WordPress GA4 Migration Guide
Our definitive guide to migrating your UA data to GA4.
On July 1, 2023, Google’s Universal Analytics (UA) will stop processing data. If that makes your heart stop, have no fear: there’s a replacement, it’s already here, and you can make the switch today. It’s called Google Analytics 4 (GA4), and it’s the latest way to collect event-based data from websites and apps.
Full disclosure: for anyone who wants to keep collecting data on their website, you don’t really have a choice but to switch to GA4 – but there are many good things about this newcomer that make it worth the switch. You’ll have more control over your data, be able to get a better understanding of the complete user journey, and ultimately benefit from increased data security and privacy.
We aren’t here to sell you on GA4, though; we’re here to help make the migration as painless as possible. And when it comes to ripping off the Band-Aid, the sooner the better: even though the switch isn’t happening until July, none of your UA data will migrate over. If you want to have that historical data on hand, the best time to transition to GA4 is now.
So, no time like the present. Let’s do this.
After helping many of our clients make the move to GA4, we’ve distilled the process into four simple steps – and we’re going to walk you through them one by one. Not everyone’s a “read the manual” kind of person, though. We get it – many of us are “see it in action” folks instead. Whichever you prefer, we’ve got you. Read along to walk through each step.
Setting Up GA4
First things first, you’ll need to use the GA4 Setup Assistant to, in Google’s words, “create a new GA4 property that collects data in parallel with your existing Universal Analytics property.” Essentially, it’s going to establish a connection between your UA property and the new GA4 property it’ll help you create. It will copy certain settings from your UA property, such as your URL, currency settings and timezone, and will activate enhanced measurement in your new GA4 property. It’ll also let you migrate configurations over from that UA property.
Keep in mind, it won’t backfill your data from UA. GA4 strictly collects data moving forward – you’ll need to use UA while you can to get your historical data.
To start using the Setup Assistant, go into the Admin section of your property. There should be an option listed for GA4 Setup Assistant. Click on it to kick off the process.
Once the wizard has started, you will be asked if you want to make a new GA4 property or connect an existing one. Assuming you haven’t migrated to GA4 yet, you’ll want to choose “I want to create a new Google Analytics 4 property.”
From there, the popup will tell you what the Setup Assistant will do: create the property, copy those basic settings from your UA property, and activate enhanced measurement. If you’re already implementing Global Site Tags in your UA property, you’ll have the option to enable data collection using your existing tags. If UA is implemented via Google Tag Manager (GTM), though, you won’t be able to click that checkbox.
All good? Alright. Next we click on Create Property.
Next, the Setup Assistant will have a list of actions to complete. Assuming you’re using GTM, the first activity will be Tag Installation.
We’re going to start there. Congratulations – you’ve completed step 1!
Setting Up GA4 Measurement ID In Google Tag Manager[JH3]
After you click on Tag Installation, click on Data Streams.
That will result in a window that has a MEASUREMENT ID in the top-right corner. That is the tracking ID for your GA4 property. Copy it, and then go into your GTM container.
Next we go to Tags > New and when that popup to create a new tag is available, there should be a block that says Tag Configuration. Click on the pencil icon in the top-right corner of Tag Configuration.
In the Choose tag type sidebar that slides over, select the Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration option.
Now the sidebar disappears, and we have a field for our MEASUREMENT ID. That is what we copied earlier. Paste it in the field.
We recommend leaving all of the default fields as-is for the time being. In the Triggering section, choose All Pages because you want this on every page. In the top-left corner of the page, make sure to rename your tag to something relevant, such as GA4 – Page View.
While that specific tag is going to track when page views happen, it’s important to track other events, too. Depending on the type of website you have, what’s best might be a little different. For example, B2B or lead-gen websites might want to track:
- Scroll depth
- Link clicks (inbound/outbound)
- Video engagement
- Form submissions
An e-commerce site, on the other hand, might want to consider:
- Above +
- Product view
- Add to cart
- Begin checkout
- Checkout steps
With GA4’s enhanced event measurement enabled, by default there are many events that are tracked by default. Google has created a list of these events and a short tutorial on enabling enhanced event management. There are however many events that are recommended (including some depending on your site’s purpose) but these are not automatically enabled because they require additional context to be meaningful. No need to worry about missing out on these – Google has a list of and a tutorial for these recommended events, as well. Between these two resources, you should be able to identify and enable each event you need to be successful.
