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Four Steps to Migrate to Google Analytics 4

In this second part of our series, we will try to answer all of your doubts and clear possible fears, with a step-by-step 4-step to migrate a property from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

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Frontend Architects Marketers

Published 29 Jun, 2022 7 minutes of reading

In the first part of this series, we explained the new features and benefits of the new version of Google Analytics. We know that getting to know it means a drastic change that generates many questions: What will happen with the data? How to start working with the new version? How long does the learning curve take?

In this second part, we will try to answer some of those doubts and clear possible fears, with a 4-step process to migrate a property from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). You'll see that the process isn't as overwhelming as it seems!

To illustrate migrating to the new GA4 data structure, let's take a case study: a form submission, exhibited in our measurement process in Modyo.

Step 1: Check the status and version of each client

In this first step, we can audit the current property in UA in order to evaluate the data that's been collected in the form of events and targets. This will allow us to prioritize what adds value to the migration to GA4 and edit or delete what does not. 

Step 2: Map the events to be migrated from each Google Analytics Universal client to GA4

In this planning phase, we map the events to be migrated to GA4 along with the parameters that will provide the context for further analysis. As mentioned in the first part of this article, it is important to understand the GA4 data collection model. Events move from the old "Category", "Action" and "Tag" configuration to a flexible and customized nomenclature for each business. While this feature is positive and brings several opportunities, there are more steps when implementing an event:

1. The first thing we do is check to see if the event being migrated is part of the events that GA4 automatically collects via the enhanced measurement option. When configuring the GA4 property data flow, we can enable this option to start tracking the following events: Page views, scrolls, exit clicks, site searches, video interaction and file downloads.

EXAMPLE: If there is already an event in the old UA property that tracks a file download, you will not need to configure it manually, but you should configure its parameters as custom dimensions (we explain it in detail in step 4).

2. If the event is not collected automatically, we review the events recommended by Google Analytics. These are events with certain parameters defined in a standard way that Google advises to follow to better interpret the data sent (this can generate a positive impact when Google starts implementing machine learning reports for predictive analytics).

EXAMPLE: If you need to track when a user logs in, the "login" event may be useful.

3. If none of the above event types (enhanced measurement or recommended) are useful for the event we want to migrate, we implement a custom event. It is at this stage of the process that the event structure must be adapted from UA to GA4. For this, we recommend using a previous implementation document where the events and their parameters are defined before making the relevant configurations. The structure would be as follows:


Event: Submitting
a form

Trigger: A user completes
and sends a form
by clicking a "Send"
Analytics Version Parameters Value
UA Event Category Request a Demo
Action Application Form
Tag Create
GA4 Event Event Name Request a Demo
Section Application Form
Button Create
page URL /talktous

In this case, we've defined the new parameters for the event in GA4, without losing the consistency and data structure of UA. In the same way, we can add other parameters that can give us more context of the event we want to migrate, such as the URL of the page from where the action was performed.

Step 3: Set up the GA4 account, ownership and data flow

To start the migration, we must configure a new property in GA4 that will be connected to the UA property we already have. The steps are as follows:

1. From the administrator, we will go to the "Account" column and select the account that will host the GA4 property.

2. The "Property" column will be enabled on the right. Select the UA property we want to migrate and click on GA4 Configuration Wizard. 

3. A section will be displayed where we will have the option to create a GA4 property or connect an existing one. We choose the first option by clicking on the "How to start" button.

The GA4 configuration wizard will automatically create a property with an associated data stream and enable enhanced metering. The basic configuration is now done.

*IMPORTANT: Having two properties from both versions running simultaneously does not mean that one replaces the other. The new GA4 property will start receiving data from the date of creation and the UA property will continue to receive data until July 01, 2023.

Step 4: Set up GA4 in the digital product 

4.1. Creating the GA4 configuration tag

To connect the digital product with the new property, we need to add the GA4 configuration tag from Google Tag Manager (GTM). To do this, we'll go to the GTM container and in the left sidebar, click on "Tags". When we do this, the following panel will be displayed: 

From there, we'll name the tag "GA4 Settings" and click on "Tag Settings". Within the tag types, we will choose "Google Analytics: GA4 Settings" and enter the measurement ID that can be found within the data stream of the newly created GA4 property.

Finally, we'll choose, within the triggers, the option "Initialization - All pages" as the trigger for the initialization of this tag on all pages of the website. The configuration should look like this:

4.2. Creating labels and triggers for GA4 events

Following the example of the form submission event, we must configure a tag and trigger in order to send this data to the GA4 property. To create a tag, we will go back to "Tags" and choose the type of tag "Google Analytics: GA4 event". 

We will select within the "Configuration tag" field, the GA4 tag that we already created and proceed to name the name of the tag and the event along with its parameters. In this exercise, we will repeat the nomenclature of our example form: 

*Note: The values in square brackets ("") represent dynamic values that require the configuration of variables by the team. 

Once we have completed the information relevant to the event, we will configure the trigger for this tag to be executed on the site. For this case, we can condition this trigger with the Click Classes variable and the CSS class of the button (btn-primary btn-submit).

Then, every time an element of the site is clicked where the CSS class matches that of the button, the label of this event will be fired. 

*Note: The configuration of this event is referential. If you need support in migrating your UA property events to GA4, feel free to contact the Modyo team. 

4.3. Creating custom dimensions in GA4

We have already created the custom event in GTM. Now, every time this action is performed on the site, the GA4 property will receive this data in the form of parameters. However, these parameters will not be displayed in GA4 without first configuring them as a custom dimension in this version. The process is as follows:

From the property interface, in the left sidebar we will select "Configure". We will click on "Custom Definitions" and the list of the dimensions we have will appear.

As we do not have any, we will proceed to click on the upper right side on "Create custom dimensions". In the panel on the right, we will fill in the name of the dimension, its scope, description and the parameter to which it refers. Our recommendation is that the dimension name follows the same convention as the parameter name.  

As the event created is not a property attributed to the user, the scope defined by default will be "Event". Click on save and you have configured the first custom dimension. Repeat this process for the rest of the parameters.

When we have finished configuring the dimensions, we will go to the section "Reports" > "Interaction" > "Events" and we will be able to visualize the detail of the parameters that compose them.

Parameters corresponding to the "Request a demo" event.

*IMPORTANT: Custom dimensions may take up to 24 hours to be reflected in the GA4 interface reports.

4.4. Creating conversions in GA4

Previously in UA, you could create specific goals based on metrics and dimensions in the reports. In GA4, a conversion can be any event that we consider important for the business and this must be configured beforehand.

How? In the same "Configuration" section, go to "Events" and a list of the events we have created will appear. GA4 gives us the option to mark any event as a conversion by means of a simple "switch".

Events marked as conversions can be viewed from the "Conversions" report.


Although July 2023 may seem like a distant date, it is not that much time we have to get to know the GA4 interface in depth and become familiar with its potentialities, as well as to generate a data history in this new version that will allow us to make relevant comparisons. 

In addition, this change is a major transformation in the way we think about data and user behavior, which requires organizations to adapt and learn about the new tools and integrations. This is not easy or quick to do, but we hope this guide will help you to plan the actions to be taken ahead of time and, gradually, to carry them out.

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