Just like the friendly weather person reminds you twice a year to change your clock (unless you live in HI or AZ), I’m here to give a heads up on the need to switch to Google Analytics 4 by July 1, 2023.
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While this isn’t the most complicated task in the world, it does take some effort. Migrating from Universal Analytics to GA4 is a bit more involved than changing your clock, so this digital public service announcement is meant to get you going now (if you haven’t already).
A Brief History
A decade can feel like a century when marking time in the digital realm. Back in 2013, Google launched UA to the general business public. It allowed the use of tracking codes and tools that only enterprise-level companies had access to since the previous year.
The birth of GA4 was announced in 2020, together with the 7/1/2023 cutoff date for using UA.
If you haven’t started the process already, I’m here to share with you:
- what the rush is all about,
- why it needs a human touch to be done properly,
- how to make the switch from UA to GA4.
In case you’re curious, I’ll let Google explain why GA4 is superior.
Every Google UA property (yours included) will stop processing hits on July 1, 2023, and future data will be gathered and viewed through GA4.
To make it a smooth transition, why not get started now?
- You can run both UA and GA4 until July 1, 2023. Compare results and fix.
- The sooner you make the switch, the more historical data GA4 will have to optimize usage in the new property.
After July 1 you’ll still be able to view your historical data within UA for at least 6 months. That gives you time to export and save it separately from Google’s platforms.
I see all you procrastinators out there!
*Note: if you are a #Google360 account holder, you will have an extra year (until July 1, 2024) to continue using Universal Analytics.
Don’t Rely on Automatic Migration
GA4 is a completely different animal from UA. Their data models are nothing like each other. It also complies with recent international regulatory changes such as the GDPR.
That’s why Google can’t just migrate everyone’s data, settings, and history automatically from its old to new analytics service.
As a result, there’s some manual setup involved to assure that your new GA4 property is up and running correctly by July 1, 2023.
It can seem like an overwhelming process, I know.
But remember that just as birds waste no time in flying south, nor should we wait on our analytics migration from Google UA to GA4!
Think you can do nothing? I'd think again.
Google will automatically set up a GA4 property for you and migrate what it can from your old UA property (unless you opt out). It’s explicit that they can’t migrate everything, so your results will be better if you complete it manually.
This way, you’ll have everything you need ready to go before the dreaded July 1 date.
How to Get it Done
Assess/Audit -> Migrate -> Tags + Configure + Test
If unsure, first check if you have Editor permissions for your existing UA property (UA-XXXXXXXXX-1). Contact your relevant site administrator for access if needed.
Before you do anything with GA4, I’d encourage you to take the time to reflect deeply on your time spent with the old UA - ok, maybe that’s too much - but you absolutely should capture your most useful data points and save them in your preferred format (PDF, Google Sheets, PDF, spiral notebook ?).
For more information about the end of UA, read here.
Now you are ready to migrate, and Google created something to help.
- Find your current UA property and confirm that it needs to be migrated. This is also where you’ll find the GA4 Setup Assistant. It’s the first option in the property column (see above).
- The GA4 Setup Assistant will guide you through the steps needed to migrate your UA data. The process is intuitive and shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to complete.
- At the end you'll have a new GA4 property, your basic settings and data will be migrated from UA, as well as the option to turn on features like Enhanced Measurement. Setup Assistant details can be found here.
Even with this out of the way, we’re not quite done yet.
Google’s privacy standards are very strict, and data collection will only be active on pages where you’ve deployed the necessary tracking tags.
Things have changed in recent years, and global site tags (gtag.js) have morphed into Google Tags. Tag Manager is where you track activity across mobile and desktop usage.
Access measurement features without adding code after the initial setup, and when you change a setting on a Google tag it will affect all associated destinations...nice!
Once GA4 is up and running as your new analytics property, ready to receive input data from your website and elsewhere, it’s time to ensure that all is in order.
One way to know is to look for this notification on your GA4 Home screen:
I also like to mimic some user activity in order to test the connections. Use an Incognito window to visit various pages within your site infrastructure, or otherwise create activity from wherever you’re tracking to then crosscheck the collection in GA4.
There are additional steps you can take in making your analytics game more robust. Depending on your industry and the nature of your digital presence, you may need help with:
- configuring the new EventMenu feature,
- e-commerce tracking,
- predictive metrics,
- customizing your data + privacy settings and more.
The Mythic team and I thoroughly enjoy getting into the nitty-gritty details of web & app analytics.
If this is somewhere we can help out, you can always book a discovery session with me to get more details.
This has been your (hopefully) once-per-decade, kindly reminder to make your analytics switch from UA to GA4. Let’s say, on the sooner side ?.