Google has announced that it will be phasing out its Universal Analytics tool in favor of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) starting in July 2023. If transitioning over isn’t high on your priority list already, it should be, and here’s why: First, you will not be able to access your historical UA data after December 2023. Second, significant differences between the two tools will impact how data is tracked and measured. If you want to learn how to make your GA4 transition seamless and easy, our step-by-step guide below can help.

Though 2023 may feel far away, taking action now will help ensure a smooth transition.

Setting up data collection for next year’s metrics now will ensure that your business can take advantage of:

  • Complete and accurate tracking,
  • Year over Year reporting (including access to all historical data)
  • Total functionality for your data and analysis toolset
  • Team readiness to use new tools

How is Universal Analytics Different from GA4?

After July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics will no longer process new hits. If you’re still using Universal Analytics, we advise a GA4 transition.

There are several key differences that companies will find between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4. These include:

  1. The data model is different. In GA4, hit-level data is stored in events, while in UA it’s stored as pageviews.
  2. The way data is collected is different. GA4 uses a “config-first” approach, which means that the data is first configured before it’s collected. In UA, data is collected first and then configured later.
  3. The way data is processed is different. GA4 uses stream processing, while UA uses batch processing.
  4. The way users are identified is different. GA4 uses a user ID to identify users, while UA uses a client ID.
  5. The way attribution is handled is different. GA4 uses a data-driven attribution model, while UA uses last-click attribution.

Making the UA to GA4 Transition

1. Audit your existing Google Analytics usage and metrics

Auditing your current Universal Analytics usage will help you understand what metrics you currently track and which ones you’ll need to continue tracking in GA4. It will also help you identify any gaps in your current data collection.

To do this, we recommend creating a spreadsheet with three columns:

  • The metric name
  • A description of the metric
  • The current value

Make sure to audit all the other tools and platforms that are connected to your UA account, such as Google Ads, Google Search Console, Looker Studio (formerly known as Google Data Studio), etc.

2. Create a Google Analytics 4 Property

Use the GA4 Setup Assistant to create a new GA4 property that collects data in parallel with your existing Universal Analytics property. Setting up a GA4 property will not change your Universal Analytics property. It will continue to collect data as usual, and you can always access both properties via the property selector or Admin screen.

This will allow you to compare data side-by-side and ensure that nothing is lost during the transition.

It is also important to note that the setup assistant does not backfill your new GA4 property with historical data from your Universal Analytics property – it only collects data going forward.

ga4 transition

3. Map Previous Metrics to GA4 Options

Mapping your previous metrics to GA4 options is necessary because the data model, hit types, and other aspects of tracking are different between the two tools.

There are several online resources that can help you with this mapping process, such as:

  1. Google’s own GA4 to UA Migration Center
  2. GA Checklist’s GA4 Transition Planning Checklist

While you may not be able to find identical tools, mapping out the differences can help you fine-tune your customizations. Allow the extra time after your GA4 migration to address any discrepancies.

Once you’ve mapped your metrics, the next step is to configure your GA4 property to collect the data you need.

4. Create and Align Dashboards

If you use Google Analytics dashboards today, you’ll need to recreate them in GA4. You can export your Universal Analytics dashboards as JSON files and then import them into GA4, but keep in mind that not all features are available in both tools.

Some common differences between the two platforms include:

  • The ability to create custom reports
  • The ability to use filters
  • The date range options
  • The way data is displayed

You may also want to take this opportunity to align your dashboards with your new business goals and objectives. Doing so will help you get the most out of your GA4 property.

5. Test, Test, Test!

Once you’ve completed the above steps, it’s time to test! Start by testing in a staging environment and then move to production. Doing so will help you catch any errors or issues before they impact your live data.

We recommend testing the following:

  • Data collection
  • Data processing
  • Data accuracy
  • User identification
  • Attribution

The Google Analytics 4 Migration Center has a great testing checklist that you can use to make sure your implementation is ready for production.

6. Get Your Team On Board

The final step is to get your team on board. Universal Analytics is going away, and GA4 is the future. Make sure your team is aware of the changes and knows how to use GA4 to its full potential.

Related Reading: Crucial Google Analytics 4 Metrics to Track in 2022

Making the switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 doesn’t have to be difficult. By following the steps above, your transition can be smooth and painless!

Talk to Our Digital Marketing Experts

If you’re looking for help with your GA4 transition, our team of experts can assist you. We can help you set up tracking, interpret your data, and make strategic decisions that will grow your business. Contact us today to get started!