Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is here—and it's time to migrate from Universal Analytics (UA or GA3) for a better understanding of your website performance and user behavior. With more features, enhanced capabilities, and more granular data, GA4 can help you make well-informed decisions about your online presence. Get ready to take advantage of the upgraded capabilities of GA4 and unlock the power of more detailed insights into ROI and customer engagement.
And you don't want to wait, as Google announced Universal Analytics will stop collecting data on July 1, 2023. The sooner you make the switch, the more historical data you can preserve.
Let's get started!
You'll want to start off by creating your new GA4 properties and getting them up and running as soon as possible. GA4 won't be importing your historical data from UA, which means your properties will only start tracking data once they are created and launched. The sooner you get them deployed, the sooner you'll see data coming in.
Google breaks down the step-by-step process to create a new property and run it alongside your existing UA properties with its GA4 set-up assistant. Otherwise, you can create a new property by clicking on the "Analytics Admin" option in the left-side navigation bar and selecting "Create new property." Here, you'll need to enter your website URL and select the data sharing options that best fit your company's goals.
Once created, you should add the new GA4 tracking tag to your site in Google Tag Manager. Or, you can add the GA4 tag manually to the source code for all pages on your site.
After you launch your property and attach the new tracking tag, data will start populating in your GA4 property. Double check over the next few days to ensure you're seeing data collection.
You've created your new properties and set up your tags, so now what? Well, new analytics properties won't pull specific tracking items from other properties, even your UA ones. So, you must migrate them and maybe even set up a few new ones.
Make a list of your tracking items and determine what you should keep, discard, and any gaps that need to be filled. Some common items you should add to your list include:
With GA4's focus on event-based tracking, you'll want to configure your data collection into events that indicate user behavior.
GA4 automatically translates your event goals from UA if you've implemented connected site tags. For these translated events, you should mark them as conversions in GA4 by:
For custom events, you can set them up similarly to how you would in UA. This helpful guide breaks the process down further.
With GA4, goals are now "conversions," and every interaction GA4 tracks is now event-based.
Janet Driscoll Miller from Search Engine Land suggests migrating your existing UA event-based goals first since they are "more similar to the original goal set up in UA."
After having set up your event-based goals (don't forget to mark them as conversions), you'll have to do some finagling with your destination-based and engagement goals to ensure they're properly tracking.
For destination-based goals, Google says you have the option to either:
Your engagement-based goals will require you to make a new custom GA4 audience and then recreate your engagement-based goals in GA4 using the new audience. Basically, you will need to create an audience trigger event that will mirror your UA goal. Once you've created your new audience and audience trigger event, you'll want to mark the audience trigger event as a conversion.
GA4 already offers many dimensions and metrics, but your customized UA dimensions and metrics will need to be migrated over.
In addition to migrating your customizations, you will need to set up the dimensions and metrics in the GA4 interface by following Google's guide here.
Any Google product links (like Google Ads or Google Search Console) will need to be re-established in GA4. You should reconnect your link to your new GA4 property, but you don't need to remove your existing links in UA.
When setting up your links, make sure the Google account you're using has the proper permissions. Refer to Google's guide for specific steps.
If you had any custom audiences set up in UA, you will need to recreate them in GA4. You should first refer to your list of audiences in UA at the property level and note any that have Google Analytics as the audience type. These will for sure need to be recreated in GA4.
You can do so by following Google's guide here.
Google recommends implementing new tags to track your GA4 events and send them to your new GA4 property concurrently with your UA property. You can read more about how to do this here, as well as other implementation options.
Google Tag Manager is your best bet for the most painless migration experience. You'll want to ensure your tags are tracking correctly, so it's important to get this step done sooner rather than later before the July deadline.
Now that you've recreated your events and migrated the tracking items necessary to get started in GA4, it's time to make sure everything is running smoothly and tracking your data accurately.
Run through your implementation to see if there are any gaps in your tracking or errors in the data. The sooner you identify any issues, the sooner you can adjust as necessary. You'll want to ensure your tracked data are funneling to the correct events, your KPIs are translated into goals, and your events are marked as conversions.
Google Tag Manager makes the testing process easier with its preview and debug functions, which allow you to see if a tag is firing correctly and what data is being passed. You can preview your site and view detailed information about your tags, including if they fired successfully and what triggered (or didn’t trigger) them. This can help test if your events are working and allow you to see the data flowing from your test in real time.
Tag Manager’s debug function also works in tandem with GA4’s DebugView, a full debugger within the interface that allows you to validate your implementation. Here, you can monitor events as they are triggered. The DebugView Report shows you data from events, their parameters, and user properties as Google Analytics collects said data. This can help you troubleshoot any issues as they arise. GA4’s debug mode can be used by enabling the Google Analytics Debugger Chrome extension, Google Tag Manager’s preview mode, or the GA4 debug_mode parameter. You can find more helpful information on testing your migration implementation with Google’s tools here.
Basically, the sooner you get your feet wet in GA4, the sooner you can compare your data reports in GA4 to UA and identify any areas you need to improve upon. After all, you'll want to ensure your metrics are working for the insights you need to derive.
Make sure to address any integrations and reporting dashboards that might need to be updated. And don't forget to update your permissions for any users who will be utilizing GA4.
That was a lot to digest, but willingly making the move to GA4 now will save you time and effort come July when it's no longer a choice. And remember—there are many advantages to GA4 as Google gets us closer to a seamless cross-device reporting platform. The integrations with other Google products will ultimately make your data collection and reporting more streamlined.
Don't forget to archive your UA historical data, as Google will be deleting your UA data starting January 1, 2024. Finally, set a realistic timeline for when you want to have everything migrated over to GA4. Time is your friend in this case, so we recommend making the switch as soon as possible.
If you need any help with your Google Analytics 4 migration plan, give us a call at 904-680-3000! Our team at DiscoverTec can help assess your current analytics set-up and help identify the easiest migration path for your needs.
Published on: January 12, 2023 by Ryan Brooks, Senior Web Marketer