The great Google Analytics 4 migration has commenced.
Like columns of grunting wildebeest in the Serengeti, digital marketers and self storage operators everywhere have begun the arduous journey from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), as we enter greener pastures for data collection on July 1, 2023.
This means that if you haven’t already transferred your properties to Google’s new platform, you need to get a move on.
Fortunately, our team of analytics experts have conquered this migration many times. So we’ve put together a simple guide to help you make it to the other end successfully.
In our GA4 migration guide for beginners, we’ll cover:
- what GA4 is and why you need it;
- how to transfer data from UA to GA4;
- how to check if your GA4 properties are set up correctly; and
- what post-migration challenges to expect.
Why Do You Need To Migrate to GA4?
Google announced last year that it would be sunsetting Universal Analytics come July 2023, making migration a must.
As the current version of analytics, UA, or GA3, first made its debut in 2012, providing valuable insights into customers’ buying habits and website activity. But a lot has changed since then, including how customers browse the internet and the way organisations regulate data.
As a result, Google released Google Analytics 4 in 2020 to fill the growing gaps in Universal Analytics’ design.
This new version adopts an events-based measurement model that prioritises user interactions without the need for third-party cookies and client IDs.
Moreover, it has a host of unique features that offer advanced reporting, intelligent machine learning capabilities, and enhanced user insights.
In short, GA4 promises to be a better and more resillient analytics tool for self storage operators as we inch into a new digital era.
Is It Hard To Migrate to GA4?
While Google has simplified the process with their GA4 Setup Assistant, figuring out how to migrate UA to GA4 can still be tricky.
Google Analytics 4 introduces a new data model and event-based tracking system, which is completely different from the traditional session-based model used in Universal Analytics.
This requires a rethinking of how events and conversions are tracked, structured, and reported, making the migration process slightly more complex.
The upgrade also introduces a new interface and reporting structure, as well as new metrics and terminology. So if you’re not familiar with it, the first step is to read up on the basics of GA4 and understand how it works.
How To Migrate UA to GA4: A Beginner’s Checklist
Once you’ve covered the fundamentals, you can get started with the initial GA4 setup. For a seamless migration, follow these steps:
1. Assess & Audit Your Current Universal Analytics
2. Set Up a New Google Analytics 4 Property
3. Configure Google Tag Manager
4. Migrate Events & Conversion Goals
5. Setup Custom Dimensions & Metrics
6. Modify Settings
7. Set Up Integrations
8. Test & Review
Step 1: Assess & Audit Your Current Universal Analytics
Before you migrate your properties to GA4, evaluate and audit your existing Universal Analytics account.
Take a look at your existing configurations and make note of things like:
- Tracking setup
- Traffic figures
- Conversion rate
- Custom dimensions
Put together a list of all the important items you want to migrate, as you’ll need to replicate these in your new GA4 property.
If you’re not sure whether the setup wizard migrated everything, you can also use this audit to cross-reference the items in your new property.
Step 2: Set Up a New Google Analytics 4 Property
In your Universal Analytics property, you should see a banner for GA4 at the top of your screen.
→ Select ‘Manage GA4 migration’.
This will take you to the GA4 property setup.
Note: If you don’t see this banner, navigate to ‘Admin’ in the bottom left corner and select ‘GA4 Setup Assistant’.
Click ‘Get Started’ to create a new Google Analytics property.
A pop up will appear, breaking down the initial setup process. Give the message a read through for good measure before clicking ‘Create and Continue’.
After a few seconds, you’ll receive a message confirming that your property has been connected.
Now, go to your GA4 property and complete the setup.
Once there, make your way through the list and migrate each item.
This step is crucial as it’ll ensure your property is set up and collecting the data you want, so take your time and be thorough.
Remember to mark each item as complete to finish the setup.
Step 3: Configure Google Tag Manager
In order for Google to start tracking activity in your new Google Analytics 4 property, you need to install your GA4 Tag ID.
Specialists usually do this manually in Google Tag Manager using the GA4 configuration tag and measurement ID. However, those without coding capabilities can use a plugin on their website builder or CMS.
