November 8, 2022

How to Make the Transition to GA4

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the newest iteration of Google’s free website tracking software, Google Analytics. GA4 replaces the third iteration of analytics commonly known as Univeral Analytics (UA), which has been the standard for tracking and measuring websites since 2012. While UA is a powerful tool, it was not created with today’s needs in mind. Factors like machine learning and updated legislation have made it necessary for Google to update its analytics tracking software to be more sustainable in the coming years.

If you are familiar with Universal Analytics, the major difference you will notice (other than the completely revamped user interface) is that GA4 was created to track data on both websites and mobile apps. To do this, the measurement model focuses on events, rather than sessions and pageviews.

Why You Should Transition to GA4 Now

There are a number of great reasons to start transitioning to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) sooner, rather than later. Many of these are outlined in our recent article about the differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics (UA).

The number one reason you should transition now though is because Google says so. At the writing of this article, Google claims it will be sunsetting Universal Analytics on July 1, 2023. Now, it’s important to preface that Google doesn’t always meet its own deadlines and there are plenty of people in the SEO community who don’t trust this timeframe.

Even if this is true, we can’t base our future plans on speculation or assumptions. We have to work with the facts we know, and the fact is that Google will be doing away with UA, sometime in the near future.

The question then becomes: What is someone who relies on UA for business insights to do? Whether you are a business owner, marketing manager, or someone who relies on analytical tools to do their job better, the time has come to start making some changes.

In this article, our goal is to outline the steps we recommend to make the transition from UA to GA4 as smooth and efficient as possible.

Steps You Should Take to Migrate From Universal Analytics to GA4

Step 1: Set Up a Google Analytics 4 Property

If you haven’t yet, it’s time to set up a GA4 property alongside your current UA property to start collecting data and getting familiar with the updated interface and tools. If you are already running Universal Analytics, setting up a GA4 property is a relatively simple process, that shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

To help, Google has outlined a step-by-step tutorial on adding a Google Analytics 4 property to a site that already has UA running. If you don’t currently have analytics running on your website and are just getting familiar with tracking and reporting online, follow the instructions in this article. GA4 will be the default moving forward, so you’re getting started at the perfect time.

Note: You will need to set up a data collection tag on your website and may need the help of a programmer or someone with access to the backend of your website.

Step 2: Link GA4 to Your Google Ads (if applicable)

If you are running Google Ads, it won’t just be website data that is affected when Google makes the change to GA4; you may also lose data your Google Ads rely on from Universal Analytics.

This could be things like conversion data, eCommerce reports, or audience targets which, if lost, could really set back your ad performance. Luckily, Google has made this transition super easy by setting up a helpful UA to GA4 Ads Migration Tool. This feature allows you to easily migrate Google Ads links from UA and start visualizing data in your GA4 reports.

To migrate Google Ads links from UA to GA4, follow this helpful guide from Google.

Step 3: Map UA Events in GA4

This is where things get a little more complicated. An essential task in migrating from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 is the translation of your current measurement approach into GA4.

This may include metrics like pageviews, events, and sometimes even custom metrics that you are tracking. GA4 is a much different measuring tool than UA and, while this change provides an excellent opportunity to reevaluate your KPIs or even your overall approach to measurement, replicating certain aspects of UA to GA4 is essential to avoid future hiccups.

Google recommends the following steps for mapping events in GA4:

  1. First, look for matching enhanced measurement events. If you find a matching event, you should not recreate a new event. Instead, add the ‘send_to’ parameter to send the events only to your Universal Analytics property and not to your Google Analytics 4 property. Learn more about event routing. If no matching enhanced measurement event exists, proceed to the step below.
  2. Look for a matching automatically-collected event. If you find a matching event, you should not recreate a new event. If no matching automatically-collected event exists, proceed to the next step.
  3. Look for a matching recommended event. Implement your tagging to trigger the recommended event.
  4. Finally, if you cannot find a suitable equivalent event, create your own custom event.

Are you more of a visual learner? Here’s a great video showing the step-by-step process to migrate your UA events to GA4 using Google Tag Manager.

Step 4: Migrate Your Goals and Conversions, Custom Audiences, and Ecommerce Measurement

Perhaps most important when transitioning to GA4 is to make sure you don’t lose any conversion data. Google understands this dilemma and has provided a great tool to help migrate UA goals to GA4 conversion events.

If you are migrating an eCommerce business, follow the steps outlined in this article from Google on the best practices for setting up eCommerce data collection in Google Analytics 4 properties.

Lastly, if you utilize custom audiences within Universal Analytics you’ll want to migrate those as well. Unfortunately, to migrate custom audiences you’ll need to manually recreate those audiences in your GA4 property.

Reminder: Migrate 3rd Party Tools to GA4

This is less of a step than it is a quick reminder. Once you migrated from UA to GA4 you’ll need to update everything that previously utilized Univeral Analytics in order to continue to properly track, analyze, and make strategic marketing decisions. These could be tools like Google Data Studio, social media management tools, applications associated with your CMS (content management system, like WordPress), and your website, in general.

Migrate to GA4 with PHOS

Just like every other business out there we, at PHOS, will be making these transitions over the coming months as well. Watch our newsletter and social media for updates and suggestions on tips to make the migration process as smooth as possible. Don’t feel comfortable making these changes yourself? We got you. Connect with our team, we’d be happy to help.

Chad Wolcott

Chad utilizes his diverse background in sales and marketing to help our customers win. As a Search Marketing Specialist, Chad marries his love for telling incredible digital stories and his strong focus on results to help clients increase the metrics that matter. As the son of a successful small business owner, one of his greatest passions is serving the local business community.

When not in the office you’ll find Chad spending time with his family, volunteering at church, or in the “woods and water” around Gainesville with a fishing pole, kayak paddle, shovel, or maybe even chainsaw in hand. Chad has a love for the outdoors and would love to talk your ear off about subjects like horticulture and agroforestry, if prompted.