The Google Analytics 4 Audit Checklist

The Google Analytics 4 Audit Checklist

Google Analytics 4 audit checklist

Conducting a Google Analytics 4 audit is one of the first tasks you should undertake when joining an organisation as a web analyst or consultant. We have conducted countless audits of GA4. You can see what this covers by downloading our GA4 and GTM Audit Checklist.

Google Analytics 4 is a powerful and flexible web analytics tool. But like any online solution it requires time and effort to set it up correctly and fine tune it to meet your specific needs.

Using a Google Analytics 4 audit checklist can also help to improve your organisation’s confidence in web analytics data. It will inform planning to enhance and maintain a high level of data quality.

1. Start with the customer:

Applying a Google Analytics 4 audit checklist helps to ensure you capture the data your organisation needs to know about user behaviour on a website. However, to align metrics to your business model and the customer journey. It is important to first create a measurement plan based upon customer goals and your organisation’s business model.

This framework is by optimisation expert Jonny Longden. The Ecommerce Performance Framework below shows how to align customer goals with your metrics and optimisation focus. This can help define your measurement plan and inform your requirements from Google Analytics.

Ecommerce Performance Framework for determining custom metrics needed
Source: Jonny Longden

This will allow you to create a measurement plan which documents your business goals, website goals, key performance indicators and targets. You can view an example of a measurement plan here.

2. Permissions and Structure of Google Analytics 4:

Many organisations lack simple documentation of which Google Analytics properties relate to which website. And which Google Tag Manager container is used for configuring tags. That’s why it’s a good idea to start your Google Analytics audit by documenting the GA4 Measurement ID and GTM ID on each of your websites.

You may discover that you haven’t got access to all the properties you need. Some websites may not have implemented GTM and have hard-coded GA base code.

This may give you the opportunity to recommend migrating to Google Tag Manager for Google Analytics implementation. Staying with hard-coded GA4 base code will only slow down and hinder a measurement plan.

Check whether each Google Analytics 4 property has a separate test and live data property. It’s essential to try out changes in your GA4 test property first, before you apply them to your live property. This will avoid loss of data when changes don’t have the desired impact.

3. Property Settings:

This covers basic settings including industry category (useful for benchmarking), time zone and currency. These should be set when you create your data stream, but it is worth double checking.

4. Data Settings:

Data collection:

Activating Google Signals allows your GA4 property to collect demographic data from Google, and cross-device audiences and insights. However, it also can trigger thresholds in GA4 to protect the anonymity of users. Unless you need GA4 to collect demographic data or intend to use custom audiences with Google Ads, we would not recommend enabling Google Signals.

Granular location and device data collection:

This allows your GA4 Property to collect metadata about city-level location and granular device details.

Data Retention:

Change the default setting from 2 to 14 months (50 months for GA4 360) to allow your Explore reports to access historical data for this period.

5. Reporting Identity:

The default setting for reporting identity is Blended which evaluates users according to user ID, Google signals, device ID, modelled data. This may be suitable for sites where a significant number of users log into a secure area. It may not be optimal for many other kinds of sites.

We find device-based works better if you want to avoid the issues surrounding Google Signals and would not recommend using the other two options unless you need Google Signals activated.

6. Product Links:

Under Property Settings go to ‘PRODUCT LINKS’ to see if your GA4 property has been linked to other Google solutions. Such as Google Ads, Campaign Manager, and Search Console. You will need to be the owner of these Google products to link them to GA4. You can configure product linking for some products. Such as Search Console, and Google Ads from your GA4 interface.

Search Console should be a must for any GA4 property because it allows you to view search query data with GA4 data. However, be aware that you can only link one Search Console property to a single GA4 property. This can be problematic if you are sending data from multiple subdomains to the same property.

7. Set Conversions and Register Custom Dimensions:

To flag your most important events, go to ‘Configure’ and enable conversions for all your key events. However, if your conversion event is a generic event. Such as a page_view or event_click, you will first need to create a new event in the console. Go to the Configure area and select ‘Create event’ and follow the instructions in our post about creating events in the GA4 console.

