This article is co-contributed by Lisa Ho, Senior Customer Success Manager

Marketers are likely still unsure on what to do next after learning that Universal Analytics (UA) will stop processing data in July 2023. From our July 2022 research, 49%* of Hong Kong’s businesses have Google Analytics 4 (GA4) enabled together with UA though – meaning companies are still generally processing their migration to GA4.

*SOURCE: FiveStones GA4 Adoption Rate Research, Jul 2022 (Sample Size: 425)

In this post, FiveStones outlines 6 essential steps you can take to ensure a seamless GA4 migration process. It will take time to execute these steps, so it’s always ideal to plan ahead and get started as soon as possible.


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STEP 1: Conducting an UA Audit

Before anything else, perform an audit to understand your current UA account structure and its settings. The results gathered from this audit will serve as a guide when you proceed to the stage of planning the setup of your upcoming GA4 account.

How do I do an UA audit?

An audit of UA is a resource-heavy process. You will need to have an Analytics specialist in your team to review if the following items are set up as per marketing’s needs:

  • Comprehensive Events List
  • Enhanced eCommerce
  • Custom Dimensions
  • Goals
  • Account Structure 
  • Property Setup 
  • Integration
  • View Setting 

As part of the UA audit, the Analytics specialist will check what exactly the settings are recording and if it’s as per your business needs. 

Use FiveStones’ UA audit tool

Consider using our FiveStones audit tool to preliminary review the settings of your UA account.

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The tool is able to return results such as what are the current settings of your UA account, goal settings and completions, traffic hit data, and other summarized information.

We also include “warnings” into the results, so that you can rectify and ensure your UA settings are working properly as you continue your auditing process.

A thing to note though is that this audit tool (while nifty) is still a starting point – we highly recommend having the Analytics specialist reviewing extensively:

  • The UA’s event list - where is it placed, what is it collecting? 
  • The reporting in the UA, based on the events - what report are these events based on? What insight is it supposed to give?

STEP 2: Design GA4 Account & Tracking

In GA4 you will be collecting data based on a brand new GA4 account. Data from your UA cannot be technically moved to GA4, it will remain in the UA.

Data Streams in GA4 Account Structure

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When planning your GA4 account structure with an Analytics specialist, consider what data streams you want in a property. A GA4 property can be an app or website or both. Note this will affect what reporting you want to be able to create and filter in that property.

As an example, if you are a banking company with an app and website for customers, you may consider having 3 data streams:

  • 1. Web stream - customer banking site
  • 2. Android stream - customer’s banking app
  • 3. iOS stream - customers’ banking app

Updated Event Structure in GA4

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In GA4, there are no configurations such as “Event Action”, “Event Label” etc. Instead, you will be planning for an Event Name and its accompanying event parameters. 

Plan and consider carefully at this stage the event(s) you have in UA, and the naming conventions of the new event(s) in GA4 that will collect the same data.

Event types in GA4

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Data is collected in GA4 based on their Event type

As an example, “Automatically collected” and “Enhanced Measurement” event types are events that are collected automatically by GA4. Do note that “Enhanced Measurement” requires further enablement in GA4.

Event types that require implementation:

  • Recommended Event” is a predefined event type that you add to website or apps. Such events aid in measuring additional features or behaviour, though you need to implement them exactly as per the event name and parameters listed by Google. As an example, implementing an “add_to_cart” event will allow you to measure revenue in an Ecommerce purchases report, but an “addtocart” event will not populate any data in the same report.
  • “Custom Event” is an event type which you can define to collect data that’s relevant to your company. This event type is useful only if other events in GA4 don’t suit your use case. An example of such a use case if you need to track if a user interacted with a tool on your app.

Based on your current events in UA, consider in GA4 what event types they would be and if you need to create new Custom Events in GA4 or if (as an example) “Recommended Event” will suffice for your business needs.

TIP: Have an event naming convention to collect unified data

Design a naming convention for your company to unify your data; this will aid your future data aggregation & segmentation for data analysis.

When planning your events for GA4, you may be thinking about using the same naming convention in UA. However, carefully examine whether the same naming convention should be maintained with your new GA4 structure or if you need to be more precise (or general) with your event naming. 

When data is aggregated and represented in different data streams, you should know exactly what events you are looking at in order to draw the appropriate conclusions from it.

Therefore it’s more recommended to design a new GA4 naming convention, instead of re-using your UA’s naming convention.

