The official Universal Analytics (UA) deprecation date isn’t until the third quarter of 2023, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until then to migrate to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). In fact, there are several critical reasons that you should start your GA4 migration as soon as possible. In this blog post, we’ll outline those reasons, along with three steps you can take now to get started down the path toward GA4 adoption.
Why You Need to Start the Google Analytics 4 Transition As Soon As Possible
While you could technically wait until next year to migrate to GA4, there are several reasons that you should get started now.
Access Year Over Year Data in GA4 for Easy Analysis
When Universal Analytics sunsets next year, you’ll need to rely solely on Google Analytics 4 data for seamless year over year analysis. With a deprecation date as early as July 2023 (for standard UA users), that means you’ll want to have GA4 implemented, collecting data, and ideally validated through quality assurance by the end of June 2022. UA 360 users will want to have GA4 implemented by the end of September 2022. While year over year data is critical for all industries, the timing will be especially important for retail businesses, whose busiest months of 2023 will occur mere weeks after the forced transition date.
Train GA4’s Machine Learning Algorithms
Some of the major benefits afforded by GA4, like audience creation and attribution modeling, rely on machine learning. In order for machine learning and automation to be effective, the algorithm needs time to – you guessed it – learn.The sooner you set up GA4, the longer your models will have to train and learn before you need to rely on their outputs for key business processes and decisioning.
Transition Reporting and Train Team Members on GA4
With the move to GA4, Google’s analytics platform is fundamentally changing, with significant differences between Universal Analytics and GA4. The reports and processes that you currently have established won’t simply transition to GA4 – they’ll need to be rebuilt. Similarly, anyone using GA4 will need time to learn the new vernacular, the new user interface (UI), and updated capabilities. While the GA4 demo account can provide valuable education, it can’t fully replace the value you get from experimenting within your own properties. By implementing GA4 now, you can play with the interface and transition your processes and reporting with the safety net of Universal Analytics still available.
Three Steps to Take Now to Start Your GA4 Migration
Luckily, you don’t need to have a fully fleshed out migration plan at this moment to start taking critical steps for GA4 implementation. Here are three steps you should prioritize to begin the GA4 transition:
1) Implement Dual Tagging Across GA4 and UA
Setting up dual tagging is a low-effort step for many brands, and a critical one for achieving some of the benefits discussed above. Dual tagging will allow you to start collecting and processing data so it’s available for reporting and analysis by the time UA is deprecated.
2) Evaluate Your Current Google Analytics Implementation to Inform Your Ideal GA4 Implementation
This transition presents an opportunity to fine-tune your current Analytics implementation, removing and adding the right elements to help GA4 empower your team to make critical business decisions. During this stage, you should meet with stakeholders to assess and document the current status of your implementation and answer the following questions:
- What parts of the current implementation should be migrated?
- What parts should be left behind?
- What gaps exist in terms of compliance with best practices?
- What gaps exist in our ability to answer key business questions?
- What integrations are needed? Here’s Google’s full list of GA4 integrations available so far, with more to come. Check out the below blog posts for more details on a few of the integrations:
Armed with that knowledge, you can then develop a requirement/solution guide that outlines GA4 implementation needs.
3) Engage Technical/Development Teams to Complete the GA4 Migration Work
With your requirement guide in hand, you can now engage the teams that will do the technical work of migrating to GA4. The amount of work and level of effort will vary depending on the complexity of your current and proposed setups, which is another reason that having ample time to transition is ideal.
Don’t Forget About Training Your Team on GA4!
While not part of the initial migration steps, think of training as a critical fourth step. As mentioned, the user interface face of GA4 is different, and some of the reports your power users are accustomed to in UA will likely be gone or replaced and rendered inaccessible until implementation work starts.
Change is never easy, but by starting your Google Analytics 4 transition now you can get your team up to speed, thoroughly and carefully migrate tracking and reporting, and position yourself to take full advantage of the platform when UA is officially deprecated in 2023.
Keep an eye on our blog for the most up-to-date news about the transition to GA4. To learn more about the migration, check out our Beginner’s Guide to GA4 – and if you need custom consulting, get in touch with us so we can explore you GA4 needs together.