Transition to Google Analytics 4: everything you need to know
Time is running out: in 2023 the transition to Google Analytics 4 will be mandatory.
Not moving from one platform to another simply means that you are going to lose the previous data. The migration process has to be carried out proactively by your team since the data structure is totally different and is not “inherited”. In other words: you run out of historical data and you have to start building new ones.
This imposition has not been very well received because, in addition to establishing a new form of measurement, switching from Analytics to GA4 has many technical implications. We have to insist: it doesn’t matter and we’d better get to work if we haven’t already done so; time is running out.
Main differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4
Let’s quickly go over this as a review and for context. Knowing the differences will help us to better undertake the transition between the two platforms.
#1 – User vs Web
Web analytics, as we understood it until relatively recently, was based on the collection of interaction data on a website, but focused on the visit above all else.
Considering that reality has become omnichannel and the digital ecosystem has become more sophisticated, continuing to measure visits left a less in-depth analysis. That’s why GA4 puts the focus on the user (through events) rather than on the website or mobile app itself (using visits or sessions as the main metric).
#2 – Multi-channel and multi-device data collection
This change in paradigm and methodology also necessarily affects where and how data are collected.
Both systems are able to collect information in real-time, what happens is that GA4 does not stay only in your online store or app. It associates the devices to a user ID and performs a unified measurement wherever the owner of that ID accesses.
#3 – It is more intentional
Google Analytics 4 is much more flexible and accurate. For this we will work with two different types of events:
– Automatic events: these events are registered at the same time that we install GA4 on our website and, without further implementation, track clicks on links, interactions with forms or the loading of a particular url.
-Customized events: ad hoc events to track virtually any action relevant to our online business.
To give you an idea of the dimension, with Google Analytics 4 we can define up to 500 events per property.
#4 – Integration capacity
Not everything has become more complicated with GA4, there are some aspects in which Google’s digital analytics platform makes our lives easier.
The best example is the integration with other services such as Google Ads or Google Merchant Center. It is really much simpler than it was so far, since the process only involves a couple of clicks (and having the corresponding permissions, obviously).
Warning: much of what you have read will be familiar to you if you are using the “web+app” properties of Analytics, logical because it is basically the same at the operational level.
What you should do in your transition to Analytics 4
Each company should approach its procedure in the way that is the most comfortable for it. Anyway, we are going to give you some simple tips that are important to keep in mind.
#1 – Familiarize yourself with GA4 as soon as possible
Everything is very different, from the mechanics itself to the reports or data visualization. Not to mention the implementation, where there are quite a few limitations such as:
– You can only use 500 customized events
– In these, you will be able to send a maximum of 25 parameters
– Event names are limited to 40 characters and property values are limited to 36 characters.
I’m sorry to insist so much, but it is essential that you get on with it and better today than tomorrow.
#2 – Plan the migration
The first thing is to define what we want to measure, set the KPIs and translate everything into events. It makes sense to rely on your current implementation of Google Analytics, but also to take the opportunity to upgrade your analytical capabilities.
Carefully design the tracking architecture, this is something for which you will need knowledge or the support of a specialized person.
Then you enter the configuration phase of the property. Here, you will have to use the name and the rest of the Univesal Analytics parameters (hourly usage, currency…).
Don’t forget to activate the enhanced metrics. This is essential to have a more detailed view of engagement and interaction with your content. We are talking, for example, about page views, but also about scroll, internal searches, exit clicks, different interactions with a video or a form.
Once you have followed these steps you will be able to link UA and GA4 to run the wizard and finish configuring everything.
#3 – Test, test and test again
No matter how much you have planned in detail, there are always a few things that can go wrong. That’s OK as long as this happens within the period when both analytics platforms coexist and we have time to review and adjust those small glitches without compromising the analytics.
Focus especially on conversion tracking, which is critical in eCommerce. Analyze the data and compare it with other platforms to be sure you have a reliable source of data.
Don’t be afraid of change, it really will be an improvement in the way you measure: deeper and more complete. Just make sure you make a good transition to Google Analytics 4.