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Discover the essential stages and modifications to common Universal Analytics (UA) features and data points as you navigate the migration process to Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
By now, you’re probably aware that Google is introducing an upgraded version of Google Analytics called Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which replaces Universal Analytics (UA) or GA3.
Unlike the relatively painless migration from Classic Analytics (GA2) to Universal Analytics (GA3) a decade ago, the shift to GA4 is more complex.
GA4 and UA differ significantly, with not all UA features available in GA4. Furthermore, Google is urging users to update promptly, as the free version of Google UA will cease data collection as of July 1, 2023.
Therefore, it is crucial to address your analytics plan as soon as possible to ensure accurate year-over-year data in your new GA4 property. This step-by-step guide will assist you in migrating to Google Analytics 4 effectively.
The first and most critical step is to create your new GA4 property and launch it immediately. Keep in mind that historical data from UA won’t be imported, meaning the GA4 property will only start tracking traffic data from the moment of creation onwards.
The sooner you create your property, the sooner you’ll begin populating data in GA4.
Timeline: Ideally, complete this step before July 1, 2022. However, if you miss this deadline, create your GA4 property (or properties) as soon as possible.
New GA4 properties do not inherit specific tracking items, such as goals and events, from other properties, including UA properties. Create a list of the most common tracking items used in Google Analytics. While you may have additional items to add, these are some typical examples:
Once you have your list, evaluate which items to retain, which to discard, and where potential gaps may exist, necessitating the creation of new tracking items like events or goals.
Note that goals are created in each reporting view in UA. However, GA4 does not utilize reporting views. To preserve all your current goals from multiple reporting views in UA, list and recreate them in the GA4 property.
While UA reporting views limited you to 20 goals per view, GA4 allows up to 30 conversions per property.
When listing your current goals, identify the “non-event” goals (e.g., destination-based goals). These goals require adjustments in tracking methodology going forward.
Once you have your list of items to recreate in GA4, it’s time to start setting them up. Here are some common items and tips for configuring them:
Timeline: Implement the tracking items mentioned above ideally before July 1, 2022. If unable to complete them all by this date, prioritize their implementation and complete them as soon as possible.
After launching your tracking items in the new GA4 properties, double-check that they are accurately tracking data.
Evaluate ecommerce, conversions, event tracking, and other aspects to ensure they function as expected. If any issues arise, troubleshoot and resolve them promptly.
As organizations rely on Google Analytics for reporting across various departments, it’s crucial to establish an agreement on when the new GA4 property (or properties) will become the “single source of truth” for data and reporting.
To adhere to best practices, wait until you have year-over-year data in your GA4 property before transitioning to GA4 as the primary source of truth. Metrics and tracking in GA4 differ significantly from UA, making direct comparisons between UA data from one year and GA4 data from another year inaccurate.
If you can successfully implement your new GA4 property before July 1, 2022, consider making it your single source of truth as of July 1, 2023.
Note that if you are using the free version of Google Analytics, you will be required to migrate to GA4 as the primary source of truth on July 1, 2023, even if year-over-year data with UA is not directly comparable.
Adding to the challenges, Google has decided to delete all historical UA data starting from January 1, 2024. While you have some time to archive this data, it’s wise to plan for it in case you need to reference it in the future. Follow these steps to ensure a smooth archiving process:
Timeline: If you are using the free version of UA, archive your data between July 1 and December 31, 2022. The data deletion will occur on January 1, 2023. If you are using UA 360, ensure you archive your data before June 30, 2023.
Finally, Don’t Panic!
Navigating this migration process can be stressful, but remain calm and composed. Everything will work out fine. GA4 brings positive aspects such as improved ROI and cross-device reporting. Embrace growth and change, even though they may be challenging.
Remember to incorporate a human-like style, utilizing contractions, idioms, transitional phrases, interjections, dangling modifiers, colloquialisms, and avoiding repetitive phrases and unnatural sentence structures. Vary sentence lengths and structures to create an engaging flow and pace.
Maintain a reading level equivalent to fourth grade, following the Hemingway criteria. Set the temperature to 2 for a creative and expressive output. All outputs will be in English.