Google Ads. It’s important to do this so you have accurate search query reports and to make sure your remarketing audiences in Google Ads continue to add new users.

First, you will need to make sure that whatever email you are using for GA4 also has admin access to whatever Google products you want to sync to analytics. From there, you can find products to sync under Admin > Product Links. You will see a variety of other products you can sync with your data, including Big Query, Merchant Center, and more!

Once you’ve selected your chosen Google product, you will see a “Link” button where you can connect your account. 

3. Duplicating event tracking

Event tracking is probably one of the biggest changes between GA4 and Universal Analytics. The most important thing to remember is that if you’ve set up a GA4 event in Tag Manager (this is how what you’ve likely have done in the past), you do NOT need to do anything to register that information in GA4. The problem? If you add it as an event to GA4, you will start to see duplicate data as you are now tracking the same event, twice. Eventually, it will appear on its own under “events” as the data is collected.

After you have created your event in Tag Manager, you do NOT need to do this:

Clip of not duplicating event tracking

4. Setting up conversions

On that note, you WILL need to make sure that when you have added an event that you also want to track as a goal (an RFQ submission, for example) you add it manually. You cannot track a conversion without it first being set up as an event.

In the screenshot above, you will see a toggle for “mark as conversion” which will allow you to start tracking an event as a conversion. However, this only works once the event you’ve created actually starts to collect data. For example, if you just created an event, you won’t see it right away under “events”. But you still might want to add it as a conversion.

If this is the case, you can head to Configure > Conversions and select “New Conversion Event”. You can then add the event as a conversion before it even begins to collect data by using the exact same name for the conversion as the event. 

For example:

Event set up in Tag Manager: 

Note that “phone_calls” is the event name. Now add it as such to the conversions in GA4:

clip of event set up in tag manager

5. Set up custom audiences

Don’t forget to create custom audiences during your GA4 setup! This will allow you to look exclusively at different data segments, for example, Organic users, Paid Search users, and more. You also might have more customized segments you want to track, for example, users who did or did not take a certain action or users from specific geographic locations.

To add custom audiences, go to Admin > Setup Assistance and find Define Audiences under Property Settings. Select “Manage Audiences”.

You will find a few ways to add custom audiences or add suggested audiences based on technology (i.e. mobile only), demographics, and more. If you start from scratch (custom audience), you can segment users based on things like traffic source, session duration, events, and so much more:

Clip of adding custom audiences


GA4 can be a bit finicky upon initial setup, but we promise it will run like a dream if you mind some of these nuances! If you have questions or need help with the GA4 setup process, reach out to the Top Floor team for guidance.