Anthony Basile

Google Analytics is the technology at the heart of many, many marketing strategies. Whether you love or hate leveraging this solution to gather insights, you’re probably using it in some capacity. So that means it’s essential to stay up to date with the latest version of the system: Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

GA4 replaced the previous version, Google Universal Analytics, in the summer of 2023. As of July 2023, standard accounts on the old platform stopped processing customer data. If your company had an active 360 Universal Analytics order, however, your access was extended until July 1, 2024. That date is coming up, however. Now, at last, it’s time for everyone to shift over.

To make sure your company settles comfortably into this new chapter of your digital marketing journey, it’s worth focusing on managing a smooth, orderly migration journey. Following a clear, simple GA4 migration checklist — like the one we’ve prepared for you below — will help you make sure you don’t miss an important step as you get up to speed on the new system.

What’s the Importance of GA4 Migration?

Before getting into the details of GA4 migration, it’s natural to ask why. Why is this journey necessary? In short, GA4 setup is important because GA4 is important. Google Analytics is the most relied-upon data analytics tool for marketers. Time and again, usage rates make it clear that this is the go-to technology.

Even in the early, difficult days of the transition from Google UA to GA4, most marketers frustrated with the change acknowledged that not only would they stay loyal to Google, they weren’t even considering any alternatives. How do we know this is what marketers felt? We asked them.

At the end of 2022, Brafton polled marketers about their opinions about GA4. Almost two-thirds were already trying out GA4, and while plenty of early adopters experienced a rocky transition, having to adapt to a new system on the fly, 55% admitted they had no other marketing analytics platforms in mind.

So, with GA4 firmly entrenched as the No. 1 option for analyzing marketing data and Universal Analytics about to go offline for all users, it’s clear: You need to be using GA4, and you need to do so now. A disciplined, step-by-step approach to managing the transition will make it quick, clean and painless to set up the new system.

Focusing on the transition to GA4 and giving it adequate time and focus is a way to ensure your solution is working as intended — and that you’re not missing any important signals from any of your ongoing or new marketing campaigns. 

Which version of GA4 is right for you? Compare GA4 360 and GA4 Standard.

10 Steps for GA4 Migration

The 10 key steps to update your system and move all your relevant campaigns, views and analyses into Google Analytics 4 include:

  1. Connect UA to GA4: Do you have any Universal Analytics properties you’ll need to migrate to Google Analytics 4? If you’re not sure, you can click on your property and check the Properties & Apps menu to see the ID number. If it starts with „UA“, this is a Universal Analytics property. Once you’ve verified whether you have a UA property, you can run the GA4 Setup Assistant from the Property menu. If it says „Not Connected.“ it’s time to run the assistant and migrate. If it says „Connected,“ the process is already underway.
  1. Create your GA4 property: Using the GA4 Setup Assistant requires a user to have an Editor or Administrator role. In the Admin tab, you select your Google Analytics account (if you have more than one) and choose your UA property from a list. Then you select GA4 Setup Assistant and decide whether to move over your property as close as possible to the old version or create a new GA4 property.
  1. Install GA4 on your website: If you don’t have a Google tag installed on your website, you’ll need to install one at this stage. This could mean manually adding the code by pasting JavaScript into the site’s code (if it doesn’t support the tag, you want to tag manually or you’re using analytics.js or Google Tag Manager). Alternatively, you can use your content management system (CMS) to install the tag with no code changes.
  1. Confirm your GA4 data settings: Once you’ve connected your property, it’s important to make sure it’s working. The transition can take up to half an hour, so you’ll have to wait. Then, you can browse on your website and request the GA4 system generate a Realtime report. If the setup worked, that Realtime report will be populated with browsing data.
  1. Enable Google signals: In addition to basic data collection about your users, you can take in more information about users with personalization turned on and who are logged into their Google Accounts. This is off by default, so you should use the Setup Assistant to find the „Turn on Google signals“ option.
  1. Set up key event tracking (conversion tracking): The old Google Analytics term „conversion“ has recently changed to“key event“ to align the use of the word „conversion“ across Google technologies. You need administrator privileges to set up GA4 events. You do this in the Admin menu and the Events tab. You should use accepted Google terminology like „generate_lead“ whenever possible, because built-in tracking features within GA4 target these generic events.
  1. Add your referral exclusions: For clearer tracking, it’s worth entering referral sources from third-party sources and gateways you use on your website. With that said, it’s no longer necessary to exclude direct self-referrals, as GA4 handles this process automatically. Exclusions are managed at the property level.
  1. Create your audiences: In addition to the two predefined audiences in Google Analytics, „all users“ and „purchasers,“ you can create custom audiences based on certain traits. These can be static (users are never removed) or dynamic (users are removed if they don’t meet the criteria). After you create an audience, which is an option in the Admin menu, you can share it with Google Ads.
  1. Link Search Console to GA4: To analyze organic search data associated with your website, you can integrate GA4 with Search Console. You can do this in Search Console or in GA4 itself by linking a GA4 data stream from your website with a property in Search Console.
  1. Link Google Ads to GA4: As long as you have administrator or editor privileges in GA4 and administrator access in Google Ads, you can link these accounts in the Admin menu by choosing the Link option. Within 48 hours, the two systems will share customer data. You can now link Google Ads conversions with GA4 key events, view Ads performance or set up user re-engagements based on analysis of their behavior on your website.

With these steps completed, you won’t just have GA4 up and running, you’ll have access to a host of analytical features that can help you run well-informed and data-driven campaigns.

10 steps not enough for you? Here are even more insights about setting up GA4.

What Next? 4 Things to Try After Setting Up GA4

Of course, there’s always more to explore in the world of marketing analytics. Once your GA4 account is up and running, you can dig deeper to uncover additional, actionable insights about your audience. 

  1. Set up custom events: You can go beyond the default GA4 events and recommended events available in GA4 to track specific interactions that are important to your brand as a custom event. You set the event parameters and determine whether to track it as a key event.
  1. Migrate conversion goals: As part of the connection between GA4 and Google Ads, you can migrate your goals and transactions into Google Ads Conversion Tracking. You do this by connecting a key event in GA4 with a conversion in Google Ads.
  1. Set up eCommerce tracking: There are premade eCommerce events included in GA4, such as purchases, promotions and refunds. By connecting your website or app and setting up these tags, you can take advantage of dashboards and views designed to deliver valuable context.
  1. Reconnect products: Google Ads and Search Console aren’t the only products that integrate with GA4 on the backend. On top of Google’s own services such as MerchanT Center and Ad Manager, there are offerings from Salesforce, Firebase, BigQuery and more.

Here are some of the GA4 views we recommend most.

Put GA4 to Use in Your Marketing Strategy

So, you’ve moved from UA to GA4 and tuned the new system for maximum performance. It’s time to start putting the technology to work as part of your marketing strategy. The analytics views within GA4 are designed to let you proactively target your audiences and deliver big wins from your website, whether you call them conversions, key events or any other term you care to invent.

Stepping fearlessly into a new era of Google Analytics may feel like a big move for your brand, but it’s worth remembering that everyone else has to make the same journey. Your level of success will come down to how well you adopt this new technology. So, are you ready to migrate?