Migrating to GA4 and what you should know
Jon / February 28th 2023 / 8 minute read
You may have heard about Google’s upcoming move from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Universal Analytics is more than likely to be the platform that you are currently using to access your websites data as GA4 is a completely new analytics platform and system.
Back on the 14th October in 2020, Google made the announcement to introduce their GA4. Built upon the App+ Web property that was released beta in 2019, this version of the platform has been in development for some time.
On the 1st July 2023, Google will completely replace its data measuring solution of Universal Analytics with Google Analytics 4.
Within this blog we are going to be looking at the key features and benefits of GA4 in more detail to help you understand what it entails and how you can help your business migrate over.
Which version of Google Analytics are you currently running?
Possessing the knowledge of where you are helps you to move onwards and upwards toward success in the most efficient way possible. There are different versions of Google Analytics that you are more than likely already running and through knowing which you are utilising will undoubtedly help you migrate to Google Analytics 4 when the time comes.
Should you have created your property before the 14th October 2020, then you will more than likely be using a UA property. However, should the creation have taken place after this date you are most likely using a form of GA4 property already.
If you feel that you would benefit from the support and help of our team of developers to look into this on your behalf, we are more than happy to assist you. Simply drop us a call or email and we will be in touch shortly.
Key features of the new system
Google Analytics 4 is able to offer you more flexibility when it comes to different kinds of data. It has also been labelled as the future of the analytics experiences across digital platforms such as: websites and apps, using machine learning technology to predict new insights, and keep up with an ever changing ecosystem. Plus, all of that with or without cookies!
Put into simpler terms, Google will be collecting all of your data, across the entirety of your business platforms in one place while using new technology to future proof everything for you.
Here are the key technical implications that could affect your business:
- Better privacy and data security for website visitors – auto-anonymity of IP address, data is less dependent on cookies and it delivers user-centric data.
- Powered by Machine Learning – more sophisticated predictive insights about user behaviour helping improve marketing efforts.
- Expanded platform integration – app, web and ad data in one property with clearer cross-platform acquisition and attribution.
- Platform interface – Sessions and Pageviews become ‘Events’, GA4 allows you to edit and tweak how events are tracked without touching code, Cross domain tracking can be dealt with on Google Analytics.
- Data storage – content will be restricted to a rolling 14 months.
Short term planning before the switch
Looking at this switch in short term perspectives and what you need to do imminently, if you are currently tracking Universal Analytics, it is crucial for you to start building up your historical data within Google Analytics 4 in advance of the quickly upcoming switch.
Once the 1st of July 2023 finally rolls around and Universal Analytics is officially retired, all of the data it had previously captured will end there and then. Therefore, should you need to access your historical site data for any reasons after this point in time, you will need to export this prior to that date or risk losing it all and not having any backups or records.
How do you save your existing data?
There are numerous ways in which you can go about exporting and saving your websites historical data however, outside of BigQuery, these can be fairly limiting when it comes to individual reports. BigQuery itself is actually able to get all of your data, including looking to stream it straight from Universal Analytics now, but we do wish to pinpoint how heavily involved this process can truly be.
Depending upon your business itself, its full requirements and considering data availability, we highly recommend looking at accessing and exporting at least a few years worth of data to hold on to for your records. When doing so, be aware and conscious of any data from the Covid 19 period as it may not be fully representative of your typical site or the sales activity for any businesses and needs to be reviewed separately.
Exporting your own data manually
Yes, it is actually possible to export your websites data manually in Google Analytics, however you will be exporting a full report as opposed to all data it would typically encompass.
Here are a few simple steps to take when it comes to exporting your data on your own:
- In the Google Analytics dashboard, you will need to load up the specific report that you are looking to export. Then all you do is simply click the ‘export’ button at the very top right of the web page itself to begin the process.
- You can additionally choose to export this data in any of the following formats: CSV. PDF, Excel or as a Google Sheets document.
Exporting data into BigQuery using streaming
We recommend looking to connect your Google Analytics account to BigQuery. This will ensure that all of your website’s data will be continually streamed and safely stored here for the future in a reachable location.
What do you need to do RIGHT NOW?
Creating your own GA4 property
One key thing you need to know is that Google Analytics 4 runs on Machine Learning.
This means that the more data it has access to overall, the more accurate and useful that information will be for you and your business in the long run and when it comes to making informed decisions. Even if you were to remain on Universal Analytics until the big switch date, having the data already running on Google Analytics 4 means that by the summer season, all of your data will be more stable and of a superior value to you and your business .
How you can move to Google Analytics 4
You are actually able to fully set up your own Google Analytics 4 account. All you need to do is follow Google’s own comprehensive online guidance. The technical skills that are required to carry this out does vary from task to task, but an application to an ecommerce site is far more complex and requires advanced skills and technical confidence. So, if you have already set up your ecommerce you will be more than able to do this yourself.
If you have not done something as technical as this before and want to be on the safer (and easier for you!) side, we recommend assigning this task of moving to a specialist. This will ensure that the process is speedy, accurate and will give you peace-of-mind that it will all be done correctly. Technically qualified digital agencies, such as Teapot Creative itself, have teams of talented experts who are trained in Google systems and know all of the in’s and out’s involved within it. They will be able to correctly export your data, as well as set up, test and completely run the new Google Analytics 4 platforms for your site and/ or your online store.
In order to support businesses and organisations through this crucial changeover and ensure that your website and online store are fully supported by Google Analytics, we have created a full support package specifically to tailor to those of you who may be in need when the time comes. You can find more information on this below.
Plan your data export
We recommend that you continue to use Universal Analytics until the 1st of July 2023 but, alongside this, we suggest getting a solid plan in place that will encompass what you wish to do with all of your historical data and how you will approach it.
Should you have any questions or are at all unsure of what the correct course of action to take for yourself and your business is, look to contact your digital agency for advice right away. If you do not currently have an active digital agency, the developer team here at Teapot Creative are more than happy to offer you support and assistance in this area.