It may not be the news to many that Universal Analytics (UA) is going away. From July 1, 2023, the UA will stop processing the data but will allow access to your historical data for up to six months after the final date of migration. Hence, businesses must act fast and migrate to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) as soon as possible.
Make the switch to Google Analytics 4 for building historical data and using it in the experience, so that you can ensure continuity even when Universal Analytics is no longer functional. So, let us get started!
What Is Google Analytics 4?
GA4 is going to replace Universal Analytics. It is a new kind of property or as many call it, the next generation of analytics. Here are some unique features of GA4.
- Collects data from both the app and website.
- Utilizes event-based data and not sess-based data
- Includes cookieless measurement, behavioral and conversion modeling
- Integrates to media platforms
Why Do You Need to Migrate
As browsing habits and the internet have evolved, UA has not been able to meet the changing needs. In fact, it is difficult to get a unified view of customers with UA as it is not able to track people who use apps and websites for business information. Data privacy laws also affect the effectiveness of UA and additionally, cookie and ad blockers hinder the collection of accurate data, affecting the reporting.
It is critical that you migrate the UA property settings to Google Analytics 4 to avoid any loss of data. According to a survey by Search Engine Land, 70% of the marketers responded that they planned to migrate to GA4 and will manage it with internal teams.
Here are some reasons to make the switch.
- There is a distinct variation between the data structures of UA and GA4. This means the information is not inherited from one version to the other, impacting the data measurement model. So, as soon as you configure GA4, it will start creating a new history.
Additionally, with Google Analytics 4 you have free and easy access to tools that were only previously available for GA360 users.
- GA4 offers a cross-channel view of the channels that are part of your customer journey lifecycle. It combines this information with predictive marketing to share more detailed data. Many experts believe that the new GA4 has been designed to improve decision-making and get a better ROI.
- GA4 utilizes artificial intelligence to share valuable user information across platforms and devices. This means marketers can measure and access interactions from both the app and the website using a single platform, getting a more comprehensive view of the audience. In fact, it will be possible to calculate the ROI and conversions from platforms such as YouTube, Google search, social media, emails, or Google paid channels.
- GA4 will ensure greater privacy controls, making it easier to adopt current and future privacy regulations.
- There is no data sampling in Google Analytics 4. This means that you can collect unlimited data to make more informed and reliable decisions.
Google has confirmed that Universal Analytics will stop collecting and processing data from July 1, 2023, and new data will be collected only in GA4. Moreover, since migration can get complicated, it is better to avoid last-minute hassles, making it essential to migrate as soon as possible.
You can read more about the differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 here.
Migrate from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4
Foremost, Google recommends that you complete migration in one session.
Make sure to check if Google Analytics property is getting impacted.
- You are most probably using a Universal Analytics property if you created the property prior to October 14, 2020.
- You are most probably using a GA4 property if you created the property after October 14, 2020 and no action will be needed.
As the countdown approaches, follow these steps to start your migration process from UA to GA4.
Step 1: Audit your UA account
Before you make a switch, it is important to assess your UA account. Keep a note of the critical items such as events you track, audiences, traffic numbers, conversion rates, and sources. The idea is to record all entities that you track regularly so nothing gets missed when you get started with the migration.
Step 2: Set up your GA4 account and property
If you already have a Google UA account, setting up a GA4 account can be done easily with GA4 Setup Assistant. You can access this in your UA dashboard under Admin.
Image source: Google
In the accounts column, select the required account. Then, in the property column, select the UA property that is presently collecting data for your website.
Image source: Google
Following the last step, click GA4 Setup Assistant in the Property column.
Image source: Google
Once you click on the setup assistant, you’ll need to create a new GA4 property or connect to an existing one.
Then, click on Get Started for creating a new Google Analytics 4 property.
You will have two options depending on how your website is tagged.
- Create and continue: This option will help you Set up a Google tag page.
- Create property: With this option, Analytics can reuse existing UA tagging for your GA4 property.
