GA4 Migration Basic Steps: A Comprehensive Guide
As digital marketers continue to evolve their analytics strategies, migrating from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has become a crucial step as Universal Analytics became obsolete on 1st July 2023 . GA4 presents enhanced functionalities and a deeper comprehension of user actions, furnishing valuable perspectives for enhancing marketing initiatives. In this article, we will delineate the fundamental stages of GA4 migration, guaranteeing a smooth shift from UA to GA4.
Note: Historical data from Universal analytics will not be imported to GA4.
Steps for Basic Migration:
Before we begin, if you see a warning banner when you login to your GA4 property asking you to complete the setup for your GA4 property you can opt for an automatic migration but this will be a bit challenging.
This method requires you to manually check what features/setups were migrated from UA to GA4 automatically from ‘Change history’ and complete the rest of the setup manually. Instead, in this article we will be taking you through a complete manual setup which is considerably easy to follow.
Check the UA Property and Gather Tracking Information:
To ensure a smooth migration process, it is of utmost importance to thoroughly examine the UA property and gain a comprehensive understanding of the tracking information that is being collected. Take the time to identify the specific tracking ID (Eg: UA - XXXXX - X) that is associated with the UA property and meticulously verify that it aligns perfectly with the ID that is currently implemented on the website. By undertaking these steps, you can guarantee that you are on the right UA property and a seamless transition and minimise any potential disruptions.
Navigation to check the UA tracking ID.
Go to your UA property > Admin > Property settings (see screenshot below)
Set Up GA4
Using GA4 Setup Assistant:
To begin the migration process, access the GA4 Setup Assistant on your UA property by simply navigating to the "Admin(left bottom corner)" section and clicking on it. Once you are on the "Admin" page, locate and click on the "GA4Setup assistant" button. By taking this action, you will successfully initiate the migration process. The GA4 property will already be created for you automatically and you will see the GA4 property Name and Property ID as shown below in the screenshots.
After successfully creating or connecting the GA4 property, it is important to carefully follow the step-by-step instructions given by the setup assistant. Once you have completed these instructions, the property will have a new and improved look, similar to the example shown below, Click on “Go to your GA4 property” to access the newly created GA4 property.
Start Data Collection via available Plugins or Backend code implementation
In order to track data effectively in GA4, it is necessary to add the GA4 code to your website or use Google Tag Manager (GTM). Follow these steps to accomplish this:
Select ‘Admin’ on your GA4 property
Locate the "Data Streams" section.
Choose the "Web stream" option from the available choices.
Scroll down the page and click on "View Tag Instructions" to get detailed guidance on how to proceed.
You have the option here to let GA4 scan your website and identify any plugins available that you can use to implement GA4.
Alternatively, you can also click on ‘Install manually’ and implement the provided global site tag on all pages of your website.
To ensure proper tracking with GA4, you should copy the given GA4 code and add it to your website’s Global Header, right above the </head> tag.
Start Data Collection via GTM.
Alternatively, you can set up a GA4 Configuration tag using Google Tag Manager (GTM). To do this, Please create a new tag in your GTM container by clicking on ‘New’.
In the "Tag Configuration" section, click on "Choose a tag type to begin setup" Search for "Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration" and select it.
In the "Tag Configuration" section, you will need to provide the GA4 Measurement ID
Admin > Data Streams > Select the web stream > Measurement ID (Top Right)
In the "Triggering" section, click on "Choose a trigger to make this tag fire..." and select “All Pages”.
After completing the configuration, click on "Save" to save the tag settings. Then, click on "Submit" at the top right corner of the GTM interface to publish the changes to your live website.
To confirm that the code is set up correctly, you can utilise the Google Tag Assistant tool found at tagassistant.google.com. Another helpful way to check the code implementation is by monitoring real-time reports in GA4, which provide live data and help you verify that the tag is working accurately.
Once the verification is done, indicate the completion of this step in the Setup Assistant.
Link GA4 with Google Ads Accounts:
To optimise your Google ad campaigns, it is important to connect GA4 with all the relevant Google Ads accounts linked to your UA property. Begin by identifying the number of Google Ads accounts associated with your UA property, and make sure to establish connections with each one. Through the integration of GA4 and Google Ads, you unlock access to valuable information that can be employed to refine campaign enhancement. This integration will allow you to track how users interact with your Google Ads and how they finally convert. Once you have successfully linked all the Google Ads accounts, mark this step as completed in the Setup Assistant to acknowledge its successful execution.
On this screen, you will find the Google Ads account linked to your Google Account, given that you have both "Admin" access on the Google Ads account and at least "Editor" access on the GA4 property using the same Google account.
