March 22, 2022 in Tips by

If you use Google Analytics as much as I do, you’re being inundated with announcements about GA4- the latest version of Google Analytics. These announcements are encouraging people to migrate to GA4 as soon as possible.

However, there’s a problem: GA4 is not ready for everyone to use. 

As of March 16th, Google rolled out a timeline for GA4: the current version of Google Analytics will stop recording by July 1st, 2023. That means we have to be running on GA4 by that date. Update July 2022: Since this will roll-out in a year from now, you need to start moving to GA4 this month, if you want a year’s worth of data against which to compare yourself.

Here’s my best advice on migrating to GA4 by that timeline. There’s a lot more you can do but here’s my starting point.

For clarity’s sake, it might help to understand the terminology here. The old version of Google Analytics is called “Universal Analytics.” The new version is “GA4.”

First, don’t give up on Universal Analytics yet.

Universal Analytics has a lot to offer. It’s still working and has a lot of benefits above GA4. If you’re setting up a new Google Analytics account before the deadline, I recommend setting up Universal Analytics in addition to GA4. 

Crap-in, crap-out. If you don’t analyze your data, you’ll make bad marketing decisions. If you already have a Universal Analytics account, keep maintaining and collecting data on that account in the meantime. I’m convinced that one of the benefits is your familiarity with the “old” Google Analytics. This familiarity will help you continue to analyze your data. My biggest fear is that you’ll not do any analysis on your data because the interface (and many data points) are so different in GA4. That’s a big problem and could lead to some bad marketing decisions.

Besides, not all features are ready for GA4. As of this point, many systems do not support GA4 (for instance, Shopify or CallRail). You cannot use these systems in GA4. Soon they will roll out solutions here, but in the meantime, you’re going to have to keep using Universal Analytics. Update July 2022: I’m very disappointed these systems (and others) have not yet started rolling this out. If they wait until next year, we will miss out on a years worth of data. As a result, for instance, I’ve started “poor man’s phone call tracking” (tracking clicks to call in GA4).

Second, start collecting data in GA4.

There’s nothing wrong with running Universal Analytics simultaneously as GA4. Google announced that they will remove your historical data in Universal Analytics when GA4 rolls out. That means, if you want historical data, you better start collecting it asap. Frankly, that means your deadline is July 1st, 2022– so you can have year-over-year comparisons in your data when Universal Analytics goes away in 2023.

Third, don’t forget to track your conversions.

Conversion tracking in GA4 is very different than with Universal Analytics. However, it’s just as important! I’d argue it’s the entire point of having analytics on your website. 

Don’t be seduced by all the new and additional features of GA4. Be sure you always know how visitors become customers.

Fourth, start converting your reports into GA4.

One of the best features of Google Analytics is the reporting features- including automatically emailed reports (which are significant time savers). It’s time to convert these into Google Data Studio reports. 

Since not all features are available in GA4 yet, do your best. As more features go live, you’ll be able to get the same data in GA4 from your Universal reports (eventually).

Here are some of the regular reports I use that I’ll need to convert:

The transition from Universal Analytics to GA4 might be difficult- from the new UX to the different way of collecting and attributing leads- but it is happening whether we like it, or not. We can complain (like many already have) but that doesn’t change the deadlines. Nevertheless, I still recommend Google Analytics as a measurement solution and hope you’ll join me on the path to making this work for us and our clients.

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