How to Prepare to Migrate Your Site to Google Analytics 4?
For years, Google Analytics has provided an invaluable service to businesses looking to better understand their customer base and the intricacies of the buyer’s journey. With their next-generation release of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the current Universal Analytics will soon be replaced, ushering in a new era of digital metrics and strategies.
However, before you can start measuring success and taking advantage of all the new data that Google is getting ready to present, it is essential to migrate to GA4 from GA3. Fortunately, if you were using GA3, it isn’t that hard to change over, but some people may have to set it up from scratch.
Why Migrate to Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4 is about collecting comprehensive data from websites and apps, enabling a deeper understanding of the buyer’s journey. Combining these two data sources allows businesses to gain invaluable insights into how users interact across different platforms. It’s like having a magnifying glass to examine every step your customers take, from their initial visit to conversion and beyond.
The most significant improvement in Google Analytics 4 is the shift from session-based to event-based data. In the past, analytics tools focused on sessions, providing limited user behaviour visibility. However, GA4’s event-based approach captures every interaction, big or small, giving you a more nuanced understanding of user engagement. This change allows you to track individual actions, such as clicks, page views and form submissions, empowering you to optimise your website or app based on user behaviour.
Privacy is a top concern for both businesses and users in today’s digital landscape. Google Analytics 4 addresses this by offering privacy controls, including cookie-less measurement. This means you can gather critical insights without relying on cookies, enhancing user privacy and thus complying with evolving data protection regulations in the UK.
Furthermore, GA4 leverages behavioural and conversion modelling by utilising machine learning algorithms to fill in the gaps where data might be missing. This powerful feature helps you understand customer behaviour even when detailed data is limited, offering a comprehensive picture of your audience.
GA4 continues beyond providing historical data; it takes analytics to the next level with its predictive capabilities. GA4 can forecast user behaviour and offer guidance for future actions. Business owners can thus make data-driven decisions and optimise their marketing strategies without relying on complex models or guesswork.
Migrating From Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4:
Depending on your current setup of Universal Analytics, the migration process to the new platform will vary.
If your Universal Analytics setup dates back 5 or 10 years and you’re still utilising the outdated analytics.js code, the recommended approach is to establish Google Analytics 4 as a distinct platform. Employ the provided gtag.js script from GA4 without spending time linking the two systems. This method ensures swift progress and enables you to advance further.
Conversely, if you implemented Universal Analytics using one of the latest gtags, you can connect the two platforms and request the transfer of your Universal Analytics setup to Google Analytics 4. This allows for a streamlined transition and ensures the continuity of your analytics configuration.
What Behaviours to Track in Google Analytics 4?
GA4 introduces a new and distinct data recording structure, or schema, compared to Universal Analytics.
Unlike Universal Analytics, which follows a hierarchical approach to actions and events, Google Analytics 4 takes a different path. Universal Analytics has various levels of information, including events, event categories, event actions and event labels. GA4, on the other hand, simplifies this structure. It primarily focuses on an event name that represents a specific behaviour. Additional details, such as user navigation, previous page visits, product purchases and purchase events, can be captured as part of the event. During the planning phase for GA4, gathering and tracking these diverse visitor behaviours is crucial to gain comprehensive insights.
If you are already measuring certain behaviours in Universal Analytics, such as page views and scroll depth (10%, 50%, 70%, or more), you’ll likely want to track similar ones in GA4. You’ll need to set up a new event within GA4 that defines the behaviour itself.
The events you decide to make will depend on your specific business model and the technology stack you employ. For instance, if you run an eCommerce website, creating events for purchases and when buyers add items to their cart is essential.
To prepare for the transition to GA4, make a comprehensive list of all the behaviours you currently or wish to measure. Then proceed to set them up one by one in GA4, starting with the simplest one—page views. This step-by-step approach will ensure a smooth transition and effective utilisation of GA4’s capabilities.
Getting Used to the New Report Features:
While we would love to say that Google Analytics 4 is an intuitive and easy-to-use platform that provides seamless report accessibility, it isn’t. Navigating through GA4 can feel clunky and challenging. However, we expect substantial UI changes are already in the works, promising things will become easier. When exactly that happens is anyone’s guess.
It is important to stress that the sooner you embark on mastering this platform, the smoother your experience will be. Google is actively working on making the reports more user-friendly. Moreover, a library function is being developed, enabling easy sharing of reports among team members.
GA4 serves as an excellent repository for data, allowing you to delve into the intricate web of behaviours across your digital platforms. However, it’s worth noting that GA4 wasn’t designed for measuring metrics like ROAS or ROI. Its true prowess lies in measuring on-site behaviours—a task it excels at. To transform that data into visually captivating reports, you must use Google Data Studio, which seamlessly integrates with GA4’s vast pool of information.
So, although Google Analytics 4’s recent user experience might be rough around the edges, rest assured that improvements are on the horizon. At the moment, though, as a business owner, your focus should be on migrating, as Google will discontinue the previous generation very soon.
Discover more by checking out our comprehensive guide to mastering Google Analytics.