GA4 Migration: How to Switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4

June 3, 2023
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Migrating from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) can be a big undertaking for marketers, but it's a critical initiative! With GA4, marketers get superior data collection and analytics capabilities compared to universal analytics data that will allow them to better understand customer behavior and optimize their campaigns (especially Google Ads!).

Upgrading your basic Google analytics data is a must for marketers in today's world. This blog post explores all of the necessary steps needed when making this move—from creating a new property in Google Analytics and configuring tracking settings to exporting your existing analytics and establishing data retention policies.

Read on to learn more about why you should migrate over, what's required of the process, and tips for ensuring that everything goes smoothly along the way to improve data collection.

Upcoming Deadline for GA4 Migration

With the sunsetting of every UA property looming, basic Google Analytics users everywhere are scrambling to meet the upcoming deadline for GA4 migration. For those who have yet to make the switch, now is the time to heed Google's warning and take action. But don't panic just yet - migrating to GA4 doesn't have to be a daunting task.

With the right resources and guidance, the transition can actually be quite seamless. Plus, with the potential for more accurate tracking and improved insights on google ads, it's a move that's worth making. So whether you're a seasoned analytics pro or a newbie to the game, roll up your sleeves and get ready to embrace the future with an improved data warehouse. Time's a-ticking!

June 30th is Right Around the Corner

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) migration is important for businesses as it will provide them with essential insights about customer journeys, trend analysis and predictive analytics. It's important to note that businesses currently using Universal Analytics data should migrate to a new GA4 property before the deadline of June 30th, 2023, when the support for Universal Analytics (UA) will end.

After June 30, 2023, businesses still using Universal Analytics instead of a GA4 property will lose analytics and insights that will help drive growth and improve their online presence.

Additionally, migrating from UA google properties to a GA4 property will provide businesses with access to new features and capabilities, especially those focused on cross device reporting, ecommerce tracking, and parallel tracking. Businesses should start planning their migration now to ensure a seamless transition and take advantage of the potential benefits of Google Analytics 4.

What Happens if You Don't Switch?

If a business does not switch from UA to GA4 before the deadline, you will lose access to...

  • UA reports
  • UA events
  • User properties
  • Users' raw data

This doesn't just impact insights. It affects search engine land, Google ads, and detailed information around conversion-rate optimization (CRO). If data loss isn't worrisome enough, businesses may find that their tracking code will no longer function correctly, resulting in a loss of UA data and tracking errors.

Furthermore, businesses may lose data and valuable insights and trends to help drive their online presence and sales. Therefore, it is essential for businesses to start preparing for the switch from a UA account to a new GA4 property now so that they can continue to leverage the power of Google Analytics 4 and stay ahead of the game.

Okay, but what is GA4?

GA4, short for Google Analytics 4, is the latest version of Google Analytics and cornerstone of all Google products. It's a smarter and more advanced way to analyze your website or mobile app. Key improvements that come along with the new Google Analytics property include:

  • User scoped reporting view and reporting
  • Enhanced measurement capabilities (i.e. scroll depth)
  • Customizable data retention policies
  • Advanced ecommerce tracking
  • Improved Google integrations (i.e. Google Ads)
  • Complex, event-based funnel exploration

With its AI-powered analysis, a new GA4 property helps you make better choices and quicker marketing decisions. With emphasis on capabilities like cross-device tracking, funnel analysis, tracking events, the GA property provides more insights into user behavior than ever before.

GA4 is the future of website analysis and is definitely worth exploring for any business looking to improve their online presence. So, ditch the old Google Analytics and hop onto the GA4 bandwagon!

What Can  a GA4 Property Do For You?

1) Access enhanced machine learning capabilities with GA4

GA4 uses advanced machine learning algorithms to identify valuable audiences, predict customer acquisition and engagement trends, helping businesses make data-driven decisions.

2) Enable cross-device tracking:

GA4 allows businesses to track user behavior across multiple devices and channels, providing a more accurate and comprehensive view of user behavior. Traffic acquisition reports can be a businesses best friend, as can campaign influence modeling introduced in the GA4 property.

