For months, you’ve been seeing the banner at the top of your Universal Analytics account: “Universal Analytics will no longer process new data in standard properties beginning July 1, 2023. Prepare now by setting up and switching over to a Google Analytics 4 property.”
If you’ve been putting it off, you’re not alone. This is one of those tasks that feels like a perfect fit for the bottom of the to-do list with a due date sometime around not now.
But here we are – as of the writing of this post in early January – and July 1, 2023 not far off. With each day and week that passes, that’s a shorter runway you have to get Google Analytics 4 set up correctly and less historical data you’ll have in the new property.
It’s time to bite the bullet and set up Google Analytics 4, and we’re here to help. In today’s post, we’re providing the most critical steps to get your GA4 property created with actions for setting up tracking, events and conversion goals.
First Things First…
Depending on how your Universal Analytics (UA) is configured, the level of customization and integrations, setting up your Google Analytics 4 (GA4) property could be an extensive, resource-intensive project. Some businesses have entire teams dedicated to this migration.
This post is meant to be a quick and (relatively) easy guide to get the foundational pieces in place, rather than an exhaustive rundown of every possible configuration you might need. If you have specific questions not answered here, we’d be happy to chat.
Also, many of the steps here reference Google Tag Manager (GTM), because GTM will make the process a whole lot easier. If you’re not using GTM or another tag manager, now’s a great time to start.
Lastly, if it’s been a while since you confirmed that your UA tracking, events and conversions are set up and tracking as they should, do this first so that you don’t import anything that’s not set up properly.
With those caveats out of the way, click “Let’s go” on that banner in your portal and let’s jump in.
Connect Your Google Analytics 4 Property
After you click the button, you’ll find yourself in the Google Analytics 4 setup assistant. The first prompt you’ll see is to create your GA4 property. Click Get Started. (Note: you’ll need to have admin permissions to move forward.)
Confirm that you want to create the property in the next step, and then you’ll be prompted to set up a Google tag to begin measuring data.
In your Google Tag Manager, click New Tag and select GA4 Configuration from the tag type options:
To connect your configuration tag with your GA4 property, you’ll need to add your measurement ID to the tag, which you can find in your GA4 admin under Property Settings -> Data Streams -> Web stream details.
Add your measurement ID, set the tag to trigger on all pages in GTM, add a name, save it and publish your changes.
Step one is done – now on to the fun part!
Set Up Google Analytics 4 Conversion Goals
Assuming your UA conversions are set up the way you want them, the good news is that, depending on the types of goals you want to track, you can likely import those conversions to GA4 with a couple of clicks.
(Note: you can create up to 30 custom conversion events per standard GA4 property.)
Universal Analytics properties can have several different goal types. There are two goal types that can be migrated from UA to GA4 using the tool:
Destination goal: This is when a visitor navigates to a specific page, like a confirmation or thank you page.
Event goal: An event goal is triggered when a user completes an event such as an ad click or video play.
There are also types of goals that you can’t migrate and won’t appear in the setup assistant tool, including:
Pages/Screens per session goals
Any goal that uses regular expressions
Migrate Conversions from UA
In order to use the goals migration tool, you’ll need the Editor role on your account. Follow the steps below to complete the setup on the analytics side:
In your Property column, select your GA4 property.
In the Property column, click Setup Assistant.
Under Conversions, go to Import existing goals from your connected Universal Analytics property, and click Get started.
In the Import existing goals from your connected property panel, choose the goals you want for conversion events in your GA4 property.
Click Import selected conversions in the top right.
Once you’ve successfully recreated the UA conversion events in your GA4, you’ll receive a confirmation message in the bottom left of your screen. You can find these conversion events in GA4 by going to Configure > Conversions and looking in the Conversion Events table.
(Keep in mind: it can take up to 24 hours for new conversion events to appear in your reports.)
Set Up Event Tracking in Google Tag Manager
Next, you may need to configure Google Tag Manager to capture and report the events (including conversions) you want in GA4.
For example, let’s assume you’re looking to trigger a conversion in GA4 every time someone fills out a HubSpot form on your website. To do this, you need to go into GTM and:
Create custom event Triggers for each form you want to track using the GUID for each form
Create GA4 Event Tags for each event, toggled to the corresponding Trigger. (Make sure the name matches the event name in GA4.)
Ultimately, you’ll end up with something along these lines:
This matches a Conversion Event in this client’s GA4 account with the same name (request_a_quote).
Next, go into preview mode, enter your domain, and fill out one of the forms you set up tracking for. If you set everything up correctly, you should see the form submit event and your variables in Google Tag Manager.
Success? Go ahead and publish your changes to GTM.
Confirm That Your Data Looks Correct
Now that you have set up Google Analytics 4, are tracking website activity and have your events and conversions set up, it’s a good idea to collect some data and confirm everything is recording as it should.
Depending on the volume of traffic and activity your site experiences on an average day, this could mean giving it a day or two – or more like a week or more if traffic is light. Ideally, you want at least a few instances of different events occurring that you can cross-reference against UA and any other source data (e.g. from our example, the number of HubSpot form submissions).
Here’s the challenge with this step: comparing UA and GA4 data is not an apples-to-apples situation. In fact, several metrics in GA4 are significantly different from UA’s definitions.
As it relates to conversions, UA only counts one conversion per session for each goal, while GA4 counts every conversion, even in the same session. Meaning, if I submit a form on your site twice in the same session, only one conversion will be counted for your “Form Submit” goal in UA, but you’ll see two conversions for the same event in GA4.
If it seems like a lot of work, it can be – which is why it’s best to start now and give yourself more time to get it right. Or, you could get help from a team that knows the ropes and can take on the heavy lifting.
Charlie is the Chief Strategy Officer at Simple Machines Marketing. When he's not doing the marketing, he likes playing guitar, hanging with his family in Chicago and lots of other stuff too but this seems like a good amount for a blog bio.