Universal Analytics Sunset: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Migrating to Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics

Universal Analytics (UA), formerly known as Google Analytics, has been Google’s main website analytics platform for over a decade. It provides website owners with detailed insights into their website traffic and user behavior.

 

However, on July 1, 2024, Universal Analytics will be fully sunset and shut down. Google is encouraging all UA users to migrate to the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) platform before that date.

 

UA was launched in 2012 and quickly became the dominant web analytics solution. It provides in-depth reporting on sessions, users, acquisition, behavior and conversions. Many websites rely heavily on UA for making data-driven decisions.

 

Now, Google is transitioning fully to a new analytics platform called GA4. This latest iteration delivers enhanced functionality like cross-device tracking, machine learning insights, and more built-in automation.

 

With the UA shutdown date approaching, website owners need to take steps to migrate to GA4 to avoid any disruption in collecting and analyzing critical site analytics. This transition requires learning the differences between UA and GA4, moving historical data to the new platform, validating reporting accuracy, and updating site tracking code.

 

Why Migrate to GA4

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google’s analytics platform and will eventually replace Universal Analytics. There are several key benefits to migrating to GA4:

 

More powerful analytics – GA4 introduces a new data model and reporting framework that provides richer insights. You can better understand user behavior across devices and channels.

Enhanced measurement – GA4 expands measurement beyond page views to events, allowing you to track actions in apps and websites. This provides a more complete view of the customer journey.

Increased privacy – GA4 relies on machine learning rather than cookies, providing privacy-first web analytics in line with evolving regulations. Data is aggregated and anonymized.

Streamlined workflows – GA4 simplifies implementation with global site tags rather than tracking codes per page. Settings and data are accessible through a unified Google Analytics interface.

Future-proofing – Universal Analytics will no longer be supported after July 2024. Migrating to GA4 future-proofs your analytics and ensures continued support and product updates.

More advanced integrations – GA4 will enable deeper integrations with other Google products and services over time. Getting on board earlier allows you to take advantage of new capabilities as they are released.

 

Overall, GA4 represents a major leap forward for Google Analytics. Migrating provides an opportunity to upgrade your analytics capabilities and gain actionable insights into customer behavior and marketing performance.

 

Key Differences Between GA4 and Universal Analytics

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) represents a major shift from Universal Analytics (UA) in how data is collected, processed, and made available for analysis. Here are some of the key differences:

 

Event-Based vs Session-Based

  1. GA4 uses an event-based data model rather than a session-based model. In GA4, all actions on a site like page views, clicks, form submissions etc are treated as events.
  2. UA uses sessions as the core unit of measurement, where a session groups multiple events like pageviews and events together if they occur within a 30-minute window by the same user.
  3. With an event-based model, GA4 provides more granular data as each event is its own record. This allows for more flexibility in analysis without restrictions like sessions.

 

Foundations: Events, Parameters, User Properties

– GA4 is built on a few key foundations: events, parameters, and user properties.

Events represent any action on your site, like page views, clicks, scrolling, transactions etc.

Parameters add additional data and context to events, like category, label, value etc.

User properties store characteristics about users like device type, interests, lifetime value etc.

– This focus on events, parameters and user properties provides much more flexibility compared to UA. You have more control over the data you collect and can create custom funnels and segments.

 

So in summary, GA4 brings an entirely new data model based around events rather than sessions. This allows for more granular data collection and analysis.

 

Google Analytics Migration

Data Migration Considerations

Migrating data from Universal Analytics to GA4 requires careful planning to minimize disruptions. Here are some key data migration considerations:

 

Migration Process

– Data is not automatically transferred from UA to GA4. You need to actively export data from UA and import it into GA4.

– Exported data from UA can be imported into GA4 via the user interface or API. Bulk data imports may be better handled via API.

– Data import only brings in aggregated report data. Raw hit-level data is not transferred.

 

Data Gaps

– GA4 does not support historical data beyond 14 months. Any UA data older than that will be lost in migration.

– Changing measurement IDs between UA and GA4 can cause data gaps before/after migration dates.

