For digital marketers and website owners, spooky season isn’t October – it’s July, 2023. That’s when the current iteration of Google Analytics (known as Universal Analytics) will officially stop collecting data and all users must migrate from UA to GA4. We’ve all seen the pesky notification that greets us as we log into GA, reminding us that our time with the familiar, (sometimes) friendly UA interface is limited. If that little reminder bar is giving you big nightmares, don’t worry. (un)Common Logic has a team of Google Analytics experts and we are here to help you transition to the new platform.

In this post, we will cover some basics, explain why Google is releasing a new version of the platform, discuss why you need to upgrade to Google Analytics 4, and tell you how to migrate from UA to GA4. If you have additional questions or need more help with implementation, request a GA4 migration consultation and we’ll be happy to help.

What is GA4?

Google Analytics 4 is the latest version of Google’s analytics platform and is replacing Universal Analytics, sometimes called GA3. As the name implies, this is the 4th iteration of GA, and comes 10 years after UA was first rolled out. GA4 has an entirely new interface and a host of new, powerful features. Old hands may remember that the first “Google Analytics” platform was released in 2005 after Google purchased Urchin and Measure Map. Considering the first three versions of GA were released in the span of 7 years, going 10 years before transitioning from UA to GA4 speaks to how well designed UA has been. This timeline also means most site owners and marketers have only ever known GA in the form of Universal Analytics. But trust us, even though the interface is different, all your favorites are still around.

Why is Google Releasing GA4?

No one can say for certain why Google does anything, but it’s hard to downplay the role that the cookieless world will have on marketing data and analytics. Google’s response is clear – GA4 leans on machine learning to attempt to fill in the holes that will be left behind when third-party cookies disappear. The transition from UA to GA4 also includes access to BigQuery, Google’s data warehouse and large-scale data analysis tool. This is, again, Google’s response to the need to perform more complex analyses on first-party data in order to gain the kinds of customer insights available with third-party cookies. For users, it also means the issue of data sampling that has plagued GA data for years will be resolved.

GA4 also includes a new data collection model that provides much more flexibility in the kind and amount of data marketers can gather when a user visits their site. GA4 is events-based, meaning the data you’ll find in the platform focuses on how exactly a user interacts with the site. The idea here is that any interaction, from a single scroll to filling out a form to clicking a call button, can be considered an “event” and can be measured. Seeing the trend here? Upgrading from UA to GA4 is about opening up access to more granular data and performing more complex analyses of your data sets. While GA4 requires more know-how to get started, it is a much more powerful tool than UA.

Why Do You Need to Migrate From UA to GA4?

GA is such a fundamental marketing tool that for many site owners and digital marketers the thought of losing the comfortable, familiar interface and learning new functionalities can be quite daunting. But whether you like it or not, UA will be gone in just a few short months. We can’t bury our heads in the sand any longer – it’s time to get used to a post-UA world.

UA will stop collecting data in July 2023. Which means if you haven’t set up GA4 yet, you’re already going to be missing year-over-year data come August. The longer you wait to upgrade to GA4, the longer it will take to finally have year-over-year data to analyze. Universal Analytics properties will still hold historical data for some time after they stop processing data, but exporting that data from UA and comparing to GA4 data is difficult, tedious, and unwieldy. You’re much better off getting GA4 set up now, trust us.

You also don’t want to have to learn the new platform on the fly. Upgrading to GA4 while UA is still collecting data gives you time to explore the features and functionality of GA4 at your own pace, with UA there as a backup in case you need it. To that point, we recommend that you run both UA and GA4 simultaneously until UA stops collecting data.

How To Set Up a Google Analytics 4 Property

If you have a Universal Analytics property set up already and don’t have many custom events, migrating to GA4 is typically quite simple. In your property settings, you can simply click on the “GA4 Setup Assistant” option and it will do most of the work for you.
screenshot of where to access the ga4 setup assistant

During setup, the assistant will tell you if you need to install a new tracking tag on your site, such as Google Tag Manager. This process is likely identical to the process you used when first installing GA on the site.
screenshot showing where to set up a new ga4 property

Once the assistant finishes, double check that your data stream is set up correctly and that data is flowing into your new Google Analytics 4 property. Then, check that your conversion events are firing correctly. Submit test leads, visit the checkout thank you page, etc. Finally, compare data against UA for the first several weeks to identify any issues with data collection. But remember, GA4 collects data in a different way than UA does – your numbers may not line up exactly. Just check to make sure they are relatively close to each other.

If you don’t have a UA property set up, like when you are building a new site, the process takes a little more setup but is still quite simple. Start by creating your Google Analytics account and generating a new GA4 property.

Set up a data stream within GA4 – this is how GA will collect data from your website – and add the tracking code to your site. Use debug mode to check that traffic and events are firing correctly. Once your basic setup is complete, add any custom event tracking and toggle appropriate events to count as a conversion event.

At the end of the day, upgrading from UA to GA4 doesn’t need to be scary, but it should be handled by professionals. Website analytics data is crucial to understand what in your online presence is working with your target market and an incomplete or inaccurate GA setup can prevent you from reaching your goals. If you’d like to talk more about how (un)Common Logic’s team of analytics experts can get you set up with GA4, request a GA4 migration consultation and we will create a custom plan to get you up and running with analytics you can trust.