6. Set Up Google Signals and Enable Remarketing:
To unlock advanced advertising features and gain valuable audience insights, it is essential to enable Google Signals on both UA and GA4. Make sure to enable user data acknowledgement to view GA4 lists in Google Ads. Additionally, it is crucial to replicate the same set of audiences that were previously created in UA within the GA4 property. Once you have successfully completed these steps, mark them as finished in the Setup Assistant. By following these actions, you can maximise the benefits of Google Signals and remarketing capabilities.
Once done, go back to the setup assistant and mark it as complete.
7. Define Audiences:
It is crucial for businesses to optimise their marketing efforts and make every dollar count. Remarketing campaigns are a great way to achieve maximum ROAS.
Remarketing allows you to re-engage with users who have previously interacted with your website. In this article, we present a comprehensive guide on how to leverage GA 4’s robust capabilities to create and optimise audience lists for more effective campaign targeting.Once you have successfully enabled Google Signals and remarketing, it's time to define your audiences in GA4.
Begin by creating or replicating the top five audiences from the UA property. By doing so, you will maintain consistency in audience segmentation and targeting. Once you have defined these audiences in GA4, mark this step as complete in the Setup Assistant to signify its successful execution.
How to access and create Audience/Remarketing list(s)
Admin > Property > Audience > New Audience
How to create a new custom Audience(s)
New Audience > Create a custom audience
8. Create or Migrate Conversions:
Take the time to evaluate the conversions that are being tracked in UA and make a decision regarding whether to create new conversions in GA4 or migrate the existing ones. It is crucial to ensure that your conversion tracking strategies are aligned between UA and GA4 to maintain consistency and ensure accurate reporting. Once you have addressed this step in the Setup Assistant, mark it as completed to acknowledge its successful implementation.
9. Referral Exclusion
Add your unwanted referrals to the referral exclusion list on GA4. If nothing else, add your primary domain and any subdomains (if any) to referral exclusion to avoid self referrals.
Admin > Data Streams > Select your web stream > Configure Tag Settings > click on ‘Show All’ under settings > Select ‘List Unwanted Referrals’ > Define conditions to exclude referrals from the domains you need.
Please refer to the screenshots below.
11. Cross-Domain Tracking
If you have a second domain that the user can land on from your primary website, cross-domain tracking needs to be enabled. This is primarily done to identify user’s who jump from the primary to secondary domain. GA4 uses 1st party cookies to identify the user and saves the information regarding the user in the ga cookie. Once cross-domain is implemented, GA4 will reuse the information in the ga cookie instead of creating a new cookie.
On UA, cross-domain tracking implementation requires some modification on the gtag.js GA4 global site tag or in the GA4 configuration tag on GTM. But on GA4 it’s much more simpler as it does not involve any code modifications.
Admin > Data Stream > Select your web stream > Configure Tag Settings > Configure your domains > Add condition > Type in the domain name for the primary domain> Add condition > Type in the domain name for the secondary domain
10. Check User ID and Measurement Protocol Hits
It is very common these days for a user to visit your website using different devices. User ID implementation helps with Cross-device attribution. This will also help in better audience segmentation and also help build better predictive audiences for you.
Confirm whether the client is utilising the user ID feature in UA. If they are, it is important to ensure that they implement the same feature in GA4 as well. Furthermore, check if the client is sending measurement protocol hits to UA and kindly request them to do the same for GA4. By completing this step, you ensure the continuity and consistency of data tracking between the two platforms, UA and GA4. To know more about User ID implementation, please follow this link.
11. Monitor Data Accuracy and Discrepancies
After completing the migration process, it is crucial to monitor the data accuracy and discrepancies between UA and GA4. Compare data from both platforms to ensure that the transition did not cause any data loss or inconsistencies. Monitor key metrics, user behaviour, and conversion data to verify that GA4 provides comparable results to UA. Continue monitoring the data regularly to ensure ongoing data accuracy and integrity.
12. Archive UA data
The historical data present on UA will be deleted by 1st January 2024 as per the update by Google. This historical data present on the UA is very important to maintain continuity of your most important KPIs. There are a few ways to archive this data from your UA property. The easiest way will be to connect UA to BigQuery and export all of your UA data to BigQuery.
Migrating from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 is a critical step for digital marketers looking to leverage advanced analytics capabilities and gain deeper insights into user behaviour. By following the comprehensive steps outlined in this guide, marketers can ensure a smooth and accurate migration process.
Thoroughly examine the UA property, set up GA4 using the Setup Assistant, implement and verify the GA4 tag, link GA4 with Google Ads accounts, enable Google Signals and remarketing, define audiences, create or migrate conversions, and check user ID and measurement protocol hits. Additionally, establish data filters and channels, review and set up events, utilise custom dimensions and metrics.
Finally, continuously monitor data accuracy and discrepancies to maintain the reliability and effectiveness of your analytics data in GA4.
The transition from UA to GA4 may seem daunting, but with proper planning and execution, marketers can unlock the full potential of GA4's advanced features and take their analytics strategies to new heights and gain a deeper understanding of your audience to drive business growth and success.