Google Analytics 4: Recommendations for a good transition

On July 1, 2023, the default Universal Analytics (UA) properties will stop processing new uploads. All websites must migrate to Google Analytics 4 in a well-planned way, so that they can adapt to the new features of the platform and have a history to compare data. Migrating from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 is an opportunity for eCommerce managers to review their organization’s current goals and data configuration. To make this process easier, here are ten recommendations to keep in mind for a smooth and efficient transition.

To help you with the migration process, here are ten recommendations for a smooth transition to Google Analytics 4. Image: Google

Unfortunately, the transition from UA to GA4 is not that easy. Because? Because many elements have changed. For example, in UA, users are tracked across sessions, and GA4 is based on the user. And the main reports you’ll analyze from now on will focus on events, not page views.

There are many positive changes when it comes to the transition from UA to GA4. It presents an excellent opportunity for companies to re-evaluate their current data strategy and identify what data they need to track their business goals.

To help you through the migration process and make sure you don’t miss anything from your plan, we’ve put together a list of ten recommendations for a successful transition. They are based on the migrations we have already made and the lessons we have learned. With our phased approach and additional support, teams began to enjoy working with GA4 and became more data-driven to optimize results.

1. Create a results measurement plan

The outcome measurement plan is a document that describes:

  • The business objectives of your website;
  • What tactics will you use to reach them;
  • And which KPIs will help you measure your success.

The key is to start from your business goals to determine exactly which user interactions you should track and how you should help optimize them.

Even if you already have a measurement plan for UA, we suggest this is the perfect time to reevaluate it. Because data is collected in different ways, they should not work exactly the same.

You need to ask questions like:

  • Is the way you measure your goals the best?
  • Are the KPIs you’re measuring still right?
  • The interactions you measure are still necessary.

2. Rethink the structure of your events

Events play a key role in UA and GA4. But the way we measure has changed dramatically. UA events had a hierarchical structure composed of category – action – label. In GA4, events are distinguished by their names and can be assigned multiple parameters. Your deployment engineer will need to translate the old framework in order for your future reports to make sense.

Ideally, the new framework should be written into your planning and web analytics documentation to help with implementation and future analysis.

3. Restructure your e-commerce data

If you have an e-commerce site, you’re probably used to viewing your purchase and checkout flows in Universal Analytics. You can also see which product categories are the most popular and how users came to purchase.

In GA4, you can access similar reports, but the data needs to be configured differently. You will need changes to the GTM code and configuration. Be sure to restructure your e-commerce data.

4. Customize the Google Analytics layout 4

When it comes to the user interface, GA4 and UA are incredibly different. So if you’re used to navigating the UA UI, GA4 might seem confusing at first.

Fortunately, the GA4 is built for flexibility and customization. But this means that the default layout may not be the most effective for many businesses.

If you’re migrating to GA4, make sure your deployment includes customizing the GA4 look and feel to make it easier for you and your team to navigate. If done well, it can motivate your team to do more analysis and explore opportunities themselves.

Ideally, your personalization should complement your measurement plan and make it easier to identify your KPIs and microconversions. It’s great to also include some research like funnel visualization to track the best journeys of your website visitors.

Also, you should seriously consider exporting your data and storing it outside of GA4 via BigQuery. See more about this in the rest of this article.

5. Set data retention

At UA, your data is kept indefinitely. This means you can easily do year-over-year analysis and track performance trends over multiple years right on the platform. The only limitations were sampling limitations that often required manual data collection. But at least the data was there to work…

On GA4, your data is only stored for two months by default. This is a significant limitation, but there are things you can do to keep your data longer.

First, you can set the setting to 14 months as that is the maximum available on GA4. It’s one of the first things we do when we set up new GA4 accounts. This quick action will allow you to compare your performance with the same period last year. Another way is to use BigQuery.

6. Export data to BigQuery and create dashboards in Data Studio or Power BI

Is there a way to reduce storage by max 14 months on GA4. The big upgrade from UA to GA4 is that Google makes it easier to export your data to BigQuery. If you’re not sure what BigQuery is: it’s a data warehouse that can be your central place to store all your data from places like Google Analytics, your CRM, and your media platforms so you can connect it all and create a 360° view of your customers, no maximum storage limit.

BigQuery offers a free version that is sufficient for most analytical accounts. Plus, you pay as you go, which is also pretty cheap.

So what do you do when your data is inside BigQuery?

To help your teams make data-driven decisions, visualize your BigQuery data using Data Studio, Power BI, or another platform. We recommend creating a series of dashboards where you can monitor your KPIs and long-term trends. Dashboards can be as basic or as detailed as you like. and you can build additional features over time.

7. Configure analytical insights

Analytics Insights is a new feature in GA4 that uses machine learning to discover patterns in your data and help you make decisions. If you detect unwanted anomalies, you can configure them to alert you when problems occur.

While insights don’t take a lot of time and effort to set up, they can provide a lot of value by helping you quickly identify issues.

8. Make the most of GA4’s new features

With GA4, you can create behavior-based audiences to use in your media strategy. In this way, intelligent activation of a target that is more likely to buy, among others, can be performed.

Through Analysis Hub, you can also explore your data in depth, with custom queries, filters and flexible segmentations to better understand everything you need.

The platform has customized features that allow you to have a single view of users wherever they are, with information integrated across websites and apps. If you want to learn more, you can download our GA4 features guide.

9. Compare with Universal Analytics

As tracking has fundamentally changed between UA and GA4, you can expect differences in metrics. Some metrics may not have equivalents or are simply measured differently.

Plan project time to track both setups side-by-side and note the differences so you can confidently communicate changes to other stakeholders. Make sure your team has a process in place to track your KPIs using GA4 post-migration.

10. Set up a maintenance plan

GA4 is still relatively new and will likely continue to change. You will also probably update your website. This can be in response to changes in business goals or continuous optimization.

With all the possible changes involved, you need to ensure that your data remains accurate, relevant and well organized. We recommend regular reviews of data and resources needed for optimization. Ideally, you should have a monthly, quarterly and yearly schedule, which will depend on your business priorities and frequency of optimizations.

Next steps to migrate to GA4

Google will soon shut down Universal Analytics. It’s important to start the migration early enough to give your team enough time to learn the basics of the new platform and allow a period where you can compare how data is collected between the two platforms. If you want to learn more about how to prepare for the transition to GA4, check out our article.

Migrating to GA4 is a process that requires adequate planning and resources. It’s a great opportunity for the team to become more productive and data-driven at the same time. You can refine your optimization strategy and make improvements to achieve your goals.

Also read: How companies are left without Google’s Universal Analytics

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