3) Produce customizable tracking:

GA4 provides enhanced tracking that enables businesses to track specific, event based interactions, such as clicks, form submissions, scroll depth, and purchases with customizable parameters. With a new GA4 property, it's easier than ever to collect data, find your favorite reporting view, send data, create custom events, and more.  

4) Access real-time insights:

GA4 allows businesses to collect data in real time, helping them to identify trends and make quick decisions. While year over year data and the like is helpful, real-time data fast at your fingertips enables you to make campaign adjustments quicker.

5) Help with future-proofing:

Google decided to sunset GUA because the new GA4 property future-proofs your business far more effectively. It's built to adapt to changing technologies and consumer behaviors, providing better insights and a more holistic view of user behavior, making it a more future-proof solution than Universal Analytics.

Whether you're looking for advanced ecommerce tracking, bid more effectively on the Google ad exchange, or even just automatically start collecting data for the first time, a GA4 property is the way to go.

Limitations of Google Universal Analytics (GUA)

Despite being the industry standard until recently, Google Universal Analytics does have its share of limitations that can impact businesses seeking to gain valuable insights into their user behavior.

Limited cross-device and multi-campaign tracking

Universal Analytics cannot track user behavior across multiple devices without the use of additional software or services. Spoiler alert- this is not best practice.

Limited custom dimensions, data retention, and metrics

The free version of Universal Analytics has limitations on the number and types of custom dimensions and metrics that can be created. When choosing an analytics platform, the last thing you want is to have limitations on your data settings such as with UA data.

Limited analytics processing speed

UA accounts have a processing delay that can cause lag time in data appearing on the dashboard. If a business needs to know real-time data points, this dampers the benefit of automated insights. It is an absolute must that data streams are fast and reliable.

Incomplete data

Data sampling is common with Universal Analytics, resulting in some data being incomplete or inaccurate. This can be a big no, no!  Imagine what this can do to weekly funnel reports. The migration from UA to GA4 is justified with incomplete data alone!

Limited integration options

Universal Analytics has limited integration capabilities with other tools and services, requiring businesses to use multiple platforms for comprehensive analytics reporting. UA data isn't just incomplete - it requires another analytics tool to ensure accuracy.

Complex tracking code

Universal Analytics' tracking code can require programming knowledge to fully utilize, making it difficult for non-technical users to set up or make changes to custom parameters. This is dependent on your website builder and setup assistant page.

New features/improvements in GA4

When migrating from UA to GA4, this new version provides businesses with several new features and improvements to its analytics capabilities. Some of the notable improvements include advanced machine-learning capabilities that enable predictive analytics for identifying valuable audiences and predicting customer lifetime value.

It also provides enhanced tracking, allowing businesses to track specific user interactions across multiple devices and channels - shout out to the Google Analytics API for making every GA property device-agnostic.

Additionally, a GA4 property has a new user interface that allows businesses to gain real-time insights, customizable dashboards with easy-to-understand visualizations to access data, and integration capabilities with other Google tools to help organizations make data-driven decisions.

Finally, GA4 provides enhanced privacy features, such as anonymized user data and user consent controls, ensuring that businesses stay compliant with data protection regulations while still providing valuable insights.

Overall, these new features and improvements make GA4 a powerful and effective tool for businesses seeking to leverage data analytics to drive growth and gain a competitive edge in their industries. Your UA account is now considered archaic compared to a GA4 property.

Automated Migration

To make migration easy, Google recommends creating a GA4 property right from your GUA account. This process allows you to create new property without losing all of your custom events, analytics, etc.

Automated migration for a GA4 property can be helpful in several ways. It can save businesses a lot of time and headaches when it comes to upgrading their systems or moving to a cross platform reporting. This ensures that businesses have access to valuable insights and data from their previous tracking. No more manual data entry or complicated migration processes - automated migration simplifies everything.

Second, automated migration reduces the risk of human error that can occur during manual migration, ensuring that events and analytics are accurately and consistently transferred.

Finally, automated migration can help businesses get started with a GA4 property faster, allowing them to take advantage of the platform's advanced features and capabilities as soon as possible without any delay in the migration process. So, let the robots do the heavy lifting and embrace the future of migration.