– New metrics only available in GA4 (e.g. enhanced ecommerce) will not have historical data unless you replicated collection earlier.

 

Implementation Differences

– The GA4 SDK requires changes to site tagging. Migration is a good time to audit tags.

– Event tracking and custom definitions may need to be updated for GA4. This can impact continuity of historical data.

– Changes in data processing like bot filtering and attribution can impact metric comparisons between UA and GA4 data.

 

Setting Up GA4

To set up Google Analytics 4 (GA4), you’ll first need to create a new property in your Google Analytics account. This is done from the Admin section.

 

When creating your GA4 property, you have the option to link it to your existing Universal Analytics (UA) account. This allows you to import historical data from UA later.

 

To link your GA4 property:

– In the Admin section, click + Create Property

– Enter a name for your property

– Under Create a GA4 property for this account, check the box for Link to existing Universal Analytics account

– Select your UA account to link to from the dropdown menu

– Complete any other required fields and click Create

 

This will generate a new GA4 property that is connected to your current UA account. The two can then share information like user IDs to enable cross-platform measurement.

 

Be sure to copy over any required account settings like filters from UA. Then you’ll need to add the new GA4 tracking code to your website to begin collecting data.

 

Implementing GA4 Tracking

To start collecting data in GA4, you need to add the new GA4 tracking code to your website. This replaces the Universal Analytics tracking code.

 

The key steps are:

– Get your GA4 measurement ID from the Admin section of your GA4 property. This is the new tracking ID that replaces your UA tracking ID.

– Update all website pages with the new GA4 tracking code. The format is:

—————————————————————-

<!– Global site tag (gtag.js) – Google Analytics –>

<script async src=”https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtag/js?id=GA_MEASUREMENT_ID”></script>

<script>

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];

function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}

gtag(‘js’, new Date());

 

gtag(‘config’, ‘GA_MEASUREMENT_ID’);

</script>

—————————————————————-

 

– Replace GA_MEASUREMENT_ID with your actual ID.

– For sites using tags managers like GTM, update the tracking code in those platforms to use the GA4 syntax.

– Verify the new tracking code is deployed properly before removing Universal Analytics. Use the Real Time reports in both UA and GA4 to confirm data is flowing into GA4.

– Once GA4 tracking is validated, the Universal Analytics code can be removed.

 

Migrating the tracking code is an essential first step to move your data collection to GA4. Make sure to test it thoroughly before fully switching over.

Google Analytics

Importing Historical Data

The Migrate tool in GA4 allows you to import historical data from Universal Analytics properties. This is useful for being able to compare historical trends and metrics between the two platforms.

 

When using the Migrate tool, you can import up to 14 months of historical data into GA4. The data is imported at the session level, so you won’t be able to see individual hits or user level data from Universal Analytics in GA4.

 

Some key things to know about using the Migrate tool:

 

– Data is imported from your Universal Analytics view into the equivalent GA4 property. You can’t import data from one UA property into a different GA4 property.

– The import runs on a daily schedule, so it can take some time for all the historical data to come into GA4. Newer data is prioritized first.

– Not all dimensions and metrics are compatible between UA and GA4. For example, user-level dimensions like geo or technology won’t be populated with historical data.

– Custom dimensions and metrics will be imported, but may need to be reconfigured in GA4 to work properly.

– The import only brings in aggregate data. Underlying raw hit-level data is not transferred over.

– If you make changes in either UA or GA4 during the migration, it can impact the data import and compatibility. Freezing changes can help avoid issues.

 

So in summary, the Migrate tool enables you to see historical trends, but the data may not be an exact match between Universal Analytics and GA4. Check the migrated reports carefully and re-evaluate your key metrics and segments in GA4. Apart from using tools, you may look into agency that conducts migration work such as Adssential Marketing. Which have your analytics data properly migrated with all functions and tracking properly implemented.

 

Comparing Reports Between UA and GA4

One of the most important aspects of migrating to GA4 is understanding how your reports will change. GA4 introduces some key differences in metrics, dimensions, and reports that you’ll need to be aware of.

