Don’t Lose Valuable Data Migrating to GA4
Updated: Apr 19
Google recently announced that universal analytics will stop tracking from Jul 1 2023. The scary thing is six months after you won’t be able to access your old data. See screenshot below taken from google analytics support.
Why this matters for your website?
Google is forcing your hand by setting a deadline within a reasonable timeframe (from when this article was written). Once the deadline has passed you won’t be able to track your website or view your legacy Universal Analytics data. So, the time has come that if you haven’t begun thinking about your plan for google analytics then it needs to jump up the priority list.
If you remain with google analytics your option is to migrate to GA4. But for a seamless transition it would be best to think about upgrading ASAP. As unfortunately, it’s not a simple swap for universal analytics code for GA4 code. It will require understanding the new features in GA4 which includes new measurement models, configurations and reports to replicate your measurement implementations from Universal Analytics to GA4.
Also, for more complex websites you may also require developers to write code so this should be factored in as well.
Apps need a tweak as well
If you have an app on iOS or Android and you are using Universal Analytics to gather usage data. You will also need to update your app to use GA4.
If your app is relatively new, you are more likely to be using Google Analytics for Firebase so you’re almost there. A Firebase project requires a simple integration step to be synched with GA4.
What is GA4?
Let’s take a step back and understand what is GA4. Essentially, it is the latest version of Google Analytics. It differs considerably from its predecessor, as Universal Analytics measurement model was based on sessions and page views. A session being a collection of interactions over a given timeframe. A session can contain many web views, events and various e-commerce transactions.
GA4’s measurement model will be based on events with optional parameters. The idea here is that any interaction can be captured as an event. This paradigm shift does provide more flexibility and developers should find it easier to setup.
As highlighted by google the following analytics hit types are now captured in GA as an event
Universal Analytics Hits
Captured as Events in GA 4
Transaction / e-commerce
App / Screen View
GA4 is Structured in Data Streams
The structure in Universal Analytics is Accounts -> Properties -> Views. Now you have Account -> Property -> DataStreams. Data streams in GA4 is a new way of organising your data sources. A data source could be an iOS app, android app or website. Each data stream are fed into your Google Analytics property. You can have multiple data streams flowing into one property. This allows you to compare and consolidate user behaviour across different platforms.
GA4 also includes “Enhanced Measurement“ events for which are events that are automatically tracked on your web data streams. Examples of some these events are:
Scroll: This event is triggered when a user scrolls 90% of the page.
Outbound clicks: This event is triggered when your user navigates away from your site
Page views: tracks each page that is visited by a user.
Each of these default events can be optionally enabled/disabled.
Migrating to GA4
Migrating to GA4 requires mapping out your Universal Analytics measurement and tracking framework and implementing it into GA4.
It requires transferring your hit based tracking into the event parameters used in GA4. For example, mapping out how your goal conversion tracking or hit based event tracking in Universal Analytics will be tracked in GA4.
We recommend you plan your migration in 4 stages:
1. Audit and Framework
Firstly, assess your current set-up, your measurement objectives and design a measurement framework the is styled to your business requirements.
2. Implement and Configure
Then begin implementing the framework following an action plan that accounts for the data migration and GA4 configuration. If you have set-up tracking tags in GTM you may need evaluate each tag as there may be different tags required for GA4.
3. Clean and Debug
Make sure that any legacy tracking or tags that are not required are cleaned, leaving you with a structured and manageable framework. Also
4. Implementation Audit
Finally, complete the process by making sure everything is working and implemented correctly.
Don’t lose years of Valuable data
Most companies will have built up years of data in Universal Analytics. This data will have been essential to explore historic trends, compare year on year KPI’s and better understand user behaviour. In summary, analysing your historic data enables you to make better informed decisions based on what is likely to happen in the future.
Migrating to GA4 has created two issues for companies who want to retain data:
Universal Analytics will no longer be accessible after 1st July 2023
GA4 has two options to retain the data you collect: Keep the data for 2 months or 14 months
Note that the data retention settings in GA4 applies to exploration reports and does not affect aggregated reports.
However, both scenarios can create an issue for further data interrogation particularly for companies that a) experience seasonal fluctuations in sales and customer behaviour or b) report on growth KPI’s.
It would be fair to say that both cases will be relevant to a majority of companies. GA4 can be integrated with google big query and quite possibly larger enterprises will have data retention systems in place.
But for the vast majority of SME’s or marketing teams who do not have these systems in place, it is essential they find a solution to retain their valuable data.
“The future belongs to those who can collect, aggregate, segment, integrate, visualize and interpret data” - Vint Cerf, One of the Fathers of the Internet” & Chief Internet Evangelist, Google
“Information is the oil of the 21st century and analytics is the combustion engine" - Peter Sondergaard, SVP and Global Head of Research at Gartner, Inc.
What Does Google Recommend?
Google is recommending that you export your Universal Analytics data to spreadsheets as a back-up option. However, this is surprising that google offers a cumbersome, time-consuming and impractical option to retaining your Universal Analytics Data.
If you decide to follow through with the recommendation you will also lose the ability to filter through your data by specific dimensions and attributes.
It is also surprising that they have not offered a solution to integrate Universal Analytics with GA4 to create a seamless view of your data over time.
So, without a lot of data wrangling in spreadsheets, software purchases and a lot of your time to analyse data, you are putting yourself at risk of losing valuable data. In particular, lose the ability to compare trends and behaviours over time.
What can Alytix Marketing do for you
We can take the headache away from you by ensuring you can retain your legacy data for both Universal Analytics and GA4 in a simple and user friendly way.
We are able to transfer your data into user friendly dashboards that enable you to analyse and interrogate the data in much the same way as you can in google analytics.
We can help in 4 main ways
We can help you retain your data so you can continue comparing year on year trends.
Provide an interactive dashboard of your existing universal analytics data so you will always be able to access and analyse the data
Provide a single view interactive dashboard that contains both universal analytics and GA4 data
Create custom dashboards as per your requirements to help build out an analytics framework for your web analytics and marketing measurement strategy.
If you are interested in how Alytix Marketing can help with your google analytics migration or data retention download the brochure for more information or if you’d like a representative to get in touch please fill out the contact form.