Note to self: converting a site to Google Analytics 4

This post includes the steps for converting a site from Google Analytics 3 (GA3) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4.) I’m posting it so I’ll be able to find it myself, but it may be helpful for others as well. If I find further information about making the switch I’ll try to update this post.

Earlier today I got an email from a client asking me for help with a warning she’d received from Google Analytics

“Today I noticed this alarming notice at the top of the page, which I don’t quite understand, see below. Can you explain this to me and hopefully assist me if a new google analytics site needs to be set up. Thanks in advance”

Email with screenshot from a client

Since I specialize in building, fixing, and maintaining websites I typically leave Analytics to my clients’ marketers. ut this was a great customer and they were genuinely concerned so I decided to take it on.

This is a change Google has been “threatening” for at least a year, and for most of that year people (including marketers) have expressed a lot of confusion about it. And when I logged in I was… equally confused.

So I reached out to the local WordPress community with the following request

Ok, has anyone figured out the shortest-path steps to convert a client from regular old Google Analytics to GA4? Most of my small-biz clients only use GA to track simple site visits rather than all the ad-word and phone-app stuff GA seems to have morphed into.

I just tried setting up a client with the GA “conversion assistant” option and while it seems to have done the conversion it also seems like

  • They want me to add new tracking codes to the website, but
  • I’m not seeing any evidence of where such a new script can be found.

But then since I just build and fix website instead of SEO and marketing I have the patience of a goldfish for Google’s change-of-the-month-club approach.

Any explain-it-like-I’m-5 links would be appreciated.

I got a great answer from Matthew Woicik, the owner of ML2 Solutions. Even though SEO happens on websites it’s a marketing function. Matt’s company specializes in social media, business listings, paid advertising, and search engine optimization and analytics. (That’s an endorsement, by the way.)

Here’s what Matt told me, lightly formatted to make the steps more clear:

…the simplest path is to use the GA4 Setup Assistant that is in the admin interface. That should transfer most of the settings to a new Google Analytics 4 property. However, like you found out, you might need to update the tracking code. Here is how to find the tracking code:

  • Login to Google Analytics and go to the Google Analytics 4 property.
  • Click on the gear icon for the Admin configuration.
  • Click on “Data Streams”.
  • Click on the data stream that should have been created as part of the GA4 Setup Assistant process.
  • Click on “Configure tag settings”.
  • Click on the link for “Installation instructions”.
  • Finally, click on the tab labeled “install manually” for the tracking code.
Matthew Woicik, the owner of ML2 Solutions

I have to admit that looking in the “data streams” property wouldn’t have been the first… or even 7th place I looked. Nor was it clear from any of Google’s extensive but never-very-helpful documentation. So I’m really grateful. Thanks!

The final step for me was to copy the resulting code snippet and using it to replace the old google analytics code in my client’s site headers.

I’ll be able to check tomorrow to see if the new tracking code is actually, well, tracking. And if it is then…

Then I’ll be able to apply these steps for any other clients who need help making the conversion.


David Innes,

I've been building and maintaining websites since 1997 and building and supporting similar hypertext-driven software since 1987. I've done maintenance, support, and maintenance for physical and digital systems since 1981. And no, I still haven't seen it all but by now I usually know where to look. More about David Innes...