That said, the more comprehensive approach is to re-setup your GUA events as GA4 events. This is much easier than starting from scratch - we'll call it "medium effort" level. We recommend putting all of your tags/events in Google Sheets and making sure every event, with the same taxonomy, gets moved over.

What Not to Do When Switching From UA to GA4

When switching from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, there are several things to avoid to ensure a smooth and successful migration.

First, businesses should avoid rushing the process and instead take the time to plan and test their migration thoroughly. This can help to ensure that their data is accurately and completely transferred and that their tracking is working as expected.

Additionally, businesses should avoid abandoning their UA setup entirely and switch over completely to a new property. This can result in lost data and missed opportunities for analysis. For most, losing year over year data would be catastrophic.

Finally, businesses should avoid making any sudden or significant changes to their website or app during the migration process, as this can disrupt tracking and result in inaccurate data. By avoiding these common mistakes, businesses can make the most of their GA4 migration and get the insights they need to drive growth and success.

How Long Does it Take to Switch from UA to GA4?

The length of time it takes to switch from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) can vary depending on the complexity of the website or app, the google signals, the amount of data being transferred, and the expertise of the team handling the migration.

In general, a straightforward migration can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days pending google signals, while more complex migrations can take several weeks or even months. Ultimately, businesses should take the time needed to ensure that their migration is done correctly to avoid any data loss or issues with tracking accuracy.

Don't forget, time is critical since you only have until June 30, 2023.

Using Google's Setup Assistant

Google's Setup Assistant is a useful tool that helps users set up their Google Analytics 4 account quickly and easily with good google signal. To use it, simply log in to your Google Analytics account, navigate to the "Admin" tab, and click on the "Start Setup Assistant" button. From there, follow the step-by-step instructions to set up your account and connect data sources with a strong google signal.

The Setup Assistant will also guide you through the process of creating a data stream, setting up event tracking, and creating custom dimensions and metrics. With the help of the Setup Assistant, users can ensure that their Google Analytics 4 account is properly set up and ready to start tracking and analyzing data.

How do you migrate to GA4, practically?

Here are the steps you can follow to migrate from Universal Analytics property to Google Analytics 4 without losing historical data:

  1. Create a new Google Analytics 4 property and connect it to your Universal Analytics property.
  2. Set up data import for your historical data, making sure to map the data to the appropriate fields in Google Analytics 4.
  3. Set up custom dimensions and metrics for any unique data points that you want to track in GA4.
  4. Create destination goals in Google Analytics 4 to track conversion data, such as completed form submissions or purchases.
  5. Configure your event tracking to match your current tracking in Universal Analytics.
  6. Update all tracking codes and integrations to point to the new Google Analytics 4 property.

By following these steps, you can quickly migrate and start using the advanced features and capabilities of the platform without losing historical data.

Switching GA4 Events Setup in Google Tag Manager (GTM)

Switching GA4 Events Setup in Google Tag Manager (GTM) can seem like a daunting task, but fear not! With a few easy steps, your GA4 can be up and running in no time. First, make sure you have the proper access to your website's GTM account. Then, create a new container specifically for your GA4 implementation.

Take inventory of all of your current GUA tags and events in Google Sheets. You'll want to make sure the taxonomy stays the same between Google properties so you can compare apples to apples within your data.

From there, you can import your existing Universal Analytics tags into the new container and adjust them accordingly for GA4. Just like that, you'll be collecting valuable data and insights to drive your business forward. So, don't be intimidated by the switch - embrace it and stay ahead of the curve.

Steps to Set Up GA4 in GTM

By following these steps below, you can easily set up your Google Analytics 4 property in Google Tag Manager and start collecting data. Make sure to test your setup to ensure everything is being properly collected and that you have access to the insights you need to make data-driven decisions.

  1. First, make sure you have a Google Analytics 4 property created in your Google Analytics account.
  2. Log in to your Google Tag Manager account and create a new container.
  3. In your Google Analytics 4 property, navigate to the Admin section and click on "Data Streams". Create a new data stream and follow the instructions to set it up.
  4. Go back to Google Tag Manager and create a new Tag. Choose "Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration" as your tag type.
  5. Set your "Measurement ID" to the ID associated with your Google Analytics 4 property.
  6. Choose your "Data Stream Name" associated with your Google Analytics 4 property.
  7. Configure any additional settings, such as selecting domains and enabling enhanced measurement.
  8. Save your tag and then publish your container to make the changes live.