But back to the tag we’ve just set up: page views. Be sure to save your tag (the blue button in the top-right). Congrats on setting up your first GA4 tag! Now let’s make sure it’s working properly.
Testing (GTM Preview) and Publishing
There’s nothing worse than setting things up in GTM and finding out when you need the data most that they weren’t set up correctly. The way to prevent this is by testing your changes in GTM preview mode.
To set up GTM preview mode, click on the Preview button in the top-right corner of the GTM interface (it’ll be beside the Submit button).
That will open a new browser tab. Enter your URL in the appropriate field and click on Start.
When a new popup appears, you should see a badge at the bottom of the page that says Debugger connected. In the original popup, you should also see a success message.
Once preview mode is working, you should see your new GA4 tag under Tags Fired.
Heading on back to the GA4 interface, click on Realtime in the left sidebar to see if your page view was tracked.
Keep in mind, real-time reports might be a little buggy for now since the tag was set up so recently (your page view might have counted, but maybe it didn’t update your user count, for example) so remember to give it a minute or two to catch up.
If the tag worked, time to publish! In your GTM interface in the top-right (right next to Preview) click on the blue Submit button, give the version a name (“GA4 Install” perhaps) and click on Publish.
Understanding and Configuring GA4 Reports
Once you have set up all of your tags, it’s important to understand how to configure and interpret GA4’s reports. After all, GA4 comes with a completely different interface, and that means re-learning how to pull all of the data you’ve grown accustomed to.
Before you pull anything, though, keep in mind even the processing time for data is different. Whereas in UA hits are processed in four hours, in GA4’s hits-equivalent “events” take up to 72 hours to show.
Within Google Analytics, you can find all of your reports by clicking on Reports in the left sidebar.
There are a few report options: a Reports snapshot report, a Realtime report, and some out-of-the-box lifecycle and user reports. Lifecycle reports help you understand the stages of the consumer journey, whereas user reports help you understand your consumers (age, interests, devices, etc.). These reports fall into two categories: overview and detail reports. As defined by Google:
- An overview report is a report that summarizes information about a topic; for example, the Acquisition overview and Engagement overview reports.
- A detail report is a report that allows you to drill into one or two dimensions to investigate your data in greater detail; for example, the Ecommerce purchases and Events reports.
Within a Google Analytics report, you have the option to filter a subset of data, compare different data sets side-by-side, choose how much data is reported and modify the data range. You can also customize the report, share or export it, and finally get insights on the data itself.
When it comes to customizing your reports, the Report Builder is your go-to. There are different customization options available to you based on the type of report you pull. Google has provided detailed tutorials on customizing overview reports and the Reports snapshot, detail reports, and even how you navigate through your reports. If it felt like you had access to robust reporting in UA, GA4’s enhanced reporting will make it feel like the world is your oyster.
Here (GA)4 You
Following the instructions above, you’ll successfully transition from Google Universal Analytics to GA4 in no time. But maybe you no time still isn’t enough time – we get it. When your bandwidth is at its max, or your team is the definition of “lean”, even the simplest tasks can be pushed to the back burner. Add on a non-negotiable deadline like the GA4 transition, and that hill to climb can feel like Mount Everest.
That’s where we come in! We said we’re here for you, and we keep our promises. If you know you simply don’t have the time or staff to transition from UA to GA4, let our team do it for you. As an extension of your team, we’ll set you up for success so July 1 can come and go like any other day. We’ll make sure you’re making the most of new features while retaining the historical data you need for comparison. Plus, while we’re in there, our digital analytics team can even audit your website to see if it’s firing on all cylinders or could use a tune-up before the big switch.
When our clients succeed, we succeed. Drop us a line and see how we can help you thrive during your GA4 transition – and beyond.