GA4 Audit Checklist: A Quick How-to Guide
Are you looking for a quick checklist to help you audit an existing Google Analytics 4 (GA4) implementation? Look no further! Below is a step-by-step guide to getting started with a GA4 audit.
Let’s check out the TLDR version of our GA4 audit first:
- Data collection
- Is the realtime report showing data come in?
- Tracking code implementation
- Is the tracking code implemented multiple times?
- Where is the data coming from (which data streams) and how is tracking implemented i.e., gtag.js vs Google Tag Manager (GTM)?
- Are all pages tagged correctly?
- Data Filters & Retention
- Is internal traffic filtered out where possible?
- Is any traffic being filtered out that shouldn’t be?
- Is data retention set to 14 months?
- Enhanced measurement & Google Signals
- Enhanced measurement enabled?
- Google signals enabled?
- Conversions & attribution
- Are forms and/or ecommerce events tracking and reporting properly?
- What attributions settings are enabled?
1. Data collection
The first step in auditing a GA4 implementation is to check if there is data currently coming in. One easy way to do this is by checking the realtime report.
If you know traffic is coming to the website and not being reported it’s a clear indication that something is wrong with the implementation (see next step).
The two ways to know if your website should be getting traffic is past performance or manual testing. If your website typically gets thousands of visitors a day (as reported by your previous analytics setup for example) and now you’re seeing none – there’s likely a problem with the implementation.
For smaller websites with less traffic, it is especially important to manually test. If you just launched a website (like we did!) you’ll likely need to visit the website from a device while viewing the realtime report. Try from multiple devices and from different internet connections, if possible, to avoid filters (which will explore more in later steps).
2. Tracking code implementation
Understanding if your website’s Google Analytics implementation was done through your content management system (CMS), through Google Tag Manager (GTM) or manually will be helpful when troubleshooting issues. It’s important to double check the tracking code implementation even if you’re seeing realtime traffic to understand where the data is coming from – also known as data streams.
At this stage it’s important to answer questions like:
- How many data streams are feeding into the property?
- How is tracking for each data stream implemented?
- Are all applicable pages tagged correctly?
- Is there any possibility of duplicate tagging?
Checking the implementation method of each data stream can ensure there’s no gaps or duplication in your tracking code. GA4 will also show a green check mark and confirmation message at the top of the data stream details page confirming if data collection has been occurring.
Checking the tag coverage summary is also strongly recommended while performing an analytics audit as well to ensure all applicable pages are tagged correctly.
3. Data Filters & Retention
Data filters in Google Analytics 4 allow you to include or exclude events from traffic that met specific parameters. These settings are primarily to remove or reduce noise from internal traffic and developers testing. We recommend filtering out internal traffic, but we also recognize that doing so for dynamic IP addresses (which most devices use) presents a variety of challenges. It’s also important to check to ensure these settings aren’t causing events that should be measured to be filtered out accidentally (i.e., by improperly defining internal traffic).
Data retention is also crucial to check when auditing Google Analytics. When Google initially launched GA4 the data retention default was set to 2 months. It has since been changed to default to the 14 months (the max for free GA4 accounts), but for older accounts it’s possible to be missing data due to this single setting. We recommend ensuring that the data retention in Google Analytics 4 is always set to the max unless there is a privacy or legal reason not to (specific to your website or organization).
4. Enhanced Measurement & Google Signals
Understanding which configuration options are enabled and how they’re setup is critical to understanding your GA4 data and reports. Two important options to be aware of are Enhanced event measurement (or enhanced measurement for short) and Google Signals.
Enhanced measurement allows Google Analytics to measure and report out on more interactions, such as:
- Outbound clicks
- Site searches
- Video engagement
- File downloads
- Form submissions
Google signals helps improve the accuracy of cross platform reporting, create remarketing audiences, and measure user’s demographics and interests. This is accomplished by using data from Google users who are signed-in and have Ads Personalization turned on.
5. Conversions & Attribution
Measuring and reporting on conversions is virtually the most important aspect of analytics (outside of maybe ethics, legal and privacy considerations). Conversions are your measure of success and the best way to understand if your marketing efforts are working (e.g., tracking ROI or ROAS). Understanding what converts users to customers is major competitive advantage in a digital-first world.
Tracking conversions for form submissions can be very straightforward in GA4. Enabling enhanced measurement will automatically track form interactions and submissions for all non-AJAX forms.
For websites selling products or services online it is imperative to confirm that all ecommerce events are tracked and reported correctly. Setting up a purchase event and measuring ecommerce events is outside the scope of this article – but it’s important to confirm both were done correctly when auditing an analytics implementation for an ecommerce website.
Ensuring your Attribution settings align with your organization’s needs and goals is important, but we recommend data-driven for most use cases. Using the data-driven attribution model allows GA4 to distribute credit for conversions to marketing channels using your account’s data to calculate each interactions contribution.
Also: Link Google Products
Linking any Google Products your organization uses to Google Analytics 4 is recommended when setting up a new instance or auditing an existing implementation. Google Analytics 4 can be linked with a long list of Google products – but it’s only beneficial to connect the products actively used.
We recommend linking Search Console for all GA4 accounts because it’s free and can be useful for the vast majority of websites (even if SEO isn’t important for the site Search Console can be helpful for removals).
Still Need Help?
This GA4 audit checklist isn’t necessarily exhaustive, but we hope you found this guide helpful. If you need additional support, please contact us today for a free GA4 consultation.