A GA4 Checklist: How to Migrate and What You Should do Now

Looking to get started with Google Analytics 4 (GA4) but not sure where to start? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. GA4 is completely different to Universal Analytics, all the way down to its data structure and collection mechanisms, which means you’re about to embark on a data migration − no small undertaking!

If you don’t have experience of data migrations, it can be a bit of a daunting task – so much to be done, where do you start?! The answer is thankfully simple: make a plan, write it down, stick to it.

To get you started, here’s an outline of how we approach GA4 migrations. Hopefully this provides a bit of inspiration.

GA4 Rollout Timeline

Universal Analytics will be turned off on 1 July 2023. If you do not have GA4 set up before the end of June this year, you will begin to lose visibility of seasonality.

Here are some key timeline dates for the coming year to help you get up and running with GA4 and make sure you’re not losing any valuable data.

30th June 2022

By 30th June this year, you’ll need to have business-critical data like traffic sources, content viewed and conversions, already in place and validated.

If you complete this later than 30th June, you’re going to lose your year-on-year comparisons because 1st July next year is the year-on-year point. The further you get from this data point, the more you lose the ability to look at seasonality so it’s important to be prepared and make sure everything is validated by this point.

30th June 2023

The next major deadline is 30th June 2023 and that’s when absolutely all data collection must be set up and validated in GA4. Everything needs to have been migrated by this date because Universal Analytics is going to be turned off the following dayte. Even reporting needs to be migrated into GA4 to prevent breaks.

Getting your hands on a GA4 property early buys you more time to familiarise yourself and train your staff before the key date of 1st July 2023. So, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time and stick to these deadlines.

How to have a successful migration

Now you know when you need to do everything by, it’s time to learn how. We’ve put together a five-point plan to help you migrate your data and get to grips with GA4.

1. Lay the foundations

To get started with your migration, this first step is just getting a tag on your website. And it’s not as complicated as it seems. All you need to do is create your GA4 property and set up a Data Stream and add the GA4 configuration tag to all pages of your website.

This will unlock a lot of things for you and you’ll be able to start exploring GA4 and get familiar with the new UI and data model right away. It’ll also give you a view of your traffic and marketing sources, meaning you can already start to build up that data history that will enable you to get year-on-year data in the future.

Key questions to ask at this stage:

2. Set up BigQuery

The next thing you should do is set up BigQuery which will allow you to get access to ensemble data and data retention. With BigQuery, you can access raw, unsampled data and extend data retention beyond 14 months.

Key questions to ask at this stage:

3. Migrate events and custom definitions

Once you’ve got that core in place, you’ll have a view of your traffic and all the core interactions which are coded by enhanced measurement.

Now it’s time to overlay your business context by migrating events and custom definitions. This should include events which represent conversion points, for example, or any other interactions that are unique to your website.

This one is a big task, so make sure you leave lots of time to understand what you’re currently tracking, whether it’s worth moving across in the first place and how it maps to GA4 as a data structure with different dimensions and metrics.

Key questions to ask at this stage:

4. Customise GA4 to meet your needs

Just customising your event collection isn’t enough in GA4. There are lots of things you can change in GA4 so it’s worth taking some time to play around and work out what’s happening within your marketing and how the data you’re collecting can feed into marketing activity for your business.

Key questions to ask at this stage:

5. Migrate reporting

Whether you’re interested in customer reports in Google Analytics, Data Studio dashboards, or third-party reports somewhere that’s using the API, all reports will need to be rebuilt to use Google Analytics 4 data. It’s also worth asking where these reports should be rebuilt given the limitations and benefits of GA4, and recognising that some reports can’t just be copied over – there will be dimensions and metrics which won’t be available and there’ll be dimensions and metrics which are a lot different.

Key questions to ask at this stage:

6. Train your team on how

Our final tip for a successful migration is training.

Going through all the steps will be a long journey and it’s important that you have others coming along on this journey with you. Using this data will be a big shift from what your team is used to so they will need training to help them navigate this new platform and utilise it to its full ability..

This training should also be done little and often – no one is going to learn to use a new UI and data model overnight.

Some of the key topics to cover in the training:

Your migration checklist

So, now you know what’s involved in making a migration a success, here’s our handy checklist to help you keep track of what you’ve done and, more importantly, what’s still ahead:

As you can see, I wasn’t kidding when I said it’s no small undertaking. Fortunately, each step is relatively straight forward, so getting a solid plan in place practically guarantees success and, since we’re all in this together, there are plenty of people to lean on if you get stuck!

Hopefully this migration checklist helps you to pull together your own migration plan, but don’t forget to check the priority of each step so that the plan makes sense for your business − you may have a lot of reports to migrate and want to tackle that before training people up, for example.

If you need any help turning this framework into a solid plan, doing any of the heavy lifting in Tag Manager, or getting your teams up to speed on how to use the new Google Analytics, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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