Migration from Universal Google Analytics to GA4 – A checklist

Introduction

You should know at the outset that it is not strictly possible to migrate to GA4 because you cannot import any data, settings, or events that were firing in both Universal Analytics (GA3 for ease hereafter) or via Google Tag Manager. You also need to know that the dataLayer set up for eCommerce is quite different from the one in GA3. See more here.

There are four broad areas that you will need to work on for the GA4 property to be considered production-ready. They are:

  1. Setting up the GA4 interface
  2. Setting up the integrations to this property from other tools
  3. Setting up events in Google Tag Manager to send data to GA4 also
  4. Set up conversions and events that are analogous to the Goals in GA3.

Setting up the GA4 interface

Here is a checklist of tasks that need to be done after setting up the property using the Setup Assistant.

  1. Set up the data streams from the website and app where needed.
    • Make sure to set the time zones correctly.
    • In the setup assistant, check all the optimization boxes. Let the machine learning that Google touts do the work for you.
  2. Filter internal traffic – there are no views available in a property so this is crucial.
  3. Filter the developer traffic – set up a dev property in GA4 and lookup table in GTM.
  4. Filter Referrals that you don’t want – this is good for internal tools like Asana, for example.
  5. Timeout Settings need to be actively set – 30 mins to start with and modified later when you can make a better evaluation of user browsing behavior.
  6. Set Data Retention to 14 months.
  7. Enable Google Signals – Important for any re-targeting that you will do soon.
  8. Set the reporting identity to User-ID and Device.
  9. Go with the Data-driven attribution model(recommended) with 30 days conversions.
  10. Set up the access levels at the property for the smallest number of users and then expand as needed.

Integration of GA4 with other tools

There are several integrations available. Here is a checklist in the order of how you should connect them:

  1. Link a Google Ad account to the property.
  2. Google Search Console link to the property.
  3. BigQuery Link to the property. This is the cheapest clickstream that you will ever get so absolutely do it.
  4. Merchant Center, Ad Manager, Search Ads 360, etc. as needed.

Setting up Events in Google Tag Manager

This is probably the most onerous task because most of us are using Google Analytics events a lot by now and some accounts may have up to and over a hundred. You should not and cannot mindlessly convert all those to GA4 events. Plan based on how important an event is to the business, and then add it to GA4. For every 10 events created, make a new version of GTM. This will help you maintain a certain order in the chaos that is likely to ensue.

For eCommerce events, there are ways to use the existing GA3 eCommerce dataLayer to populate GA4 e-commerce tags. Please use templates like those developed by Savio.no or the much-celebrated Simo Ahava. If you want to build them yourself, go ahead. If you want my help, write to me or schedule a chat.

If you are running A/B tests using Google Optimize you should set that integration via GTM also.

Setting up Conversions and Event parameters in GA4

You can have 25 goals in GA3. In GA4, we are allowed to create 4 automatic conversion events for mobile and up to 30 other conversion events. For more details on how to set them up, please see this article.

As far as critical events go, you will have to set up custom dimensions to capture the parameters being passed via events. At this time, we can get by with just one parameter called “label” which is directly analogous to the GA3 “event label”. The event name is automatically collected so that shouldn’t be a concern.

Now that we have covered most of the steps that you need to set up GA4 properly, you will want to find detailed implementations for each of these steps. Please go to this page to find educators who will give you everything that you need to make this migration successful.

The sunset of GA3 is planned for July 1st, 2023 so to have at least a year’s worth of data collected in GA4, you should have it set up and ready to go by July 1st, 2022.

So please get on with it. If you need help, just ask. 😎

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