As of July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics will officially be retired, leaving GA4 as the new industry standard. If you haven’t already started preparing for the transition, now is the time to act. 

Out with the old, and in with the new! Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is shaking up the digital analytics game with its innovative features and fresh approach. Unlike its predecessor, Universal Analytics, GA4 isn’t just a new and improved version – it’s a completely new platform, packed with exciting new features.  

With a sleek new interface, a revamped data model and metrics, customisable reporting, and deeper insights, GA4 is changing the way we think about web analytics. And the biggest game-changer of them all? GA4 is ditching the old measurement model that focuses on sessions and page views, making way for a whole new way of understanding user behaviour.

A few of the ways GA4 is shaking things up (for the better)

  • Better connections between behavioural and transactional data, empowering retailers, and e-commerce sites to segment customers and personalise their experiences and marketing efforts like never before. 
  • Expanded marketing attribution models, allowing you to track the impact of your campaigns and touchpoints from start to finish. 
  • Easier ways to connect to other tools within the Google Suite, making it a breeze to export, visualise, and report your data. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newcomer to the world of data analytics, GA4 is sure to impress. 
  • Instead of processing data based on sessions and pageviews, GA4 data collection is based on events. Each event represents a unique user interaction with your website or app — when they scroll down a page, click on a link, or watch a video, for example. 

Here’s a checklist to ensure you’ve covered all bases prior to 1 July 2023

1. Set up your GA4 instance to establish historical data
Keep running your UA instance but start running GA4 concurrently as soon as possible.

2. Link your Google Search Console account to GA4
This is important so that you can analyse your organic search data. You’ll also want to link your GA4 property to your Google Ads account to start sharing data and audiences.

3. Validate reporting and create your custom reports
Once your GA4 instance is set up and tracking data, start creating your custom reports. Remember, you may have to create custom reports in GA4 for some of the default reports you currently access in UA. 

Another quick tip: Don’t forget to exclude your internal IP addresses during your GA4 setup to keep your data clean and accurate.

4. Verify that event tracking is set up — and firing correctly
Since events are at the core of how GA4 pulls data, you’ll want to pay close attention to your event tracking configuration. The goal is for everything you are currently tracking in UA to also be tracked in GA4.

5. Earn your GA4 certification
Google recently announced the availability of a GA4 certification for users. And it’s perfect timing! The hours you invest to familiarise yourself with GA4 will also prepare you for the certification exam.

GA4 handy tools you need to know about

One of the first things you’ll notice is how simplified, streamlined, and intuitive it is. This looks and works more like modern analytics technologies than its predecessor. 

GA4 Home 
Home is where you customise your dashboard so you can see all the most important KPIs in a single view to assess the health of your website quickly.

GA4 Explore 
Explore helps you understand how visitors navigate the site to find new pages and content. We don’t have to tell you that Universal Analytics could be a bit of a mess here. Several pre-sets exist, or you can fully customise how you view these website journeys.

GA4 Advertising 
Here you can see the channels and touchpoints driving your conversions the most. But this tab will have limited usefulness until you set up goals and conversions. 

GA4 Reports
When you click reports, a menu slides out. You can toggle between: 

  • Reports Snapshot 
  • Realtime 
  • Life Cycle 
  • User 

For Lifecycle and User, you can drill down. For example, under Lifecycle, you can look at: 

  • Acquisition 
  • Engagement 
  • Monetisation 
  • Retention 

Cross-platform integration
Integration with other tools like Google Ads and apps to combine data across platforms to reveal a fuller picture of the buyer’s journey. 

Privacy protection
GA4 will not store IP addresses and will give users more granular control over what is collected about them and how it’s used. People are generally okay with companies collecting data if it is used to improve their experience. 

Change in terminology
Google recognises that transitioning to the new terminology may be a big adjustment for users who are familiar with the old Google Analytics terminology. To aid in this process, they have created a document that compares the old terms to the new terms for easier understanding. 

For example, where you might see “ga:sessions” in Universal Analytics, you’ll see “sessions.” With this said, Google points out, “Although the fields listed below may have a similar meaning in Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4, the format and semantics of the values may have changed.”

Google has created a guideline document that provides a detailed description for every field. 

Take action now

The UA to GA4 migration is a crucial step for businesses aiming to leverage the full potential of their digital analytics. To unlock the benefits and possibilities that GA4 offers, it is imperative to take action now and prioritise the migration process.

Whether you decide to tackle it independently or seek assistance from a digital agency, the key is to start the process sooner rather than later. Don’t delay and risk missing out on the valuable insights and improved performance that GA4 can bring to your business.

If you’re looking to partner with a digital agency, reach out to the team at Distl.

Cam Dobie

SEO Specialist