Migrating Google Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4
Many of our clients rely on Google Analytics for site traffic reporting, including page views, event tracking, conversions, funnels and reporting. With the rollout of GA4 some clients have deferred on implementing or utilizing GA4 functionality. With a deadline of July 1st of 2023 for Universal Analytics and July 1st, 2024 for 360 Analytics, Google is in full court press to get people converted to GA4.
If you have a Universal Analytics property that is currently collecting your analytics data Google will stop sending your page traffic to that property on July 1st. If you currently have a G-Tag setup through Google Analytics Google may transition this automatically to a GA4 account if you do not opt-out.
While Google has made great efforts to make the transition seamless, there are a few things to think about in your analytics setup.
Here are just a few.
- UA Tags vs GTags – If your analytics account id starts with UA-XXXXXXXX you will need to do more work to setup a GA4 property than if you have a more recent G-Tag property ID. (G-XXXXXXXXX). Google’s migration wizard can only connect a G-Tag property.
- Account Structure – Gone are the days of using views and roll-ups to segment and filter data from subdomains or countries. Subproperties, as they are called now and rollups are available but only for 360 Analytics accounts AND at an extra cost based on traffic.
- Users – The user migration part of the Google Analytics 4 transition will have to be manual or for larger accounts might entail the GA4 User Migration plugin and associated Google sheets import/export functionality.
- Filters – Excluding or filtering out local or specific traffic has changed and has lost functionality around ISPs, subdirectories and hostnames.
If you are not familiar with the new GA4 feature set UI there are certain items you may be used to seeing that are no longer there or have moved or maybe renamed.
- Real-time Traffic – While real-time traffic is still there, the content is no longer filterable so testing and debugging is no a little more cumbersome and is located the admin->property->debug view. The GA4 real-time widget tiles show 30 minutes of data but no way to drill into or filter its output.
- Audience – The large audience subset in UA has been whittled down and largely consists of Demographic and Tech overview and details pages which can then be further filtered to get specifics like browser, device, screen size or country, age, interests.
- Acquisition – Same here with Acquisition, as the main landing pages for User and Traffic can then be filtered again to get things like source, medium, campaign, and ads.
- Behavior – This main section in UA has been moved to Engagement in GA4, where you can find data on page views (Pages and Screens?) and events, conversions. Gone/moved are the Site Search, Publisher, Experiments items in here.
- Custom Reports – Reports have been moved/changed to the “Explore” main tab in the GA4 interface. This reports interface is completely different from the previous version so if you are looking to recreate current custom reports there will be a bit of a learning curve.
- Segments – Segments in events/pageview have largely been changed to be referred to as “Comparisons” where the original large set of data is shown but can also show individual items from the data. Like all form submits vs form submits from just a subset of pages. This is largely how you can drill into data in GA4 rather than the previous UA where you could just filter the event/pageview list. Previous segments styles are still there but they are only available in the “Explore” section where you can select from a pre-built segment or create a new one.
- Threshholding Applied – Sometimes you might see this and wonder why your data is not appearing in card, funnels or reports. You can adjust your “Reporting Identity” in the admin in a non-destructive way to use “Device based” instead of “Blended” or “Observed” to remove some of these thresholds.
While I’m sure there will be things you miss about Universal Analytics there are some new things that can make tracking and conversions easier.
- Automatic form tracking – form_start and form_submit event tracking which can be turned on or off can be nice to easily track form submissions on a specific page without having to trigger events in code or with Tag Manager integrations. A caveat here is that validation errors can trigger form submission events so it’s always good to have your own event triggers here as well.
- Other enhanced measurements – These include scroll, site search, file downloads and outbound clicks. All out-of-the box events that are tracked
- Custom Events – From the GA4 admin panel you can create custom events that combine multiple aspects that previously you would have to filter and combine separately. Create a custom event for “App Download for Ad” that combines a thank you page view with a source utm tag along with a button click. All available from one click in the events panel.
Here are a couple of recommendations that we think will help companies transition their analytics successfully:
- Get a GA4 property running on the site in parallel with a universal analytics as soon as possible
- Use the time between now and July to compare specific events and page views to your current analytics so that you can make sure data is being collected correctly
- Review features and components in GA4 to make sure it will solve all of your current analytics needs with regards to domains, subdomains, segments, and current views you may have running in Universal Analytics.
While GA4 drops certain property features and gains other tracking features it is always wise to look at other alternatives that could augment or replace your current analytics needs.
Here are a few: