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May 24, 2023 BY A Mighty Citizen Marketing

7 Best Practices for Transitioning to Google Analytics 4

The clock is ticking on Universal Analytics (UA, or Google Analytics as you know it)!

If you haven’t heard yet: Universal Analytics will cease to exist on July 1, 2023. In its place, Google is gesturing in a new era of data and analytics: Google Analytics 4. If you’re new to the conversation, start with our introduction to GA4 for a better idea of what’s coming next month:

GA4 will be a big transition—and one you should get excited about! It’s shiny and brand-spankin’ new, but the process won’t be seamless without some preparation on your part. Here are 7 best practices to help set you up for success (or analytic glory):

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1) Verify tracking for custom events and dimensions

When building your custom events in GA4, you’ll want to make sure that they’re all tracking properly. An easy way to verify is to check your data against what you currently see in Universal Analytics. We recommend pulling the last 30 days of data in UA for comparison. If conversions look off for events like resource downloads, membership joins, contact form submissions, general form fills, etc., something needs to be adjusted on either end.

Think of this step as fine-tuning. You can even corroborate your data with the form submission numbers in your CMS (Content Management System) or MAP (Marketing Automation Platform).

View which custom events are being tracked and a quick summary under Admin > Property > Events.
You can view counts of events to compare to your CRM or MAP under Reports > Engagement > Events.

2) Filter internal traffic

Quick and easy—make sure your data doesn’t include internal traffic. For the most accurate data, it’s a best practice to filter out any traffic that comes from your team (and that includes your developers!). Here’s a tip: Circulate a spreadsheet within your organization to collect IP addresses. If your team is remote, make sure everyone considers not only their home IP addresses but any regular haunts as well (coffee shops, co-working spaces, friends or family houses, etc.). Then, create a recurring quarterly task to have employees review the spreadsheet to confirm their existing IP addresses and add any new spots.

Add and edit your internal traffic by going to Admin > Property > Data Streams > Your Data Stream (Website) > Configure tag settings > Show all settings > Define internal traffic.

3) Connect to other Google products

Leverage the power of integration by connecting all of your other Google products to GA4. In property settings, you can link products like Google Ads, Ads Manager, BigQuery, Display and Video 360, Search Console, Search Ads 360, and more. In doing so, you’ll have a more comprehensive look at all of your data in one ecosystem.

Link all of your Google products to GA4 by visiting the settings under Admin > Property.

4) Enable Google Signals

Google Signals allows you to recognize users across devices and deduplicate data by tying together device ID and user ID (if provided). Enabling it will give you cleaner, more accurate data. You can toggle Google Signals in Admin > Property > Data Settings > Data Collection.

By default, GA4 automatically attempts to track your internal site searches. However, some organizations have different search engines on their site that aren’t included in the default tracking setup. If that’s the case, you’ll need to make sure the search term query parameters and additional query parameters are filled out and customized to your internal search engine settings.

You can access those settings through Admin > Property > Data Streams > Enhanced Measurement > Settings > Show advanced settings under Site search.

6) Adjust your data retention settings

GA4 defaults your data retention settings to two months (instead of the alternative 14-month option). You can toggle the retention period through Admin > Property > Data Settings > Data Retention.

Keep in mind that GA4 is not General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) compliant by default. Based on your organization’s privacy policy, location, legal team, etc., you may not be able to retain user data for as long as 14 months. Always confirm if you need to stay compliant!

7) Switch over linked reports

If you’re using third parties like Google Looker Studio (formerly Data Studio), HubSpot, Power BI, Feathr, Acumen, Slate, etc., and your Google Analytics data is still leveraging UA, you’ll need to rebuild or modify the data source to GA4 before the July 1 sunset. If you don’t have the resources to do this right away, you can use the Explorations tab in GA4 in the interim to build similar reports.

Explorations in GA4 are a great place to create nimble reports if you do not have a robust reporting dashboard or tool in use.
An example of a Looker Studio dashboard that is currently using Universal Analytics data that will need to be updated to leverage GA4 data.

There you have it! Hopefully, you’re now 7 steps closer to data harmony—and all the more prepared for GA4. Use this time before UA’s sunset to test, test, and test some more. You can never be too sure about collecting accurate data.

Ready for more? Check out the rest of our content about Google Analytics 4:

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