On July 1, 2023, Google will sunset Universal Analytics (UA), the third iteration of their data processing platform that has been in use since 2012, and officially migrate to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). That’s just a few months until Google will stop tracking and recording data under UA, which means you can no longer procrastinate making the transition to GA4.
If you’ve been putting off your migration to GA4, it’s time to understand what changes Google has made to its analytics platforms, how it will change the way you view and track your metrics, and what you need to do to make a seamless transition and avoid missing out on critical data!
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What is changing with GA4?
How users interact with brands and information online is changing, which means how we track those interactions needs to change, too. Google’s update to GA4 is designed to improve the way we are measuring and creating content so that we can better understand how consumers are engaging with our digital assets and, in turn, provide better online customer experiences.
More in-depth tracking
GA4 provides enhanced data tracking options that enable you to see a more in-depth, holistic view of how users are interacting with your assets.
One of the ways GA4 does this is by ditching session-based data for event-based data. Session-based data focuses on sessions and pageviews, while event-based data tracking logs every interaction as an event, such as link clicks, form submissions, video plays, file downloads, and site visits. Event-based data tracking provides more clarity on where your customers are engaging (and where they aren’t), so you can develop more value-driven content that will perform well.
There is also a new user category in GA4 called “active users,” which identifies any individual who not only visits your website or application but is actively engaged in it, helping you better track qualified leads.
The new iteration also puts the choice of what to track in your hands, which can be great for establishing customized metric reports, but can also feel daunting for those who aren’t exactly sure what they should be tracking or don’t have the time to set it all up.
Centralized data between devices and channels
One of the major updates and benefits of GA4 is that it provides you with a more holistic view of the customer journey.
The new Google Analytics iteration unifies web and app traffic data, which were previously measured separately in Firebase and UA. This enables you to see how consumers are using your apps and website all from one place, giving a more accurate snapshot of user engagement.
In addition to seeing all your web and app analytics in one spot, you can also track individual users from device to device. When a user is logged into your site, logged into their Google profile, or has their device ID visible, you can follow them and track their behaviors as they switch between their computer, tablet, and phone.
Addresses data privacy concerns
Consumers are becoming more aware and concerned about data sharing. In response, more and more consumers are using ad and cookie blockers to prevent data tracking, which can create significant gaps in your data.
There are also increasing regulations surrounding data collection and sharing, which even led to some European counties banning Google Analytics. The new google analytics platform was designed to mitigate those issues and get ahead of trending data privacy regulations.
Overall, GA4 offers a more complete view of your customer and their digital journey with your brand, from discovery to purchase. So, while migrating from UA to GA4 can take time and effort, the benefits will enable you to make smarter, more effective marketing decisions.
How to migrate to GA4 step by step
Now that we understand why we’re switching to GA4 and how we can use it to power our marketing efforts, it’s time to make the switch. Ideally, you want to make the transition as soon as possible, so you have time to build up historical data in GA4 and still reference your UA account while you grow accustomed to the new interface and data collection methods.
Step #1 – Create and set up your new GA4 properties
You want to start collecting historical data as soon as possible, so the first thing you should do when migrating to GA4 is import all of your website and apps as properties in your analytics account.
Steps to create a new property in GA4:
- Go to the “Account” column
- Select “Property”
- Create a name for the property
- Select reporting time zone and currency
- Select industry category and business size
Step #2 – Add Data Streams
Next, you’ll want to add a “Data Stream” by going to the “Property” column and selecting “Data Streams,” then “Add Stream.” From there, you can select where you want to stream data from (iOS app, Android app, or Web).
Step #3 – Add tracking tags to your website
After you create your property, you’ll want to add the new GA4 tracking tag to your site. You can add tracking tags using the Google Tag Manager or, depending on the web platform you are using, by pasting your “G-“ ID into your CMS’s Google Analytics field or directly into the custom HTML. You can find your G- ID in the top right corner of the “Data Streams” page.
If you’re a large company or have many brands, you may want to explore different options for setting up your properties and organizing your accounts.
Step #4 – Set up & migrate your tracking items
GA4 not only changed the way Google tracks users, but it also switched some of its terminologies. So, you’ll want to take some time to list the metrics you are currently tracking with UA and compare those to the metrics you want to track in GA4. For most instances, you can use Google Tag Manager to migrate and set up new tracking events.
This is also a good time to consider any gaps you may currently have in your metrics or unnecessary metrics that add clutter to your data reporting.
Some items you’ll probably want to track are:
- Events (make sure to check which events are already tracked automatically by GA4)
- Goals (known as Conversions in UA)
- Content Groupings
- Custom Dimensions/Metrics
- Referral Exclusions
- Product Link Extensions
Step #5 – Link to Google Ads
You’ll want to link your Google Ads account to your new GA4 properties so you can see the full customer cycle, from clicking on an ad to completing “goals” on your site, like making a purchase or downloading a white paper. Thankfully, you can use the Google Ads links migration tool to quickly import any existing Google Ad links from your UA properties to your connected GA4 properties.
Step #6 – Archive your UA data
Google will not just stop tracking data in UA, but it will also begin deleting any historical data as soon as January 1, 2024, which means you only have a limited time to extract and save that information. It may feel overwhelming and time-consuming to download all your data sets, but it will be useful for referencing data trends from previous years.
To archive, first consider how you want to view your data (monthly, weekly, annually). Then download those data sets as far back as you desire as a CSV or through the Google Analytics spreadsheet add-on.
Get help migrating to GA4
The deadline to transition from UA to GA4 is quickly approaching, which means you can’t put off your migration to GA4 any longer. If you’re still unsure about setting up your GA4 account or transferring your data, or you just don’t have the time or knowledge to set it up yourself, we can help.
Contact us today to discuss how we can help you set up and make the most of GA4 for your website, apps, and other digital properties.