It’s Not Too Late to Migrate to Google Analytics 4

Michael Wiegand, Director of Analytics

Hello, digital marketers and data enthusiasts. Today, we will be talking about something that’s been on the minds of many in our industry: Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

If you’ve been living under a rock (or just busy), you may have missed the memo that Universal Analytics (UA) stopped collecting data on June 30th, 2023. That’s right, folks. If you still need to set up a GA4 property (or have yet to evaluate a competitor to Google Analytics), your data will have been gone since July 1st, 2023. 

But don’t panic just yet. It’s still possible to migrate to GA4. We’re here to guide you through it.

The Setup Assistant: Not as Magical as It Sounds

In its infinite wisdom, Google has been automatically migrating old UA properties to GA4. Sounds great, right? Not really, it turns out. Their Setup Assistant does a poor job of customizing the setup and event tracking to meet the needs of your specific business. It’s a one-size-fits-all disaster.

But you can follow our step-by-step guide to set things up correctly.

That walkthrough takes you into Google Tag Manager (GTM) to deploy your new GA4 Measurement ID. While you’re in there, you might’ve noticed your container has gotten out of hand, which brings me to my next point.

Time to Spring Summer Clean Your Google Tag Manager Container

While you were in Google Tag Manager setting things up, you might’ve noticed that your container has gotten out of hand. Now is an excellent time to re-evaluate your Google Tag Manager container

Believe it or not, even if you pause old tags that are no longer relevant, GTM must evaluate all your tags, triggers, and variables on each page load to understand whether or not to use them. That puts a weight on your site performance. 

We recommend retiring anything you’re no longer using and carrying forward only the most essential tracking for collection in GA4. Let’s be honest: Were you using all of that information?

Speaking of your old data, you’ll need to devise a plan for that too!

The Clock is Ticking on UA Data Access

Another crucial point: Google will only allow access to old UA data until June 30th, 2024. A year from now seems like a long time, but there’s currently no self-serve tool for exporting that data into a more permanent storage method. 

So, what’s a data-loving marketer to do? We recommend using the Google Analytics API to export specific data groups into BigQuery.

There are eight different schemas that we recommend holding onto, including campaigns, content, devices, traffic sources, and user behavior.

Once you’ve nailed down which ones are most critical for your business to preserve, it’s time to reap the benefits of having that warehoused.

The Big Benefits of BigQuery

BigQuery is more than just a fun word to say. It’s a powerful tool allowing you to merge historical UA data with newly-collected GA4 data and create seamless reporting going forward. It’s like a time machine for your data, allowing you to look back at your past performance while keeping a keen eye on the present.

It also allows for accelerated load times for Google Analytics reporting in Looker Studio. That means less time waiting for your data and more time analyzing and strategizing.

The Bottom Line

The migration to GA4 might seem daunting, but there is still time to switch. With some effort and strategic planning, you can ensure smooth data collection and analysis. So, roll up your sleeves, dive into your Google Tag Manager, and start making the most of GA4. Your future self will thank you.

If you run into any issues with the migration process, Portent is happy to help. Just reach out to our analytics team!

Michael Wiegand, Director of Analytics
Director of Analytics

Over two decades as a marketer, Michael's experience has run the gamut from design, development, direct mail, multivariate testing, print and search. He now heads Portent's analytics practice, overseeing everything from Google Tag Management, to CRM integration for closed-loop analytics, to solving ponderous digital marketing questions. Outside of work, he enjoys recording music, playing D&D, and supporting Seattle Sounders FC.

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