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A Marketer's Must-Read GA4 Migration Checklist

Mar 31, 2023 - Megan Dituri
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Are you an e-commerce marketer who's feeling a bit like a deer in the headlights with the thought of migrating from Google Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)? We totally get it. 

As a marketing and analytics company, our growth marketing team understands the importance of leveraging technology to drive results for ourselves and our clients, which is why we are gearing up for one of the most significant transitions in the history of marketing analytics: Google Universal Analytics will be retired on July 1, 2023.

This is a historic moment, as Google Universal Analytics has been the go-to platform for tracking and measuring website performance for over 10 years. Let that sink in. In a world where technology is constantly evolving, and new products (from phones to apps) come out at an unprecedented pace, Google Universal Analytics has stood the test of time (with relatively minor enhancements) for the past decade. Google Universal Analytics is now being sunsetted, and GA4 will be the new generation moving forward.

If you are an e-commerce growth marketer, you should start preparing for this transition now. We certainly are.

Google has also begun to encourage customers to make the switch to GA4, as they explain: “To maximize historical data and to ensure that Google Analytics 4 (GA4) meets your specific needs, we recommend you make the switch to Google Analytics 4 now. This will give you the opportunity to customize the setup, including using the latest site tag.”

In the same message, Google also communicated that starting in March, they will “configure a GA4 property with basic settings consistent with the existing Universal Analytics property, for any customer that has not yet set up a GA4 property.”   

We have begun the migration for many of our clients, and we understand that it can be overwhelming to think and plan for all the changes that need to be made to keep your digital marketing, tracking, and reporting on point. However, it doesn't have to be a nightmare. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can make the transition smoothly. Let's dive into what's new and improved.

Is GA4 Better? What are the key differences?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that GA4 is a whole new ballgame when it comes to analytics platforms. Let's unpack the key features.

New Event-Based Model | GA4 has a new event-based model that allows you to assign custom properties and simplify your event tracking and tagging process. With this model, you can use one tag for all click tracking that includes source page, target page, or anchor text.

But the real game-changer is that GA4 enables you to create targetable audiences based on sequences of events within specific time periods. This means you can target people who added to cart within 5 minutes of watching a video, for example. This level of granularity will take your campaign insights to the next level.

Funnel Feature | Another feature is the funnel feature, which allows you to measure how many people reach specific steps on your website or app. This gives you a better understanding of where users drop off and how to improve their experience. Additionally, GA4 now has a customer journey pathing feature, which creates flowcharts of user actions on your website, giving you a clear picture of how users interact with your website or app.

Cookieless Tracking | GA4 also comes with the cookieless tracking option which makes it GDPR compliant. This means you can continue to track user data while remaining compliant with data privacy regulations.

Automatic Tracking & Targetable Remarketing Audiences | Furthermore, GA4 automatically tracks common events like scrolling and clicking, making it easier for you to track user engagement on your website or app. And with the predictive analytics feature, GA4 can build targetable remarketing audiences of people most likely to convert based on Google's machine learning, helping you reach your target audience more efficiently.

Overall, GA4 is equipped with features that will help growth marketers better understand their customers and deliver better results for their brand. However, the success of your campaigns will still largely depend on the expertise of your team and/or agency, their proficiency in executing the migration, and their overall ability to develop a comprehensive strategy for all of your marketing channels. 

What are some of the things marketers need to consider carefully? 

Google Universal Analytics users need to be aware that they will not have access to historical data after migrating to GA4. It's important to export and store any data that you will want for future reference before making the switch.

To ensure a smooth transition, it's best to migrate to GA4 as early as possible. Keep in mind that GA4 uses different properties that are not exactly equivalent to the old data, so you will need to analyze both sets of data to define a baseline for the new GA4 metrics.

Data Collection settings

The data collection setting is also different, and only a few settings will migrate one-to-one. 

Which one can be migrated?

As explained on  Google, Analytics Help  cookie customization and ads personalization  collection settings do migrate one-to-one from Universal Analytics to GA4 as long as  implemented in gtag.js or Google Tag Manager. 

Which one will have no equivalent in GA4? 

Google, Analytics Help goes on to explain that a few settings have no equivalent in GA4. Particularly: 

  • Control over IP masking- IP masking is enabled by default on Google Analytics 4 properties 
  • Custom task (analytics.js only)  - is not available in Google Analytics 4
  • Timing - not available in Google Analytics 4

Data Retention Time Periods

Another thing to note is that data retention time periods are shorter in GA4 than before, so it's important to be mindful of this when planning your migration.

As you migrate, you will also need to make changes to property filters, user access, and permission levels. This may require some business decisions about how to structure the new analytics accounts. Keep in mind that it's not possible to copy everything over as is, so you will need to make some adjustments. If you are currently working with a marketing agency, or an external consultant to handle your brand’s transition,it's important to ensure that they are having these business conversations with you and your internal team. 

How to prepare? 

Last but not least, our team has put together some steps e-commerce growth marketers can take to prepare for the migration to GA4:

  • Learn about GA4: Understanding the features and benefits of GA4, and how it differs from the current Google Universal Analytics platform, will help you determine how it can be used to benefit your e-commerce business.

  • Focus on Key Business Implications: While it's easy to get caught up in the technical details, try to go a layer deeper and understand how the GA4 will impact the way you track your business growth. Understanding these bigger business implications will aid in making decisions about structuring the new analytics account.

  • Lean on the Experts: If you work with a growth marketing agency, it's crucial to ensure they are well-prepared for the migration. You can always reach out to a consultant or connect with our team of experts who have executed the migration for many of our growth marketing clients.

  • Plan for the Migration: Decide when and how to integrate GA4 into your current data tracking and analysis processes. Ensure that you and/or your agency consider any potential challenges and plan accordingly.

  • Maintain Open Communication: Keep your internal and external teams informed about the upcoming migration and the steps you're taking to prepare for it. If a performance marketing agency is managing your account, make sure they are proactively communicating with you about all important changes. 

We hope this article was insightful and encourages you to continue reading and staying informed on the topic.

The migration to GA4 may seem challenging, but with proper planning and preparation, the transition will go smoothly. GA4 offers new and improved capabilities that can provide a deeper understanding of customers and their journeys, which is essential for driving growth in e-commerce.

In conclusion, the GA4 will present an opportunity for e-commerce growth marketers to gain a deeper understanding of customer behavior and preferences, which will ultimately lead to better performance.