How to Migrate to Google Analytics 4: A 4 Step Guide
Every time a marketing strategy is developed, there’s one key component that remains constant and grows more sophisticated and comprehensive: data-driven insights. Simply, everything you do is measured by numbers: how many impressions or website visits are generated, how many of these convert to leads and sales, and how well customers are retained, provide referrals, and enable you to expand into new markets.
All of these metrics are synonymous to Google Analytics. If there’s one platform that allows you to visualize these metrics and track your growth, it’s Google Analytics. And while Google Analytics has enabled you to derive data-driven insights for years now, it’s about to get a long-awaited upgrade that will change how you do this.
Are you ready for the new Google Analytics 4? Let’s dive in to find out what GA4 is all about—and why you need to learn how to migrate to Google Analytics 4.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Migrate Soon and Early: Recapping Google’s Launch of the New Google Analytics
Announced in October 2020, Google Analytics 4 is set to replace the current version of Analytics, called Universal Analytics (UA). GA4 will officially replace UA in June 2023, less than a year from now. Since its announcement nearly two years ago, Google has given digital marketing agencies and brands almost three years to prepare and complete the migration process.
And since it will launch in roughly 11 months, GA4 will nonetheless replace the current version of Analytics you’re using, whether you start early and migrate yourself. Of course, the problem is, this may result in the loss of valuable data when the global shift occurs.
To ensure that you keep years’ worth of customer insights and curated dashboards, you’ll need to begin the process of migrating to Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible. This will help you get acquainted with new capabilities sooner, prevent loss of data, and ensure that integrations are reconfigured as needed.
Universal Analytics vs. GA4
The current version of GA, Universal Analytics, has been around for nine years. At the time it was launched, it was just an upgrade of the Classic version. The most defining feature of UA is its measurement model, anchored on sessions and pageviews, a set of actions that users perform on your website (views, clicks, ecommerce transactions, etc.).
Moving from Pageviews to Event-based Tracking
However, Google acknowledged that this mode of measurement is growing outdated. For one, it’s highly anchored in desktop browsing, which is no longer fully representative of the digital landscape, and antithetical to its “mobile first” principle. Additionally, Universal Analytics also largely relies on observable data from cookies, which, given increasing user controls, makes viewing of their preferences and behaviours incomplete.
Instead, Google Analytics 4 operates across platforms, allowing you to track the customer journey on both desktop and mobile apps. It no longer exclusively relies on cookies. Rather, GA4 uses an event-based model to deliver user-centric measurement. This allows you to more accurately measure the full user experience and derive accurate, actionable insights on a single interface.
Increased Data Privacy
More customer data and actionable insights also means increased privacy. How? GA4 is designed to meet emerging international data privacy standards. While you’re able to track the full breadth of the customer journey across platforms, you can also leverage granular controls for data collection and usage, in the same way that websites operating in the EU are mandated to provide users controls for consenting to cookies and other tracking. A major upgrade to GA4 is it no longer stores IP addresses.
What’s new in GA4?
Here are some highlights to expect in the new Google Analytics:
- Analysis: A new reporting view built to support advanced analysis and create specific funnels based on events that indicate user behaviours.
- Data model: GA4’s data model allows you to create and analyze reports more easily, with reliable data.
- Predictive metrics: With improved views and increased data granularity GA4 allows you more accurately predict user behaviour, purchase probability, churn probability, and revenue probability.
Migrate in Phases: Steps for Migrating to Google Analytics 4
While migrating to the new Google Analytics does not necessarily mean losing current data collection and reporting capabilities, you need to prepare for a different way to view, analyze, and leverage data generated by event-based measurement.
This is why we recommend a phased approach—migrating to GA4 in stages to ensure that the platform is properly set up for your needs. In fact, it’s best to set up a GA4 property as soon as possible and use it simultaneously with your current UA so you can see and learn the differences before upgrading custom reports and dashboards to the new Analytics.