Step 4: Migrate Events & Conversion Goals
Refer to the Universal Analytics audit you created in step 1 and map your existing events and conversions to match the updated event structure in your Google Tag Manager.
Google Analytics 4 introduces an event-driven model, which broadens the scope of what we can define and track as conversions.
As self storage operators, quote funnel completions are typically tracked as the main conversion. However, with the new custom events feature, you can track specific events as conversions. This could include:
- Click to call
- Contact form completion
- WhatsApp chat
- Click to email
You can do this by creating a custom event and marking it as a ‘Conversion’ in the ‘Events Table’.
GA4’s new Enhanced Measurement feature automatically tracks common events, such as pageviews, scrolls, and downloads, so be sure to enable this before you finish up.
Step 5: Setup Custom Dimensions & Metrics
If someone completes an event on your website, it triggers a conversion event. But in order to understand what event was converted and how, we use dimensions to categorise the event and metrics to quantify it.
Custom dimensions are defined attributes that provide additional context to your data. They allow you to create and track custom parameters related to metrics you want to measure.
Setting custom dimensions and metrics can make it easier to display and understand unique user actions, but if you can, use the predefined dimensions and metrics in Analytics.
If you have custom dimensions and metrics in UA that you want to migrate, you can recreate them in GA4. Simply go to ‘Admin’ and click:
→ Custom dimensions
→ Custom definitions
→ Create custom dimensions
Step 6: Modify Settings
GA4 is a bit more forward thinking when it comes to data collection and privacy. As a result, the upgrade makes it easy to adjust options related to data retention, data sharing, user identification, and privacy.
Take a closer look at the data collection settings in your Google Analytics 4 property and customise the parameters to fit your specific requirements.
Step 7: Set Up Integrations
Next, you’ll want to set up integrations between your Google Analytics 4 property and other platforms, like Google Ads and Google Search Console.
Find out what integrations you were using in Universal Analytics and connect them to your new property. This allows you to track and analyse the performance of other important activities, like advertising campaigns.
Step 8: Test & Review
Test, review, adjust, repeat — we can’t stress this more.
To ensure your events and conversions are being tracked correctly, use Google’s DebugView tool. Alternatively, you can pull up some basic reports in UA and cross-reference the data to see if it all aligns.
It’s important to note that Google Analytics 4 is relatively new, so it’s normal to see irregularities in your reports.
After migrating to the new version, our specialists identified discrepancies in the number of conversions reported in GA4 compared to UA, despite having similar tracking configurations in place.
While GA4 continues to be clouded by doubt, the picture will become clearer as we continue to use and understand the platform.
It also helps to have a team of specialists who can analyse and troubleshoot any issues that appear during this transitional phase.
How Do I Know if the GA4 Migration Was Successful?
Once you have ticked all the steps on our GA4 migration checklist, you need to make sure that everything is up and running as it should be. Here are a few ways you can tell if your GA4 migration was successful:
1. Check the Tracking Code
2. Verify Data Collection
3. Access GA4 Property
4. Review Reporting and Configuration
Check the Tracking Code
GA4 uses a different tracking code structure. Look for the tracking code snippet on your website or app. It starts with ‘G-’ followed by alphanumeric characters.
Verify Data Collection
After implementing the tracking code, check if data is being collected. Visit your website or app and go to the ‘Realtime’ section. If you see real-time data appearing, it means GA4 is set up correctly and collecting data.
Access GA4 Property
Log in to your Google Analytics account and go to the admin section. Check if there is a GA4 property listed alongside your UA properties. If it’s there, it means GA4 has been set up.
Review Reporting and Configuration
Explore the reporting interface of your GA4 property. If you see data in the reports and can access specific configuration options, it confirms that GA4 is properly set up and generating data.
Remember, GA4 migration may involve additional configuration steps beyond adding the tracking code and migrating events. If you need help, refer to Google’s support resources or better yet, consult a Google Analytics expert that understands the ins and outs of self storage.