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10 min read

A step-by-step guide to migrating from Universal Analytics to GA4

Martech

In an era of data-driven decision-making, the tools we use to collect, analyze, and interpret data are of paramount importance to revenue marketers. One such tool that’s become a cornerstone for marketers worldwide is Google Analytics (GA). But the GA we’ve all come to know and love, Universal Analytics (UA), is about to change.

In October 2020, Google Analytics unveiled its latest iteration, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) – and this new platform is set to supersede the existing Google Analytics in June 2023. With the cut-off date only weeks away, we've put together this comprehensive guide to help revenue marketers seamlessly migrate their web properties to GA4.

We'll take a look at:

Essential changes to understand pre-migration

GA4 marks a significant shift in the way data is measured and analyzed, bringing several key changes to the table. Here's a brief rundown of key changes you need to be aware of:

  • GA4 adopts a fresh measurement model based on events, moving away from the page-view measurement approach of Universal Analytics.
  • If you're using Google Tag Manager, be aware that the tags have been changed.
  • You'll need to create a new Google Analytics property to store your data.
  • The interface has been completely redesigned, and the new look will take some getting used to.
  • Some data may not be presented in the same way as in Universal Analytics.
  • Certain data types may not exist or be displayed the same way as in Universal Analytics.

But rest assured, your existing data and reports will remain intact. The vast majority of data available through UA will be accessible in GA4.

What are the benefits of GA4?

It’s no secret that not everyone’s a fan of GA4. And it’s true that the rollout hasn’t been especially smooth. But by bringing together fragmented customer journeys across multiple touchpoints, the new platform represents a major step forward in the way we can gather and analyze data.

Here are a few of the most notable upgrades you’ll find in the new GA interface.

1. Enhanced cross-platform tracking

GA4 is designed to provide a more holistic view of user interactions across various platforms, including websites, mobile apps, and even offline channels. By consolidating data from multiple touchpoints, GA4 can help you to gain a comprehensive understanding of user behavior and engagement across the entire customer journey.

2. AI-powered insights

With GA4, Google has introduced advanced machine-learning capabilities that allow you to unlock deeper insights from your data. The new features, such as automated event tracking and predictive metrics, give businesses the tools needed to identify trends, predict user behavior, and make data-driven decisions with more accuracy.

3. Privacy-centric approach

As privacy concerns continue to grow, GA4 aligns with the evolving landscape by adopting a privacy-centric approach to data collection and analysis. By leveraging consent-based tracking and focusing on preserving user anonymity, GA4 ensures compliance with changing regulations while still providing valuable insights for businesses.

Now that we understand the importance of migrating to GA4, let's dive into the step-by-step process of achieving a seamless transition.

How to migrate from Universal Analytics to GA4

Step 1: Understanding GA4 architecture

To effectively migrate to GA4, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the architecture and terminology of the new platform. Here are some key components you need to be aware of:

1. Data streams

In GA4, data streams are the equivalent of UA's properties. They represent distinct data sources, like websites or mobile apps, that you want to track separately. Before migrating, identify the data streams you need to create in GA4 to ensure proper tracking of your digital assets.

2. Events

Events in GA4 are similar to UA's hits and represent user interactions with your website or app. Events can include page views, button clicks, form submissions, video plays, and more. Carefully review your existing event tracking setup in UA and plan how to replicate it in GA4.

3. Enhanced measurement

GA4 introduces enhanced measurement. This simplifies event tracking by automatically collecting essential user interactions without the need for manual code implementation. Review the enhanced measurement options available and determine which ones are relevant to your business goals.

Step 2: Setting up GA4 property

To begin the migration process, follow the steps below to set up your GA4 property:

  1. Sign in to your Google Analytics account.
  2. Navigate to the Admin section and select "Create Property" under the GA4 section.
  3. Provide the required information, including property name and time zone.
  4. Configure data settings, such as data sharing preferences and enhanced measurement options.
  5. Once the property is created, you’ll receive a Measurement ID (MID) and a Global Site Tag (gtag.js) snippet. Implement the snippet on all the pages of your website or app to start collecting data.

Step 3: Data collection configuration

Once your GA4 property is set up, it's time to configure data collection to make sure your tracking and reporting are accurate. Here's a rundown of what you need to do:

1. Define custom events

Identify the key user interactions you want to track and define custom events accordingly. These events will differ from business to business, so they should align with your objectives and provide meaningful insights.

Identify the "core" events you need to track like clicks, form submissions, inquiries, web errors, and downloads. Any goals that were previously "destination" goals should be recorded as events in order to be measured as a goal.

Don’t forget to create event parameters that capture additional data associated with each event, such as product details or user demographics.

2. Enable enhanced measurement

GA4's enhanced measurement capabilities allow you to automatically track common events without any additional code implementation. Turn on enhanced measurement for routine events like pageviews, scrolls, outbound clicks, site search, and video engagement.

3. Implement data import

If you have offline data, customer data, or any other external data sources, you can now use it to generate deeper insights in GA. Use GA4's data import functionality to incorporate this information into your analytics to enhance the completeness and accuracy of your data analysis.

Step 4: Setting up conversions and goals

In GA4, conversions and goals play a vital role in tracking and evaluating the success of your business objectives. Here's how you can set them up:

1. Define conversions

Identify the specific actions or events on your website that represent conversions. This can include purchases, form submissions, newsletter sign-ups, or any other valuable user actions. Map these conversions to your predefined custom events or configure them as separate conversion events in GA4.

2. Configure goals

Goals help you track and measure specific user interactions that contribute to your business objectives. Set up goals in GA4 that align with your marketing and conversion goals, such as time spent on site, engagement with specific content, or reaching a particular page.

Step 5: Testing and validation

Before fully transitioning to GA4, it's crucial to thoroughly test and validate your implementation. Follow these best practices:

  1. Test your data collection by performing various user interactions and verifying that the events are being tracked accurately.
  2. Utilize GA4's Realtime reports to monitor live data and ensure it aligns with your expectations.
  3. Compare data from GA4 with your existing UA reports to identify any discrepancies and fine-tune your implementation accordingly.

Become an RMA Pro member

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Written by:

James Shaw

James Shaw

James Shaw is the Content Manager at The Alliance.

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A step-by-step guide to migrating from Universal Analytics to GA4