 

Key Metric Differences

– Sessions is replaced by Active Users in GA4. A session is counted each time a user is active on your site, whereas an active user is counted once per date per user.

– Bounce rate calculation has changed to only count entrances on the first page. This generally leads to a lower bounce rate.

– Avg. session duration is now Avg. engagement time and is tracked differently. Engagement time ends at the last event rather than last pageview.

 

Changes in Dimensions

– User and Session dimensions don’t exist in GA4. They are replaced by User ID.

– Page dimension works differently in GA4, now tracking page views per page rather than URL.

 

Reporting Differences

– The Audience report features more user information like age, gender, interests.

– GA4 introduces Explorations to combine metrics, dimensions, and filters for custom insights.

– The Events report is now called Engagements and tracks events differently.

– Realtime reports have been removed in GA4.

 

Understanding these key differences will be critical for comparing historical UA data to new GA4 data and maintaining continuity in your reporting. Thoroughly review changes to metrics and reports before fully switching over.

 

Tips for a Successful Migration

Migrating from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 requires thoughtful planning and execution. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth transition:

 

Prioritize Implementing GA4 Tracking – While you can run UA and GA4 in parallel, your main focus should be getting GA4 implemented properly on your site. This includes installing the tracking code, setting up data streams, validating data collection, and configuring critical dimensions. Don’t wait until the last minute to implement GA4.

 

Allow Time for Parallel Tracking – Run UA and GA4 side-by-side for a period before fully switching over. This allows you to cross-validate data between the two platforms and ensures you don’t have major gaps after migrating. Most experts recommend 3-6 months of parallel tracking.

 

Consult Google’s Migration Guides – Google provides detailed documentation on migrating from Universal Analytics to GA4. Follow their step-by-step guides, how-tos, and best practices. Leverage their tools and support to avoid pitfalls and optimize your GA4 setup.

 

Review New Features in GA4 – Get up to speed on GA4’s enhanced functionalities like custom metrics, dimensions, event-based data model, attribution models, predictive analytics etc. Learn how to take advantage of these new capabilities.

 

Train Team Members on GA4 – Provide training to marketing, analytics and technical team members on the differences between UA and GA4. Ensure they are familiar with GA4 tools, reports and workflows before fully switching over.

 

Segment Your Historical Data – Use segmentation to extract your most important historical data from UA and import it into GA4. Focus on high-value segments rather than trying to migrate years’ worth of unsegmented data.

 

Allocate Sufficient IT Resources – Work closely with your development team and allocate enough technical resources to implement the GA4 tag, validate data collection, handle imports and manage the migration.

 

With planning and preparation, you can smoothly transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 before the 2024 deadline.

 

The Future with GA4

Google Analytics 4 represents a major shift in Google’s analytics offerings, moving to an event-based system focused on user experience over pageviews. This opens up new opportunities for businesses to understand customer journeys and optimize experiences.

 

Some key benefits of the event-based model in GA4 include:

– More flexibility in tracking interactions – Anything can be an event, not just pageviews. This allows for tracking clicks, downloads, video plays, scroll depth, and more.

– Improved understanding of micro-conversions – Small interactions can be tracked as events, providing insights into steps leading up to conversions.

– Cross-device tracking built-in – Events persist across devices and platforms, giving a complete view of customer journeys.

– Enhanced attribution modeling – Event-level data improves attribution by showing each touchpoint’s influence on conversions.

– Automated funnel reporting – Funnels are automatically generated based on sequences of events, replacing the need for custom funnel configuration.

– Better integration with other Google products – GA4 data connects with tools like Google Ads and Google Tag Manager.

– More powerful audience insights – User properties, cohort analysis, and behavioral events reveal detailed audience segments.

 

With GA4, analytics is more real-time, personalized, and actionable. Marketers can take advantage of these capabilities to optimize experiences at each touchpoint, engage users, and demonstrate marketing’s impact on business goals. Though the migration takes work, GA4 unlocks game-changing potential.

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