How to Set up GA4 Quickly but Properly

It’s that time right now where Universal has been given the death knoll and everyone is thinking about implementing GA4 when they had previously been hoping they wouldn’t need to touch it and learn yet another new technology.

So here is our method for implementing a best practice GA4 with the basic KPI tracking you need to function. Obviously if you have a big custom build in Universal Google Analytics you will need to think a bit more about implementing customisations and we would recommend writing a full plan to make sure you’re moving over the quality data points, rather than building another flawed data set. This is what we have been working on with clients a lot recently. But for anyone who wants to do it themselves, read on…

For 90% of analytics users it doesn’t have to be over complicated and hard work. So here’s how to build GA4 quickly and easily – whilst making sure you have avoided common mistakes.

The key thing to know is that the basic out of the box tracking tag is actually better than the basic Universal Analytics equivalent.


The tricky thing is that there are a number of hidden settings within the admin. This guide will take you through the steps to ensure that when you set up GA4 you will do it properly!

Step 1 – Create Your GA4 Property

You can do this in the Admin Section of your current GA Account. (Google has even provided a Wizard to help you) These steps are for those who want to do it themselves.


Admin > Property Column > Create Property – See the next 2 screen shots

GA Account Settings
Create GA4 Property

Add a name for the property (eg: PolkaDotData GA4) – I’ve added GA4 so I can clearly see in my Google Analytics account it is a GA4 account. Select the reporting time zone – for us Brits type in Uni and select United Kingdom. Use the drop down for the correct time (+1 for summertime). And change the currency to GBP by typing in GB or British for British Pounds

Select Next and you arrive at About your business page. Select your industry and business size. Just a tip – this is not required to set up your account (see below)


Click Create 

GA4 Settings

Add a data stream

Click either Web, Android app or IOS app (*we are just looking at web here in this blog)

GA4 Web Data Stream

Web – Enter the URL of your primary website eg: and a stream name Polkadotdata Web Stream

You have the option to disable or enable enhanced measurements. Enhanced measurement automatically collects page views and other events. Google recommends that you keep this enabled. You can always go back one the data stream has been created and individually disable the enhanced measurements you don’t want to collect. Just remember to Save.  Eg: We’ve disabled the scrolling event tracking as it is not an important KPI for our business.

Enhanced Tracking in GA4

Step 2 – Configure the GA4 Settings

There’s a few settings that GA4 has set as a default that should be changed to enable you to get the most out of your data. 

The first is change your data retention from 2 months to 14 months (this will mean you can make long-term comparisons)

Admin >Property >Data Settings >Data Retention – change from 2 months to 14 months and Save.

User and data retention in GA4
data retention options in GA4

Secondly – Google have defaulted the timeout for engagement to 10 seconds. Depending on your site and the engagement users usually have – you can adjust from 10 seconds to 60 seconds. To change session timeout manually Admin >Data Streams > Additional Settings > More Tagging Settings >Adjust Session Timeout.

It is best to adjust this only on new GA4 accounts. Polkadotdata is setting our timeout to 30secs as recommended by The Digital Analytics Association.

GA4 Additional Settings
More GA4 Tagging Settings
GA4 Adjust session timeout
Session Timeout Configuration in GA4

Step 3 – Add the GA4 Configuration Tag to your Website

This assumes your website is tagged with GTM

Start by creating a GA4 configuration tag. This is similar to your Pageview tag in Universal Analytics. All your GA4 Event tags will reference this Configuration tag. (This does not include mapping custom parameters or user properties to custom dimensions.)

To create a GA4 Configuration tag:

  1. Open the Google Tag Manager container that’s implemented on your page.
  2. Click Tags > New.
  3. Click Tag Configuration and select GA4 Configuration.
  4. Enter your Measurement ID.
  5. Select to trigger the tag on All Pages (or on the subset of pages you want to measure).
  6. Save and publish your tag configuration.
GTM new tag
GA4 Configuration Tag in GTM
GA4 GTM Configuration Tag and Trigger

Step 4 – Set up Conversions

Google analytics goals are gone – now the most important interactions are called conversions. You can create up to 30 conversions per property in GA4.

When setting up conversions in GA4 – take the opportunity to confirm which KPI’s are the most important to your stakeholders. Polka Dot Data has decided that this is the perfect time to conduct a review to see if any preexisting conversions (goals) are no longer relevant and set up some new conversions as our business adapts to the changing business environment. (You must have an Editor role to manage events and conversions in Analytics. )

To start tracking an existing event within GA4 as a conversion follow these steps:

Configure > Events. Locate the event in the existing events table. In the event’s ‘mark as conversions’ column, click to turn the switch on.

To create a conversion from the event name: 

Configure > Conversions. Click New Conversion Event. Enter the name of the new event. Be sure to use the exact event name with proper capitalisation. Click Save.

How to Replicate Destination Goals from Universal GA?

Many people are looking to replace functionality like for like. A common conversion in universal was set by a destination goal, such as viewing a thank you page. To do this in GA4, you do not need to set a unique event to fire on that page – you already have a page view event firing there, you just need to set which specific event and parameter combination is a conversion. To do this, you need to create a conversion event specific to it – 

Configure > Events > Create > Create (yes click it again, this time in the blue box), 

Then configure it like so (below), with a unique explanatory custom event name and choosing the specific parameter information you’d like to match as the new conversion event. Once created you can Mark as conversion.


custom event for conversion in ga4

Step 5 – Plan for the Future

Now that you’ve set up the basics in GA4 – data will start flowing into your property.. There are some more tasks that you might like to complete to get the most out of your GA4 account. 

Google automatically collects events and enhanced events (we left the option switched on above when setting up Polkadotdata GA4 account. Google has published a list of recommended events that may or may not be relevant to your website.If the event you would like to set up is not automatically tracking or in the recommended events list – then you would go ahead and create a custom event.

You may also like to define your internal traffic, set-up enhanced ecommerce, configure cross domain tracking, make changes to reporting, add additional triggers, set new custom parameters and connect your additional google products to GA4 – such as Google Ads.

You’ve already made a start – so the most important thing is not to feel overwhelmed!


Step 6 – Get to know the Reports

The change over in GA4 to event based reporting means that many of the reporting base metrics are altering. Take the time over the next few months to re-evaluate your website and reporting. Look at what information is now available to you and what benefits it could bring. Some reporting that you may have become accustomed to in GA Universal may not be available as a one click option within GA4 (eg: behavioural reporting) – and may require someone familiar with the platform to set up charts etc in the explore section. 


Remember that all the data you collect is pointless unless you have a purpose for using it. Do try to make a plan that suits your KPIs and business objectives, then stick to it and use a good naming convention!

And finally…

You might need some additional help with your setup or customisation of your GA4 property and that’s where we can help. Get in touch here to talk about our services – including our GA Universal to GA4 Audit and Set Up.