Over half of websites use Google Analytics as a web analytics service, including a majority of 2RM clients. For many brands, Google Analytics, Universal Analytics (UA) has been the backbone of their web performance reporting for over a decade, allowing them to monitor and analyze website traffic, user engagement, content performance, conversions, and more. Brands have invested a lot of time and money to ensure clean and accurate data, develop dashboards, and establish goals and benchmarks for their marketing efforts.
The shift to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in 2023 will be a major change that requires careful consideration and planning. It can be overwhelming to know where to start, so we've outlined some key things to consider and budget for as you begin planning for 2023.
Foundational GA4 Property Setup
The first step is to set up a base GA4 property. With UA sunsetting in July 2023, doing an initial install now will ensure historical data is starting to be collected using the new model, regardless of when you plan to start using GA4 as your primary web data source.
Once you have a base GA4 property set up, review and update these settings based on your unique needs:
Google Tag Manager Audit, Migration Plan, and Implementation
For advanced tracking or sites that don’t interface with out-of-the-box measurement capabilities offered by GA4, you should also consider developing a Google Tag Manager (GTM) migration plan that outlines your current UA events in GTM and then translate inputs for GA4 tracking because the setup for these events has changed.
As you move from your migration plan into implementation, be sure to carve out time for testing within GTM and use the new GA4 DeBugView to ensure the data is pulling through as intended. Keep in mind there may be longer lag times for events to populate in GA4 than you are used to, so give it up to 24 hours before you start troubleshooting.
Define New Benchmarks and Goals
GA4 doesn’t just have a new user interface but is a whole new tracking and measuring system that focuses on tracking events rather than sessions (which UA is based on). Because there is an entirely new way of measuring and viewing data, as well as some data depreciation, you’ll need to consider what new goals to focus on in 2023 and establish associated benchmarks. Some brands may also use 2023 as a benchmarking year, but keep in mind using benchmarks from historical data will not give you a good sense of performance given the large changes in how data is being tracked in GA4.
Some things to specifically consider:
- Existing measurement is not 1:1. Take time to review the updated metric definitions and determine how your current KPIs will translate from UA to GA4. For example, Total Events in UA is now Event Count in GA4 and will be largely inflated from historical years given the new event-based model.
- GA4 offers some net-new metrics. Dig in to understand what new data is now available and any net-new KPIs you may want to add to your reports. For example, Active Users and Engagement Rate are two of these new metrics that may give you better insight than historical measurements like Total Users and Bounce Rate.
- Consider creating a side-by-side dashboard that shows how your data looks different between UA and GA4. This can help you visualize how some of the metrics that are staying may be inflated or lower than what you’re used to seeing to support goal setting in 2023, and also where you may shift from using a metric like Bounce Rate to the new Engagement Rate. The data and analytics team at 2RM has created a version of this dashboard, so reach out if you’re interested in support for this.
Reporting Assessment and Dashboard Development
As you move through the establishment of new goals and benchmarks for the year, any reports or dashboards that have been developed to visualize your key metrics will need to be reviewed and refreshed using the new GA4 data points. This includes all reports and dashboards regardless of what data visualization platform you are working in, including Google Data Studio, Tableau, etc.
To get a full view, we recommend taking inventory of all current reporting needs and associated dashboards. This includes any recurring reports you had set up in UA, as these automated reports will not be supported in GA4. For existing dashboards, work through the time estimate needed to refresh these reports and when you want to start using them in 2023 to back into your development timeline.
With the migration to GA4, Google will be storing data for less time. Default is two months, with a max of 14 months. However, Google is making BigQuery, a feature previously only available to GA360 users, available to all GA4 properties. We recommend exploring your data storage needs and working through your BigQuery integration as you move further into your GA4 migration.
External Martech Integrations
Outside of the Google Analytics platform itself, there are a lot of other marketing technology and business systems that integrate directly with UA. Similar to the approaches noted for GTM and reporting, we recommend going through a systems audit to determine which of your platforms are connected to Google Analytics and start working through when and how that migration needs to work. Some initial platforms to consider include:
- Website health and performance tools (e.g., Google Search Console, Ahrefs)
- Site testing and optimization tools (e.g., Google Optimize, Hotjar)
- Ad serving and management platforms (e.g., Google Ads, Campaign Monitor 360)
- Ecommerce and shopping tools (e.g., Google Search Console)
- Social media tools (e.g., Sprout Social) and channel integrations (e.g., Meta Pixel)
- Data visualization tools (e.g., Google Data Studio, Datorama)
- Marketing automation systems (e.g., Eloqua, Pardot, Marketo)
Ongoing Training and Adoption
After a decade of working in UA, many of your primary Google Analytics team leads are likely spending a lot of time familiarizing themselves with the new metrics, UI, and measurement model offered in GA4. Google has been transparent that GA4 is also still a work in progress, so in addition to understanding the platform as it exists today, teams will need to continue learning and training as Google works out bugs and rolls out features and functionality.
Be sure to account for ongoing training and development time, and offer some extra room for exploration, as we all work to get comfortable with the new platform.
Need additional support for your migration to GA4? 2RM is here to help. Reach out to our team for a detailed road map, migration strategy, dashboard development support, or any GA4 training needs.