Let’s go over these steps on how to migrate to Google Analytics 4:
1. Create a new GA4 property for standard tracking
Set up a GA4 property to track standard elements. You can do this using the Upgrade Assistant or clicking on the Create New Property button in the admin menu. Select the relevant tracking options based on your KPIs, such as:
- Form completions
- Outbound clicks
- Video views
- File downloads, and more.
Now, keep in mind that if you are using the Google Tag Manager, you can create a new GA4 Configuration tag on all pages. In contrast, if you’re coding, you’ll need to add the GA4 tag to all the pages of your website. Once these are completed, you can begin to see core data in the GA4 property.
2. Track events and other KPI-related metrics
In line with GA4’s move to event-based tracking, you’ll be able to configure data collection based on relevant events that indicate user behaviours and interactions. In the new Google Analytics, you will see that Event Category is now called Event Name. Moreover, you will have the ability to define the parameters of data under Action and Label, providing you with the flexibility to track all relevant data.
To start, you will need to determine core events to track, such as:
- Form submissions or inquiries
- Web errors, and more.
In addition, any goals that you previously defined as destination goals will need to be added as events so these are measured.
Now, for each event identified, you will need to define parameters, named with letters, numbers, and underscores. Some examples include: “Click_Type” (KPI, Nav, Text Link, Fom_Name (Contact Us), and File_Type (PDF, Doc).
Then, in Google Tag Manager, you will need to create a new GA4 Event tag using each event and parameter name. You can use the same triggers that you have previously used.
If you are coding, you will need to follow the GA4 Event Measurement protocol. You will need to create each event that you want to measure in the Admin menu or in Events > All Events. Then, on Google Analytics, you will then add the names of the parameters under Manage Custom Definitions. Afterwards, you should be able to see all tracked events in the GA4 property.
3. Set up tracking for eCommerce and other custom tracking
Now, it’s time to set up other types for event tracking. For eCommerce sites, this is a crucial step that can be done on GA4 to ensure accurate revenue measurement.
To set up on your website via code, you will need to work with developers. They can help you implement the eCommerce tracking code.
If you’re using Google Tag Manager, it’s also best to work with developers to implement the updated dataLayer schema for eCommerce. This work involves creating an event tag for Event Name: Purchase and Parameters. Then, you will need event tags for additional relevant events, such as view_cart or refund. Finally, you can use the same eCommerce triggers previously used.
Once complete, the data will be sent to a report called Monetisation > Ecommerce Purchases.
4. Post-migration audit and adjustments
Once the migration to Google Analytics 4 is complete, it’s crucial to conduct a full implementation audit to identify gaps and errors, and adjust as needed. This includes debugging and ensuring that all tracked data are funneled to the correct events, as well as reviewing all of your GA settings for the new GA4 property. Finally, make sure that all KPIs are reflected as goals and relevant events are marked as conversions.
And if started soon, this also gives you a chance to compare data reported in GA4 to Universal Analytics so you can reconcile metrics tracked and ensure that you are able to derive the insights you need. It’s also important to update reporting dashboards and database integrations. Finally, keep an eye out for updates! Since GA4 will be universally used in 2023, you can expect small updates that Google will roll out throughout the year.
Migrate to Google Analytics 4 with Expert Help
Are you constantly seeing prompts to migrate to the new Google Analytics? With just eleven months to go, it’s becoming even more crucial to start the migration soon. Get ahead of event-based tracking and start building a fulsome view of the customer journey across devices and platforms.
At Consultus Digital, we offer a fully managed, hassle-free migration to Google Analytics 4. We’re here from implementation to integration with your long-term marketing strategy, so you’ll always get the full picture from every campaign. Our Analytics experts will ensure that all your valuable customer insights will remain accessible and grow to be even more robust, so you’re always equipped with the right data to make informed decisions at every stage of growth. Unlock the full power of event-based tracking with a smooth and early migration to GA4
Want to get ahead of the Google Analytics 4 curve? Migrate today with Consultus Digital. Get a quote for your GA4 migration project, from audit to measurement and optimization.