The deadline for Google’s Universal Analytics to stop processing data is finally upon us. We’ve known this day was coming for more than a year and for the past few months Google has been sending increasingly ‘urgent’ notifications to encourage marketers to switch to GA4 – the latest being a large countdown clock pasted over the top of your UA property.
It’s all too easy to put off doing anything about new tools until you absolutely have to, and that moment has now come. Whether you’ve ‘let Google do it for you’, clicked on the automatic migration button and left it at that, or you’re now frantically trying to figure out how to learn GA4 and do an entire implementation in the space of a few days… here are a few pointers I’ve learned from working more closely with GA4 –
It doesn’t all need to be done today
You need to make sure that you have a property and data stream set up, data is flowing into your property, and the events that are most important to your business are being recorded. These are the basics you need to get in place to make sure you can still answer questions from your non-digital colleagues like “how have our blogs performed this month”. Configuring reports, dashboards and audiences are important, but these don’t absolutely need to be in place before the deadline.
Leverage work that already exists
If you’ve worked with UA before, you most likely had to set up events and conversions at some point – and you probably had a system to do so. If you used Google Tag Manager, you will have had to set up tags and triggers for each of your events – the good news is with this transition that it’s Analtyics changing not your website, so those triggers will still work. In many cases, you’ll just need a new tag that will fire a new event into GA4 based on those same triggers – where the difference comes is in the new event labelling structure. In GA4, you’re no longer limited by the ‘Category > Action > Label’ structure so you can customize events exactly as you want to, and take this as an opportunity to redesign your event collection architecture.
Have a plan and document everything
While you don’t need to be overwhelmed by everything there is to do, it is worth taking some time to think through what you might want to track and how you then set it up. A few things to remember: The free version of GA4 has quotas for the number of custom events, conversions, custom dimensions and custom metrics you can create – so instead of tracking clicks on every single link as a separate event with its own custom parameters, you need to be thinking about how you can consolidate and categorize events where possible. Equally, because you have complete freedom in how you categorize and name your events, it’s important to record your naming conventions for your own reference and to make things easier for your teammates and anyone else who might need to access the data in the future. Lastly, be sure to check Google’s list of recommended events and use resources like this cheat sheet from GA4SPY to check whether dimensions and metrics already exist.
Remember, we’re all going through this transition together. There are lots of resources out there that can help you out, from guidance articles covering the latest GA4 changes on Search Engine Land and MeasureSchool, to LinkedIn forums for Google Analytics users where you can ask questions and learn from other people’s transition experiences. While GA4 might seem daunting at first, it’s a great opportunity to rethink your digital analytics. What’s more, getting tracking in place, seeing results from your digital activity, and being able to answer questions to the rest of the business is a lot of fun!
At Cognito we’re also here to help – we’ve both advised on and set up a number of GA4 configurations for our clients over the last few months. If you’re not sure where to start, get in touch by sending me an email at Hannah.Porritt@cognitomedia.com or find me on LinkedIn.
Hannah Porritt is an Account Manager in Cognito's New York office