Migrating to Google Analytics 4: How to?

You must have heard the news! Google Analytics 4 is due to replace the current version of Google Analytics (Universal Analytics) in June this year. Of course, this has raised many critical questions as people are wondering what the following steps should be. Scalyng will assist you on this journey, starting by explaining what the new model implies and what it takes to make a proper migration.

First things first! Google Analytics 4 is still an analytics service that enables you to measure traffic and engagement across your website or app. GA4, as it is best known, is a new kind of property with different reports than what you're used to seeing in Universal Analytics properties. It'll also give businesses the ability to identify user journeys across their websites through automation, uncover new insights using machine learning technology, and methods to improve marketing return on investment (ROI).

What are the main differences?

GA4 will evolve the measurement standards, providing several controls that allow businesses to manage and customize their data collection and analysis. Most common include data collection settings, event configuration, user privacy settings, data retention, user segments, and custom dimensions and metrics.

GA4 offers several new features compared to its previous version, Universal Analytics:

  • Enhanced measurement: GA4 provides more accurate and comprehensive tracking of user interactions, which can provide more meaningful insights for businesses.
  • Event-Driven Analytics: GA4 is event-driven, meaning that it focuses on tracking specific user interactions (events) with a website. Universal Analytics relied on pageviews as the primary metric for tracking user behavior.
  • Improved privacy: GA4 offers more control over data collection and sharing, which is becoming increasingly crucial as privacy concerns continue to rise, with options for disabling certain types of data collection and the ability to share only aggregated and anonymous data.
  • Machine learning insights: GA4 includes built-in machine learning models that provide insights and recommendations, such as identifying new and high-value customers, which can help businesses make data-driven decisions and improve performance.
  • Enhanced reporting and visualization: GA4 offers new and improved reporting options, including customizable dashboards and better visualization options for understanding performance.
  • User-Centric Data: GA4 is designed to collect data based on individual users rather than sessions. The previous version was session-based and only provided a limited view of user behavior.

Migrate sooner rather than later

GA4 represents a significant upgrade, and migrating now will help businesses stay ahead of the curve as Google continues to invest in and improve this service.

Implementing or migrating to GA4 as soon as possible is recommended so that enough year-on-year (YoY) data can be pulled prior to the entire migration, and the less chance of data loss. Regarding timing, there's half a year ahead, yet this is a false assumption from the technical perspective.

Here are some reasons why: 

  1. Since Google Analytics is not retroactive, you cannot get historical data in GA4. It only starts showing data once you have implemented the code.
  2. It is impossible to migrate historical data from Universal Analytics to GA4, as both tools are based on different data models.
  3. GA4 is being promoted as an upgrade of Universal Analytics, but this is a broad generalization because GA4 is a different tool with a new data model. The technical basis is the same, but the tool is a unique product with numerous features.

Therefore, switching to GA4 as soon as possible is recommended to start collecting data with the new tool. 

How to migrate successfully?

Overall, before migrating to GA4, businesses need to assess their current tracking setup, understand the fundamental changes, and plan for any necessary adjustments.

To migrate to GA4, follow these steps:

  1. Plan your migration: Assess your current tracking setup and understand the critical differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics. Plan for necessary adjustments, such as changes to tracking code or data collection.
  2. Create a GA4 property: Log in to your Google Analytics account and create a new GA4 property for your website or mobile app.
  3. Add the GA4 tracking code: Add the GA4 tracking code to your website or mobile app, replacing the Universal Analytics code if necessary. Ensure that the code is correctly implemented and that all relevant events are tracked.
  4. Verify the tracking code: Verify that the GA4 tracking code is correctly implemented using the GA4 Debugger or the GA4 real-time reporting.
  5. Migrate your data: If desired, you can migrate your Universal Analytics data to GA4 using the GA4 Migration Center.
  6. Configure settings: Configure the settings in your GA4 property, such as data sharing, measurement protocol, and machine learning models.
  7. Analyze and optimize: Use the GA4 reporting and visualization tools to analyze your data and make data-driven decisions to optimize your performance.

As technology evolves, GA4 is designed to adapt and scale with businesses as their needs change. Making a good migration now can ensure that you are equipped to take advantage of new features and capabilities as they become available.

To make the best out of your migration, you will need someone with Google Analytics knowledge and experience to help you not lose data. Scalyng is the right partner to help you with that!