You will also need to register any custom parameters (custom dimensions) and user properties (user scoped dimensions) which you are sending to GA4. Otherwise, these dimensions won’t be available in your GA4 console reports.

8. Configure Tag Settings:

Garbage in, garbage out is a well-known data analysis phrase. Use filters and Tag Settings to improve the quality of your Google Analytics data by blocking hits from internal traffic and refining your GA4 configuration. Go to Admin > Data streams > Select your data stream < Configure tag settings and then ‘Show all’

Manage automatic event detection:

GA4 has a number of automatic events, such as scrolls and file downloads, but these are often not worth enabling, especially if you have already configured these events in GTM. Most experts agree these events are best turned off, and use GTM instead.

 Configure your domains:

Here you should set your domains to help prevent data coming from different environments being processed by your GA4 property. It also enables cross-domain tracking if you have multiple domains with the same tracking code.

Configure your domans

Include user-provided data from your website:

If you want to capture user generated data from your website, you should add a code snippet from this section of the console. User-generated data will be hashed to keep it confidential and will be sent along to your destination products that are configured to receive it with other event data.

Collect Universal Analytics events:

It is not recommended that you activate this feature unless you are not using GTM and have hard-coded GA script on your site.

Define internal traffic

You can block internal hits from being sent to your GA4 property by adding office IP addresses for anyone who frequently visits the live site. Don’t forget to Include third-party suppliers who work on your websites. Once you have added internal IP addresses, you will need activate these filters by navigating to ‘Data Filters’ which is accessed from Property > ‘Data Settings’.

List unwanted referrals:

Review your referrals report to check for unwanted referrals, such as payment providers, if you have an ecommerce site. Add these to your referral exclusion list.

Adjust session timeout:

Align the session timeout period with your website. The default setting is 30 minutes, but if you website does not timeout users when they are logged in, consider extending this to up to 7 hours 55 minutes.

Override cookie settings:

The default period for cookies in GA4 is 24 months. Adjust this period to align with your privacy and cookie policy.

9. Tracking Code:

To ensure tracking code is on all pages you had to previously use tools such as Screaming Frog to crawl your site to look for pages with no or incorrect code. It’s not uncommon to find embedded applications and iFrames missing code as these are hosted on separate domains.

However, GTM can now check your site and identify where script is missing from pages. Simply go to your GTM console > Admin > Tag Coverage.

Cross-domain tracking is another area to examine because it’s often perfectly possible to track the complete user journey even when visitors go between different domains. Cross-domain tracking is much easier with GA4 as you can set all your domains by going to Admin > Data Streams > Details.

10. Data Quality (Advanced):

Are you tracking customer verification emails and other email or SMS campaigns by adding UTM parameters to the URLs you use? UTM parameters can be used with many different types of campaigns to allow you to better understand how much traffic is generated by such activity.

Ecommerce tracking can be one of the most powerful ways of enriching your Google Analytics 4 data. Has it been implemented and if so, how well has it been completed? These are questions worthwhile examining as there is often room for improvement in either the implementation or the configuration of data layer variables and tags.

Custom dimensions, such as redirect count, session ID and navigation type, can be a useful addition to your Google Analytics 4 data. Again, refer to your ecommerce performance framework to help you identify the kind of custom dimensions that will most benefit your organisation.

11. Data Append (Advanced):

Finally, consider further enhancing your GA4 data with tracking micro conversions by capturing in-page interactions. Ensure you enable the capture of demographic data to better understand your audience. Also consider implementing User IDs to enable cross-browser and device tracking as this is becoming the norm as visitors’ multi-task with multiple devices and browsers.

Conclusion:

Finally, you need to invest to get a return. Google Analytics 4 is the same. To get the optimum value from Google Analytics 4 it’s essential to spend time planning and configuring the solution to ensure it fully meets your needs. I can guarantee the more time you spend setting up and enriching the data you collect in GA4, the more value you will get from the tool. You can download our Google Analytics 4 audit for free.

More reading

How To Create Custom Metrics in Google Analytics

Why Adding Element IDs Enhances Google Tag Manager Capabilities

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