Deadline for Google Analytics 4 approaching: step-by-step plan & tips

From a casual pop-up to a red exclamation mark and a countdown clock. The message in Google Analytics that you need to switch to Google Analytics 4 is becoming increasingly urgent. Now that the deadline of July 1, 2023 is approaching, we will update you in this article with the must-reads full of step-by-step plans, new features and tips.

In the run-up to the transition moment, a number of articles and updates regarding Google Analytics 4 appeared on Frankwatching. Wherever you are in the preparation, here you will find an overview of the most useful articles. To work!

Switch to Google Analytics 4

Dat Universal Analytics (UA) ends on July 1, 2023, hopefully no longer news to you. That is to say: from that moment on, no more data enters Universal Analytics. As an alternative, Google comes with Google Analytics 4.

Countdown clock for Google Analytics 4

Felipe Wesbonk wrote on Frankwatching in March 2022 about the announcement and fallout. The following things are good to know:

  1. Google Analytics 4, launched in October 2020, is a completely new measurement method to measure your website traffic and online marketing efforts. It is a ‘fresh’ start, because it is not possible to convert the data from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4. In GA4 you therefore start collecting data again.
  2. GA4’s measurement method is based on events, where each interaction is measured as an event. This makes it possible to track a user’s customer journey across different platforms and devices.
  3. After July 1, 2023, you will have access to your data in Universal Analytics for at least 6 months.
  4. If you have made a link between Universal Analytics and Google Ads, no more data will be received from UA from July 1, 2023. So you have to link Google Ads to GA4. In his article, Felipe explains how you can best approach this.

From Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4: the differences in measurement

All steps in a row

It may be wise to export your reports from Universal Analytics to a CSV, Excel, PDF or Google Spreadsheet. This way you always have your historical data.

Last year, Felipe already emphasized the importance of setting up Google Analytics 4 in time and having it run parallel to Universal Analytics, so that you have time to collect historical data again. And you don’t start with an empty dataset on July 1. Moreover, you can already get used to the different interfaces and functionalities of both versions.

Now that UA’s days are numbered, postponing the switch is no longer an option. Hopefully you have already taken the most important steps for setting up Google Analytics 4. If you want to go over all the steps to be taken again or if you still have to start, you will find an extensive step-by-step plan in Leon Korteweg’s article that will guide you through it.

The latest updates in Google Analytics 4

Anyone who started setting up Google Analytics 4 last year (or earlier) will have noticed that a number of important functions and reports were still missing at the start. In the meantime, Google has developed the new measurement tool considerably.

At the beginning of this year, Felipe Wesbonk updated us on the latest updates that he believes will be very useful to marketers. A brief overview:

  1. If you use Google Analytics 360 (the paid version), you will have more time to transition to GA4. For those users, Universal Analytics will stop on July 1, 2024, one year later. For those using the free version, the deadline remains July 1, 2023.
  2. Some new dimensions and stats have been added. Under which:
    – Bouncerate
    – Pages per session
    – Session duration
    – Session-based conversion rate
    – Conversion rate based on users
    – New e-commerce dimensions and metrics
    Tip: Felipe wrote an extensive article about implementing e-commerce in Google Analytics 4. Read here which steps you need to take.
  3. The previously missing UTM parameters ‘utm_term’ and ‘utm_content’ have been added to GA4. This allows you to indicate which subject was clicked on, or on which type of content (a link, button or image).
  4. GA4 has added a homepage that you can personalize. The changes are only visible to you.
  5. You can connect GA4 to a lot of Google products, CRM systems and Customer Data Platforms. The integration with Campaign Manager 360 is added to it.
  6. It is now possible to compile your own channel group and adjust the settings of channels. He explains separately in this article how to allocate traffic to the right channel.

In a nutshell:

Settings and features highlighted

Once you get started with Google Analytics 4, you’ll probably want to transfer some stuff from Universal Analytics. In addition, there are a few settings that you don’t want to forget. I have collected a number of useful articles with explanations, tips & tricks below.

1. Set up goal conversions

In Universal Analytics, you can set up conversions using the Goals feature. One of the target types is ‘Expensive’. You use this type to set conversions for when a visitor is on your website for a certain number of minutes.

If you want to set goals with goal type ‘duration’ in GA4, you’ll hit the wall. Google has moved away from those ‘Goals’. You now need to set up conversions via ‘Events’. As a workaround, Leon Korteweg developed a solution to imitate this functionality. You can read how to do that in this article.

2. Extend data retention and more important settings

Your collected data is probably worth a lot to you. But did you know that a property in Google Analytics 4 only stores 2 months of data by default? Fortunately, you can change this period yourself to 14 months, so that you retain the possibility to compare data in the longer term.

Set up data retention in Google Analytics 4

For example, there are more settings that you should not forget when setting up GA4. Think of:

  • Exclude internal traffic
  • Exclude references
  • Create links
  • AVG settings

Amber Garrits explains in her article why these settings are so important and of course how you proceed.

3. Set events and parameters

In order to be able to register the customer journey across different platforms (for example from app to web), Google decided to measure all interactions on the website in events in GA4.

Many events are measured automatically, divided into 4 categories:

  1. Automatic measurement, for example page views and page title
  2. Improved measurement e.g. downloads, watching embedded YouTube videos, 90% scroll depth
  3. Recommended events that Google suggests, for example, ad impressions, logins or registrations, completed purchases, and much more
  4. Custom events, which are not covered by the points above

With custom events, you decide which name and parameters for additional information you attach to it. In this article, Felipe Wesbonk takes a closer look at how to create a custom event and what parameters to associate with it. And he explains how to transfer the goals you set in Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4. Handy!

4. Choose an alternative to Google Optimize

As if the move from UA to GA4 wasn’t big enough, Google also announced that Google Optimize will no longer be available after September 30, 2023. If you use Google Optimize, your website experiments will run until that date at the latest.

Why Google Optimize Is Stopping? With Google Analytics 4, Google will invest in integrations with 3 third parties to hopefully improve the user experience.

Before diving into the alternatives, Lydia Groeneveld gives an important tip: ‘download the historical data from Google Optimize before September 30th.’

Google is currently working on integrations with AB Tasty, Optimizely and VWO. Lydia studied the various options and factors to watch out for with these parties, so that you can make a good choice for an alternative yourself. Think of price, integration, testing options, personalization and support. You can read her findings here.

5. Link BigQuery to your GA4 property

Opinions about Google Analytics 4 as a replacement for Universal Analytics are divided, but according to Frank Raaijmakers, GA4 has a big plus: you don’t need a paid license to connect GA4 to BigQuery.

“In BigQuery you can manage datasets from multiple sources in a very scalable way. This means that you can create small tables or very large tables with millions of rows. You pay based on the use of your datasets.”

According to Frank, this makes it an excellent service for both large and small companies. With the great advantage that you do not have to worry that your website data will ever be deleted by Google from GA4, because you own your data in BigQuery. Frank discusses more benefits of connecting BigQuery and examples of what you can do with it in this article.


In a nutshell:

That’s it for now. Hopefully this overview will give you a few tools and tips to take another step in the transition to Google Analytics 4. Are you ready?

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