GA4 Migration Assistance

When it comes to migrating from UA to GA4, it can be extremely complex or simple depending on your setup. Thankfully, there's assistance available to help businesses navigate the transition - a new platform can be tricky. GA4 Setup Assistant can provide a helping hand to those struggling to make the switch from UA to GA4.

With the guidance and support of an GA4 Setup Assistant, this service ensures that the migration process is as smooth as possible, allowing businesses to focus on what really matters – their growth and success. So, if you're feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of migrating from UA to GA4, don't worry – GA4 Setup Assistant has got you covered!

However, Setup Assistant is limited. Like any Google products, the details are everything and complexity varies (i.e. have you ever tried Google Optimize?).

When to Get a Developer to Step In

While migrating from UA to GA4 may seem like an overwhelming process, it can be accomplished with the right expertise and guidance. If you're a business owner or marketer with little experience in web development or programming, it's recommended that you seek assistance from a developer or technical expert for things beyond basic settings.

A developer can help you navigate the technical aspects of the migration, such as setting up new events or configuring custom dimensions and metrics, which can be time-consuming and challenging for non-technical users.

Additionally, hiring a developer can also help ensure that your migration is properly set up and optimized for your business needs, providing valuable insights and ensuring that data is correctly tracked and analyzed.

While many are hesitant to raise a hand for help with something that seems like it should be easy, it's nothing to be ashamed of. You hire SEO experts for search engine land, ad managers for Google Ads, social managers for getting people to your website URL, etc. Google Analytics should be no different.

Why Hire a Google Analytics Expert?

Hiring a Google Analytics expert can offer businesses numerous benefits in leveraging data-driven analytics to drive growth and success. Certified Google Analytics experts have extensive experience and knowledge working with google products and can provide valuable insights and guidance.

The right expert can help businesses set up their new platform and configure their Google Analytics account, including data import and custom reporting, to ensure data accuracy and consistency.

Additionally, experts can analyze data trends, identify key opportunities for growth, and create actionable strategies for businesses to achieve their goals. With their expertise and knowledge, Google Analytics experts can provide valuable insights and guidance that can help businesses stay ahead of the competition and drive success.

How to Know You Found a Good Expert

Finding a good expert can be a challenging process, but there are a few signs to look out for that can indicate that you have found a qualified and effective professional.

A good Google Analytics expert should have extensive experience and knowledge working with the platform and be able to provide clear and comprehensive explanations of universal analytics data and tools. They should be skilled communicators, able to break down complex data and technical concepts in understandable terms, and have a track record of providing actionable insights and recommendations to drive growth and success.

Additionally, a Google Analytics expert should be committed to staying up-to-date with industry trends and changes and be able to adapt their strategies accordingly to your business.

Finally, they should have a strong portfolio of successful client work and positive testimonials or references from previous clients. Overall, the right Google Analytics expert can help businesses make the most of their universal analytics data and drive success and growth.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, making the switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 can be a daunting task, but it's worth the effort. GA4 offers more advanced tracking capabilities and a more in-depth understanding of your website's user behavior.

To ensure a smooth transition, begin by assessing your current setup and identifying any potential roadblocks. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the new interface and features GA4 offers. Finally, make sure to update any tracking codes and create new tags in the new setup. With the right mindset and preparation, transitioning to GA4 can yield valuable insights and improve your website's overall performance.

With the upcoming GA4 migration deadline of June 30, 2023, the importance of taking action to switch to the new Google Analytics version is crucial. It is vital to review your current data and analytics setup to ensure a smooth transition. By taking the time to research and understand GA4, utilizing automated migration tools and switching event setup in GTM, you will be able to manage the process successfully.

If necessary, there are plenty of professional assistance options available as well (like the Revenue Institute). In conclusion, staying on top of the latest Google Analytics updates can help organizations stay competitive and drive better decision making based on accurate and up-to-date insights. Don’t wait until it’s too late; researching, understanding and preparing for migrating to GA4 sooner rather than later will yield tremendous value in the long run.


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