This means, if you are using the most recent gtag.js script, then you can collect data using the same tag.
A checklist will then appear showcasing the data GA4 will collect. Make sure this covers all the metrics that were covered in the UA audit you carried out.
Step 3: Migrate events from UA
A majority of the events may have already migrated. However, since GA4 is a new and different platform, it is important to double-check what has been carried over. At this stage, you can also add events that haven’t automatically migrated from UA and also address any migration issues.
It is advisable to check what automated goals GA4 is tracking. The events that you have manually set up are also tracked automatically. If you see any behavior that isn’t tracked based on your UA audit, you can create a new one in GA4.
Step 4: Create any metric you may need
GA4 offers a number of report templates such as funnel reports, traffic acquisition reports, etc. However, many experts and marketers argue that because of the vast amount of data, it can be overwhelming given GA4 is not an ideal data visualization tool.
Step 5: Set up required integrations
Take a look at the integration you used in UA and review the new ones you may need. For instance, integration with BigQuery which wasn’t present in UA allows the storage of large amounts of data in GA4.
Image source: Google
Step 6: Determine a final date for Google Analytics 4 migration
Parallel tracking is an interesting feature in GA4 that allows you to collect data in both UA and GA4. This helps create a data repository in GA4 before you start using the platform at full scale. In fact, parallel tracking allows you to keep using UA before the migration. It also enables you to cross-verify that the data sources, events, reports, etc. are working correctly and efficiently.
However, here is the bottom line, you can’t keep collecting data in parallel, and hence, finalizing a date to migrate can keep your internal team on the right track.
Step 7: Archive your UA data
It is important that you have a plan to archive your historical data to ensure its protection from unwanted breaches. Google will be deleting all data in December 2024 so your data stored in UA is not a cause of concern. However, in GA4, you can choose for how long you want to store the data.
Additional Steps, If Applicable to You
Turn on Google Signals
Moreover, if applies to you, you can turn on Google signals for enhanced marketing and reporting. It allows you to collect data about the users whose ads personalization is on and who have logged into their Google account.
All you have to do is, go into the Set Up Assistant and search for Turn on Google Signals. Then click on the Actions menu followed by Manage Google Signals. Then click on Get Started on the Google signals data collection page and continue. Following that click on Activate.
Go back to the Set Up Assistant and search for Set up conversions followed by a click on the Actions menu.
Then, click on Import from Universal Analytics and select all the goals you would like to recreate as conversion events in the GA4 property.
In summary, here are the critical steps.
Image source: Google
Some Tips to Make Your GA4 Migration Seamless
You may follow these tips for a successful migration to Google Analytics 4.
Extend data retention
In UA, the default duration for data retention is two months. However, in GA4, you can change this setting for user and event data retention to 14 months. You can do this by clicking on Settings, followed by Data Settings, and then Data Retention.
Additionally, you can also integrate to BigQuery for indefinite data retention.
Image source: ClickInsight
Set Up Custom Events and Dimensions
You can create custom events in GA4 too if you were using them in UA. You can set up events using GA4 event tagging, Google Tag Manager, etc. For creating a custom event, go to All Events Under Events and click on Create Event.
You may also want to check if these events are being processed by GA4. Make sure your event name value is a match for the vent in GA4.
Image source: Krista Seiden
If you have custom events, you would require different parameters for the created events. Therefore, you should create these parameters on GA4 too using custom dimensions.
Don’t forget to save your custom dimensions after naming and adding their description.
Image source: Analytics Mania
Link to other properties
You can connect your Google Analytics 4 to other Google properties such as Search Console, Google Ads, etc. All you need to do is, go to the Property Column followed by the Product Links tab. You will view various services that you can connect to.
Image source: Online Metrics
The countdown to Google Analytics 4 is almost here. Get ready with this guide and the best tips to make your migration from Universal Analytics to GA4 seamless. The earlier and more effectively you migrate, the more comfortable you will get exploring the new features.
If you would need any support or consultation for migration to Google Analytics 4, get in touch with us today!