Behind Google’s New Migration Tool for GA4 Transition


PHOTO: wolterke

Google made a splash with its announcement of a sunsetting Universal Analytics for GA4. Now the focus turns to easing the transition marketers must make with their analytics settings.

To help, Google is introducing a migration tool that allows existing goals in Universal Analytics to be imported into Google Analytics 4. The tool is meant to speed the set up process for analytic reporting as much as ease marketers’ concerns for a full transition to GA4 .

Why the Focus on Goals?

To understand the significance of reporting goal migration, let’s take a quick refresher on what goals are in relation to Google Analytics. Goals are an objective setting in Google Analytics. For me, this is a big pause on how far analytics has come. Goals has been a long standing GA feature that users add. Its general function is to allow analysts to rank website traffic or app user activity according to a revenue value. Doing this creates a business-quality comparison between pages and page activity.

For example, the blog posts that contribute to goals the most is your most influential, so you can decide how to leverage that information, be it through ad camapign choices or updates to your site content.

Today Google has moved away from user-set goals in its GA4 report settings — I explain that history in this post. GA4 places a strong emphasis on machine learning and customization for attribution reporting features such as conversion path analysis and modeled conversions.

Related Article: Google’s Move Away From Universal Analytics: What It Means for Digital Marketers

Where to Get Started

You can access the migration tool under your GA4 admin settings. You enter your desired account property as an editor role (everyone who can access a GA account has a role with permission for certain features). You navigate to the Setup Assistant tab, clicking it under the Conversions section to access it. You will see a selection button called “Import existing goals from your connected Universal Analytics property.” Click it to start the process.

GA4 migration tool

When the process begins, Google will access the goals set within all your property views. You then select which goals you’d like to recreate as conversion events in your new Google Analytics 4 property. For each eligible Universal Analytics goal you select, the goals migration tool automatically creates a connected new event rule in your Google Analytics 4 propert, and then marks the created event as a conversion.

What Goals Can Do in GA4

Two goal types can be migrated using the tool — Destination goal, in which a user lands on a specific page, such as a “thank you” or “confirmation” page;s and Event goal, in which a user triggers a specific on- page activity, such as social recommendation, video play, or ad click.

A confirmation message at the bottom left of your screen when your selected goals have been successfully recreated as conversion events in your Google Analytics 4 property. You now have a migrated account.

The other goals of Universal Analytics — Pages/Screens per session goals, Duration goals, Smart goals, and any goal that uses regular expressions — can not be migrated through the tool. The value of these are very specific purpose, so it makes some sense. But I do wish the regular expression goal would have been imported, since regular expressions require some trial and error to get right.

Related Article: How Marketers Should Prepare for Google’s Universal Analytics 2023 Sunset

Message to Marketers

So what should marketers do in the conversion tool? In planning there should be documentation of what decisions you are currently using Google Analytics data. Changing analytics is usually associated with updating website content, since so many events are linked to a customer engagement with the content. So a migration is a terrific opportunity to gather your team and highlight what objectives should be continued.

Because the tool accesses all your views, you will want to ask your team how they feel about any of the current goals and views. Should they be continued? You should ask what was being measured and does it give continued value to enrich or speed up decisions.

Use the moment to solicit colleague comments about metrics and reporting that may have been a sticking point or a dashboard need to support an objective. Some observation may still remain “pinned” with no immediate action. But observations from metrics can lead to useful insights for setting up events in Google Analytics that can meet partway, or seeking support through Google Data Studio or an augmenting dashboard where the data is exported. So, a transition can be a building point to strengthen analytics for your team all around.

In the meantime, marketers should expect more interesting updates from Google as it sunset Universal Analytics.

Pierre DeBois is the founder of Zimana, a small business digital analytics consultancy. He reviews data from web analytics and social media dashboard solutions, then provides recommendations and web development action that improves marketing strategy and business profitability.

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