Last year, Google announced it would sunset Universal Analytics in favor of G4 Analytics on July 1, 2023. This means that Universal Analytics will stop processing new hits from this date. You will miss valuable analytics data if you don’t migrate away from Universal Analytics before July 1st. In addition, you can only access your data in Universal Analytics for up to six months.
As the deadline gets closer, you should explore your options here. This article will outline multiple options and provide a detailed guide on how to migrate to GA4.
- Why did Google decide to abandon Universal Analytics?
- Should you switch to GA4?
- GA4 migration checklist
- Google Analytics 4 VS Universal Analytics: Differences in metrics
- Final thoughts
Why did Google decide to abandon Universal Analytics?
Google acknowledges that the current business environment is changing. In a press release, they hint that the changing ecosystem calls for less privacy-invasive practices.
If you like it or not, the future of web analytics will be cookieless. Web Browsers like Firefox and Safari have already blocked third-party cookies; even Google Chrome announced that it would be phasing out third-party cookies in 2023.
The way Google tracks website visitors across the internet is not sustainable in the long term. As privacy gains prominence, Google must keep pace with this development, albeit somewhat hesitantly.
Should you switch to GA4?
That’s a difficult question to answer because this really depends on your needs. However, before migrating to GA4 directly, you should take a moment and beyond just GA4. Now is the time to explore different solutions.
You need to migrate anyways, so why not check other analytics tools?
Luckily the analytics market does not only consist of “just” Google Analytics. There are multiple alternative solutions to consider. This FastCompany article highlights a few of them here.
We built Simple Analytics as the simple answer to Google Analytics. We focus on providing the insights you need in a straightforward dashboard while being 100% GDPR-compliant (GA4 is not…).
GA4 migration checklist
Still want to migrate to GA4? Alright then… let's dive in.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to directly import your data directly to GA4. However, migrating it’s not as complicated as it may seem. You need to take a few steps to ensure you are migrated correctly. That’s why we created the GA4 migration checklist below.
- First, you must create a new Google Analytics 4 property. To do this, log in to your Universal Analytics account, go to the Admin section, and create a new property. Select "Google Analytics 4".
- Then you must set up data streams. In your new GA4 property, click "Data Streams" in the Admin section, then set up the appropriate data streams for your platforms. This will allow GA4 to start collecting data from your website.
- Obviously, you need to install the GA4 tracking code on your website: For web data streams, you'll need to add the GA4 tracking code (gtag.js). If you're using Google Tag Manager, create a new GA4 configuration tag and include it alongside your existing Universal Analytics tags.
- Configure your settings: Customize your GA4 property settings, such as timezone, currency, and data retention periods, to match your Universal Analytics setup.
- You need to set up event tracking. GA4 relies on event-based tracking, which differs from the pageview-based tracking in Universal Analytics. You can review the default GA4 events and set up additional custom events if necessary for your business.
- You also need to configure conversions. Identify the key events representing conversions (e.g., form submissions, purchases) and mark them as conversions in GA4.
- You can recreate Universal Analytics links or create new Google Ads links with the Google Ads links migration tool.
- User properties in GA4 are similar to custom dimensions in Universal Analytics. You can Identify the user properties you want to track and set them up in GA4.
- GA4 offers Enhanced Measurement, which automatically tracks certain user interactions (scrolls, clicks, etc.). Ensure that the features you need are enabled.
- GA4 has a different reporting structure than Universal Analytics. Familiarize yourself with the new reports and update any custom dashboards or reports you use regularly. And recreate any audience definitions and segments you used in Universal Analytics within GA4.
- If you have multiple domains to track, follow Google's documentation on cross-domain tracking in GA4.
- I would advise keeping the Universal Analytics and GA4 properties running simultaneously for some time to ensure consistent data collection and reporting. Once you are confident in the GA4 setup and data consistency, you can start phasing out Universal Analytics in favor of GA4.
Google Analytics 4 VS Universal Analytics: Differences in metrics
There will be quite a few changes to what you are used to.You will spend some time familiarizing yourself with the different concepts and metrics. To make this easier, we created a list of key differences in metrics between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4.
- UA uses unique Client ID stored in a browser cookie to track users.
- GA4 uses a combination of Client ID and User ID to track users more accurately across devices.
- UA measures the percentage of single-page sessions where users leave without interacting further.
- GA4 doesn't use bounce rate. Instead, it uses 'Engaged Sessions,' which considers sessions lasting at least 10 seconds or with one or more conversion events.
- UA focuses on session-based metrics.
- GA4 focuses more on event-based metrics and less on user sessions.
Pageviews vs. Screen Views
- UA measures page views on websites and screen views on mobile apps separately.
- GA4 combines pageviews and screen views into one metric, called 'page_view' events.
- UA uses Category, Action, and Label hierarchy to track events with limited automatic tracking.
- GA4 automatically tracks more events and allows custom events with a flat structure, using event names and parameters instead of a hierarchical structure.
User Properties vs. Custom Dimensions
- UA uses Custom Dimensions and Metrics to store user-level data.
- GA4 uses User Properties to store user-level data.
Cross-domain and Cross-platform Tracking
- UA requires complex setup and configuration to track users across domains or platforms.
- GA4 provides a unified tracking setup across websites, mobile apps, and other platforms.
- UA uses Enhanced Ecommerce tracking with predefined dimensions and metrics.
- GA4 uses a new framework for Ecommerce tracking with more flexibility in tracking product and purchase data.
- UA provides a fixed set of predefined reports for analysis.
- GA4 offers more flexible, customizable reporting with the Analysis Hub.
Integration with BigQuery
- UA is only available for Google Analytics 360 customers (enterprise-level).
- GA4 is available for all customers, including free-tier users.
You can be on your way quickly with the GA4 migration. However, it will take some time to familiarize yourself with the different concepts and metrics of GA4.
On the 1st of July 2023, Universal Analytics will no longer be supported. Therefore, you need to take action. You need to migrate to GA4 if you want to continue Google Analytics. However, it might also be worthwhile to consider other options. You need to migrate anyway, so why not explore the possibilities?
Simple Analytics is a Google Analytics alternative that uses no cookies and is 100% compliant with GDPR (in contrast to GA4). You can check out our live dashboard to see what that looks like. To make migration as smooth as possible, we even built a Google Analytics importer to set you up.
We believe in an independent internet that is friendly to website visitors. If this resonates with you, feel free to give us try!