In 2022, Google has announced the upgradation of Universal Analytics (or UA), to a new and more competing version of Google Analytics 4 (or GA4). For UA users, the sunset will occur on 1st July 2023, and for Google Analytics 360 degrees, the date is 1st July 2024. From thereon, Google plans to move on to Google Analytics 4.
This implies that the standard version of UA will stop recording data on the declared date and organizations must move to the newer version of GA4, as soon as possible. This also means that the migration has to be done before the date so that your new GA4 property is actively tracking and collecting data to provide you with the correct analysis of year-over-year or YOY data.
Since its inception in 2005, Google Analytics has been the fundamental tool for any digital marketeer for understanding user behavior and measuring the outcomes of their digital strategies. The end of the current version and the introduction of GA4 is done in the light of creating a more effective and beneficial platform for powerful digital marketing.
Although migrating from GA2 or GA3 was comparatively easier and required minimum expertise, such is not the case with GA4. There are several differences between UA and GA4 which must be kept into consideration while migrating.
In this article, we will talk about the reasons for the migrations, the major changes that will take place, and the necessary steps required to successfully migrate from UA to GA4.
Reasons to Migrate from UA to GA4
Migration to Google Analytics 4 must be done as early as possible due to some very overriding reasons. One major reason is the fact that Universal Analytics would cease to collect data after the 1st of July and companies will only be allowed to consult its data history for 6 months after that. Here are the three other reasons to consider for migration.
a. Creating a new data history
As soon as GA4 is configured, it will start a new data history. This is because the data structure differs widely between the two versions of UA and GA4. This means that the existing data history is not inherited from the previous version to the new one and affects the data measurement model.
b. Cross-channel view
GA4 comes with new features primarily with the view of enhancing marketing choices and improving ROIs. It has the feature for providing a cross-channel view of the possible channels in a customer lifecycle, to the users. This tool uses predictive marketing techniques for better-informed decisions and responses.
c. Increased integration with Google Ads
Compared to Universal Analytics, Google Analytics 4 offers enhanced integration through Google Ads. The ways with which GA4 ensures this are by Google Ads conversion tracking, automatic event tracking, integration with Google signals, and enhanced audiences and attribution.
Major Changes When Switching to GA4
Switching from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 comes with several significant changes, some of which are:
1. Event-driven data model
The event-driven data model used in GA4 treats every instance as an event. These events are mostly the interactions that your users make with your website, like page views, clicks, and purchases. This allows flexibility in tracking user behavior.
2. User-centric reporting
GA4 is much more focused on users rather than sessions. This way it can provide a better understanding of user engagement on your site or app over a certain time period, even if multiple devices or platforms are engaged in this process.
3. AI-powered insights
GA4 supports automated insights into your site’s data through machine learning. The AI-powered insights help in the seamless identification of trends and patterns in the data without ever having to do complex manual analysis.
4. Streamlined configuration
It is easier to do the setup and start tracking in GA4. This is because it comes with a simple and much more streamlined process of configuration in comparison with Universal Analytics.
5. Enhanced cross-device tracking
GA4 is compatible with almost forms of devices and platforms available and thus provides enhanced tracking across multiple devices. This is an essential feature as users keep switching between websites, apps, and multiple devices.
6. Limited backward compatibility
GA4 lacks backward compatibility with its previous version of Universal Analytics as it is a fairly new platform. Yet, despite limitations and differences, UA can be used alongside GA4.
How to Switch from UA to GA4
First thing first, you must understand that GA4 is a new tracking system with a revised set of features different from that of UA. It is not possible to import your existing data directly to GA4. You need to go through certain steps to make certain that your entire data is appropriately transferred to the new version.
So, to ensure that you are migrating to GA4 correctly, you must follow the steps for migration as stated below.
1. Creating a new GA4 property
First, you have to create a new Google Analytics 4 property. To do this, go to your Universal Analytics account and log in. Go to the Admin section, and make sure you have selected the right Account and Property. Under the Property column, click on GA4 Setup Assistant. A window similar to the screenshot shared below will open.
Now, click on Get Started to create a new Google Analytics 4 property based on the Universal Analytics property you have selected. In the next popup, click on Create Property and your connected GA4 property will be created. You will see a Connected sign in green, which means a new GA4 property connected with your existing UA property has been created.
Once done, click on Go to your GA4 Property. Next, we have to do some settings and checkups for the newly created GA4 property.
2. Setting up the data stream
Once the new GA4 property is created, go to the Data Streams options in the Admin section. Then, set up the data streams suitable for your platform. This will initiate your GA4 to start data collection from your site. The data stream can be added from an Android app, iOS app, or the web.
3. Configure your property settings
You need to customize your GA4 property settings. Ensure that you have selected the right category of your industry and your business size under Property Settings. Also, settings such as time zone, currency, and data retention periods, must be changed to match the setup of Universal Analytics.
To enable your GA4 property to collect traffic data, add the Google tag to your web page. To do this, select Web from the Data Streams page, and enter into the data stream. Then go to Google Tag, click View tag instructions and Installation instructions, and install accordingly. You may need to replace your existing Google tag code with the new one.
4. Track and set user properties
After you have set the GA4 property, define the user properties you want to track. These may vary from the user’s location, age, and gender, to interests. Once defined, add or set user properties using the setUserProperties method.
5. Enhanced reporting by activating Google signals
GA4 gives us the benefit of enhanced remarketing and reporting. Since the reporting structure in GA4 is different than Universal Analytics, it has to be familiarized with the new reports. And recreate any audience definitions and segments you used in Universal Analytics within GA4.
6. You need to set up event tracking
GA4 completely operates on event-based tracking. This is different from the pageview-based tracking system present in the current version of Universal Analytics.
Go to the default settings of GA4 events and configure additional custom events fit for your business.
7. Configure the GA4 conversion tracking system
First, identify the key events that represent the conversions. These can be in the form of purchases, form submissions, clicks, etc. Then mark these events as conversions to track them properly.
8. Import data from UA to GA4
By using the data import feature, you can import your historical data from UA to GA4. This will help you to further use your data in GA4.
9. Migrate your audiences
You may determine the same user groups based on your GA4 data by migrating audiences from your current version of UA to GA4. Once migrated, you may utilize your associated Google Ads account.
10. Test and verify your setup
Once you are done with your GA4 setup, test and verify that your data collection is carried out properly. Also, your events and conversions must track correctly.
Although, it may take some time to familiarize yourself with the varied features and metrics of GA4, once the migration is done you will be able to utilize it immediately. It may require some adjustments to the method you are used to applying for tracking and analyzing data, but it is surely worthwhile with the extensive feature that GA4 offers.
Need help migrating your properties to Google Analytics 4? Get in touch with us.