Define a comprehensive GA4 measurement plan

When setting up your GA4 account structure, events, and other settings with a GA4 measurement plan, think carefully about how you want GA4 to gather and activate your data. The following is a list of what a GA4 measurement plan should contain.

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A well-designed GA4 measurement plan should also be based on your UA audit results. As an example, understanding the events from UA will help you plan events in GA4 : specifically what events do you need? What events should you add or remove? 

Invest time in your GA4 measurement plan as it will affect your analysis in your dashboards, your audiences and future activations.

STEP 3: Implement & Configure GA4

Once your GA4 measurement plan and account design is finalized – the next step is implementation!

To do this, you will need a GA4 implementation taskforce that includes the following roles and skill-sets:

A team of Analytics Specialists:

  • Strong understanding of GA4, GTM
  • Implement events (via GTM / scripts) & configure GA4 according to the measurement plan.
  • Understands app/website framework, technical writing
  • Develop a data layer / SDK implementation guides
  • Communicate & work with developers in data layer / SDK implementations

App/Web Developer

  • Implement required data layer / SDK/ custom scripts to make data available for GTM

You must have an Analytics specialist with deep knowledge of GA4 and GTM that, when given a GA4 measurement plan, will be able to perform tasks such as creating a custom event for a form submission and liaising with app and web developers to ensure that data is captured through the data layer. An Analytics specialist will also need to prepare thorough guidelines to developers such as an SDK or data layer guidelines.

Outsourcing implementation

As not all companies have an in-house team with capabilities such as above – consider outsourcing GA4 implementation to an Analytics agency so you can focus on your marketing tasks.

As a certified Analytics partner, FiveStones can both plan and implement your GA4 journey so drop us a note here!

Outsource your GA4 implementation with FiveStones

STEP 4: Validate GA4 implementation

At this step, engage another Analytics specialist to work with the developer in validating if data is tracked & collected according to the GA4 measurement plan.

This will be a continuous process – if an event is not being tracked, both the Analytics specialist & developer will need to review the implementation to isolate the issue and if needed, to reinstall the tracking.

TIPS: Use DebugView to monitor events

The DebugView is a report that allows developers to confirm that data is collected, while events & event parameters are set up on a website or app that has GA4. To learn more about DebugView click here.

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STEP 5: Getting Familiar with GA4

Data will begin to gather in your new account after the tracking and account setup are complete. The next step in your GA4 journey is to take some time to become familiar with the UI, the different yet varied reports, and the new capabilities.

Brand new reporting UI and reporting structure

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One of the first things you will notice is that GA4’s reporting interface is very different from UA. There’s more customization to be done, more charts and different metrics/dimensions than you were used to seeing in UA.

To review the metrics/dimensions in GA4 and how they’re counted, refer to this article. Do note that metrics you may have seen in UA may be counted differently in GA4. As an example, check out our article on “bounce rate” vs “engagement rate” in GA4 here.

Read our article on Bounce Rate vs Engagement Rate

Explorations feature in GA4

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A reporting feature that you will need to invest time in is Explorations.

If you need to retrieve insights which you’re not able to glean from the default Reports Snapshot, Explorations allow you to customize reports using templates such as funnel & path exploration, free form, segment overlap and others. There’s also a template gallery if you’re wanting to test out other report templates. 

Use Predictive Audiences to drive higher ROI

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Using predictive metrics, predictive audience is a type of audience that is likely to perform a key action. As an example, using the predictive metric of “purchase probability”, you can create a predictive audience in GA4 of users who are likely to purchase an item within the next 7 days.

Using Google machine learning and predictive technology will help you to activate and target users most likely to purchase and increase ROI – which could be different that a standard remarketing audience.

STEP 6: Make GA4 Your Analytics Source

Set a target to have GA4 as your primary Analytics data source in Q1/Q2 of 2023 – marketers should do this before July 2023, when UA stops processing data.

As an example – if your company’s owned dashboards used UA for performance insights, switch to use GA4 as the data source instead. Such a process could take time as you may have to explain methodology differences (if any), as GA4’s reporting differs from UA.

CONCLUSION: Plan for your GA4 implementation now

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Referring back to the chart, FiveStones strongly advises that you start your GA4 journey in Q3–Q4 of 2022 in order to give yourself enough time to understand and completely implement GA4 by early 2023.

Here’s a list of resources that will help you in completing these 6 steps: