Top 5 mistakes to avoid in a GA4 set up – does your GA4 property have these?

December 7, 2023

Since the death knell of Universal Analytics (UA) was sounded, digital marketers have been quickly setting up GA4 properties.


Since the news that UA was being deprecated, I have supported well over 100 companies with their migration to GA4 and audited loads more.

These are the 5 most common things I see when it comes to ensuring a set up to best practice.

    1. Data Retention
    2. Google Signals
    3. Referral Exclusion
    4. Internal Filtering
    5. Customising

Let’s dig into them.



Data Retention

This quick fire change will ensure that your exploration reports have at least YoY data. For default, the default retention is set to 2 months, which really, helps no one. 

By changing the data retention to 14 months (the only other option) means that you’ll have access to YoY data for your analysis. But beware – changing this isn’t retroactive, so the sooner you do this, the better.

To do this go to Admin > Data Settings > Data Retention and change it to 14 months.

Et voila, a quick change that will provide you with more data over the long term.

Better that, than trying to show your boss something in exploration and only being able to see the last 2 months data.


Google Signals

Google Signals is great for 2 reasons:

    • You can view demographics data e.g. gender, age, interests within GA4

    • You can retarget using Google Ads 

It is not set up by default – so check and make sure it’s operational.

One clear way to know is if you are in a report or exploration and using Age or Gender etc, and you don’t return any data. Then Google Signals isn’t set up (although, there could be another reason, and if so, you’re gonna have a bad time)

How to set up Google Signals

The good thing is – setting up Google Signals is really easy.

Go to Admin > Data Settings > Data Collection

Then run through the process (ensuring it complies with your privacy policy).

From then on you can see demographic data in your reports and explorations – and then use audiences to retarget.

Referral Exclusion

Do you have a payment provider that takes you off to another site for payment (I’m looking at you Paypal) or an external page for downloading content, that then goes to a thank you page on your site?

If so, you might have a referral issue. This means that lots of your conversion data is attributed to the referral channel group, rather than the original source.

All that good work on optimising a page, to get it to position 1 on Google and your good work is being attributed to Referral. Pfffft! Absolutely not!

So, you’ll want to set up Referral Exclusions. This ensures the referral is ignored, maintaining the original channel source.

To do this, we are back in the Data Streams section, and then clicking on Configure Tag Seeting > Show More > List Unwanted Referrals.

And then list away, based on whichever matching condition works for you.

Not sure what to exclude, well you can check your Referral channel group – see if there’s any domains that should be excluded in there.

Alternatively, take a look at your UA property and see what domains have been excluded there.

Internal Filtering

One thing I’m seeing a lot of is no longer filtering internal traffic. This was a mainstay of UA views but seems to have been slightly ignored when migrating to GA4.

One of the reasons is that it’s just that little bit more difficult to do (thanks GA4). 

So, if you want to exclude your internal traffic (which is your call by the way, there’s no right or wrong answer)

There’s a few steps to this, so strap yourself in.

Head to your data stream Configure Tag Setting > Show More > Define Internal Traffic.

From here, click Create and give your rule a name (Internal Traffic, HQ IPs, Bob’s home etc) and then maintain the traffic type as internal.

You’ll want to add IP addresses and the option that is often used is IP address matches regular expression. Other options are available.

That’s not it.

You’ll then have to go to Data Settings > Data Filters – and change the filter state to Active.

N.b. You can also maintain it as testing, but then exclude / include in your reports by using the dimension “Test data filter name”


This isn’t the be all and end all – but the ability to customise reports in GA4 is a really cool new addition.

And I’m not expecting you to build out really fancy reports with crazy filters, but you can amend reports to fit your needs.

For example – a non-ecommerce site – remove revenue as a metric in your reports, and add in session conversion rate.

The same goes for the ‘Monetization’ collection. If you don’t need it, why do you have it? 

Surely you can build a suite of reports that are perfect for your organisation and accessible with the click of a button.

Or you could even create an SEO report.

So there we have 5 things you need to be aware of when setting up your GA4. Let me know if you have any questions or are aware of other areas that need attention when setting up GA4.


Hello, I'm Kyle Rushton McGregor!

I have been working in PPC and SEO for over a decade now. I have expertise in supporting charities, SAAS and B2C – helping them drive more traffic and conversions. My experience covers

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