google analytics 4 migration checklist

How is GA4 Different from Universal Analytics?

In the fast-paced world of digital marketing, staying on top of the latest tools and technologies is crucial for success. Google Analytics has long been a go-to platform for marketers to gain valuable insights into website performance and user behavior. However, with the release of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), things have taken a significant turn. In this blog, we’ll delve into three key ways GA4 differs from Universal Analytics and explore how these differences are relevant and useful for marketing professionals.

  1. Enhanced Cross-Platform Tracking

One of the most significant advancements in GA4 is its improved cross-platform tracking capabilities. Universal Analytics primarily relied on cookies to track user interactions, making it challenging to follow users across different devices accurately. This limitation resulted in fragmented data, making it difficult to understand the full customer journey.

In contrast, GA4 employs an event-based data model, enabling marketers to track user interactions across multiple devices more effectively. With this enhanced cross-platform tracking, marketers can gain a more comprehensive understanding of how users engage with their brand across various touchpoints.

This improved cross-platform tracking in GA4 provides marketing professionals with a holistic view of user behavior, making it easier to identify conversion paths and optimise marketing campaigns accordingly. Marketers can now more accurately attribute conversions to the right channels, leading to better-informed decision-making and improved return on investment (ROI).

  1. Machine Learning-Driven Insights

Another game-changer in GA4 is the integration of machine learning capabilities. Universal Analytics provided essential data, but marketers often struggled with deciphering and acting on that data effectively. GA4’s machine learning algorithms, powered by Google’s advanced AI, automate data analysis, and generate valuable insights that are easily understandable.

GA4’s AI-driven insights provide marketers with valuable information about user behavior, engagement, and potential opportunities. By identifying trends and patterns in data, marketers can make data-driven decisions that directly impact their marketing strategies.

Relevance to Marketing Professionals: Machine learning-driven insights save marketing agency professionals precious time and resources, as they no longer need to manually analyse data to uncover meaningful patterns. By utilising AI-generated insights, marketers can focus on implementing effective marketing strategies and optimizing campaigns to reach their target audience with precision.

  1. Event-Driven Data Model

While Universal Analytics used a pageview-based data model, GA4 employs an event-driven data model. In the traditional approach, each pageview was tracked as a separate interaction, making it challenging to understand user interactions within a single page or screen.

With GA4’s event-driven data model, every interaction on a website or app is treated as an event. This means that marketers can now capture specific user actions such as clicks, video views, scrolls, file downloads, and more, all as individual events. Consequently, GA4 provides marketers with a more granular understanding of user behavior, allowing them to analyze user interactions more comprehensively.

The event-driven data model in GA4 enables marketing professionals to gain deeper insights into user engagement with their content. This level of granularity helps marketers identify high-performing content, optimise user experience, and understand which elements are most effective at driving conversions. By leveraging this data, marketing professionals can create personalized and targeted marketing campaigns that resonate with their audience.

google analytics 4 migration checklist

What the experts say

In a podcast episode, Michael Stelzner, the CEO of Social Media Examiner, discussed GA4’s potential impact on marketing strategies:

“Google Analytics 4 is changing the game for marketers. The event-driven data model unlocks a treasure trove of data, giving marketers unprecedented insights into user behavior. The machine learning features offer valuable recommendations to improve campaigns. Embracing GA4 is crucial for staying ahead in the ever-evolving digital marketing landscape.”

Source: Social Media Marketing Podcast

Rand Fishkin, the founder of SparkToro and former Moz CEO, shared his thoughts in a LinkedIn post:

“As a marketer, GA4 has been an eye-opener for me. The integration of machine learning is a game-changer. I now get AI-driven insights that help me identify opportunities I would have otherwise missed. The event-driven data model also provides a more comprehensive view of user interactions. GA4 is a must-have for any marketing professional serious about data-driven decision-making.”

Source: Rand Fishkin’s LinkedIn –

Ian Lurie, CEO of Portent, shared his concerns in a tweet:

“GA4 has potential, but it’s not quite there yet. The lack of some critical features and reporting capabilities, such as custom variables and segments, is a significant drawback for many marketers. While the event-driven model provides granularity, it can lead to overwhelming amounts of data to sift through. Google needs to address these limitations to make GA4 a more viable option for marketing professionals.”

Source: Ian Lurie’s Twitter –

GA4 logo

Your Google Analytics (GA4) migraton checklist

  1. Review GA4 Features and Benefits: Familiarise yourself with GA4’s new features and how they differ from Universal Analytics. Understand the benefits of GA4 to set clear expectations for the migration.
  2. Create a New GA4 Property: Start by creating a new GA4 property for your website or app. This will ensure a separate data stream and prevent any interference with your existing Universal Analytics property.
  3. Install GA4 Tracking Code: Add the GA4 tracking code to your website or app to begin data collection. Ensure it is placed correctly on all pages/screens.
  4. Enable Data Collection for Both Properties: Run both GA4 and Universal Analytics tracking simultaneously to collect data for both properties during the migration period.
  5. Set Up Events and Conversions: Define key events and conversions that you want to track in GA4. Map these events to match your existing Universal Analytics goals and events.
  6. Configure User Properties and User-ID Tracking: Set up user properties to capture additional user data, and enable User-ID tracking to track user behavior across devices more accurately.
  7. Link GA4 and Universal Analytics Properties: Link your GA4 and Universal Analytics properties to facilitate data sharing and smooth transition between the two platforms.
  8. Export Custom Reports and Dashboards: Save custom reports and dashboards from Universal Analytics for reference and re-creation in GA4.
  9. Implement E-commerce Tracking: If you run an e-commerce website, ensure you set up e-commerce tracking in GA4 to monitor sales and revenue data.
  10. Verify Data Accuracy: Monitor and compare data between GA4 and Universal Analytics to ensure consistency and accuracy during the migration.
  11. Test Enhanced Measurement: GA4 offers Enhanced Measurement, which automatically tracks certain events. Test and configure these features based on your requirements.
  12. Update Data Destinations and Integrations: Review third-party integrations and data destinations to ensure they are compatible with GA4 or make necessary updates.
  13. Train Your Team: Provide training sessions to your team members involved in using GA4 to ensure they understand the new interface and features.
  14. Update Campaign Tracking Parameters: If you use UTM parameters for campaign tracking, update your marketing campaigns to include GA4-specific UTM parameters.
  15. Configure Data Retention Settings: Adjust data retention settings in GA4 to comply with your data retention policies and regulations.
  16. Update Privacy Policy and Cookie Consent: Review and update your privacy policy and cookie consent banners to inform users about GA4 tracking.
  17. Schedule Regular Audits: Plan to conduct regular audits to verify the accuracy and consistency of data in GA4.
  18. Complete the Migration: Once you are confident in the accuracy of data in GA4 and have fully tested its functionality, complete the migration process.
  19. Monitor Post-Migration Performance: Keep a close eye on your website or app’s performance and user behavior in GA4 after the migration. Identify any issues and resolve them promptly.
  20. Document the Migration Process: Document the entire migration process, including steps taken, issues faced, and solutions implemented, for future reference and to aid in training others.

By following this checklist, you can ensure a smooth and successful migration from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4.

Where to find out more about GA4 and the main difference to Universal Analytics

  1. Google Analytics Help Center: The official Google Analytics Help Center is a comprehensive resource that provides in-depth documentation, tutorials, and guides on how to use GA4 effectively. Here, marketing professionals can find step-by-step instructions on setting up GA4 properties, configuring event tracking, interpreting reports, and much more.

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  1. Google Analytics Academy: Google Analytics Academy offers free online courses designed to help marketers and analysts master Google Analytics, including GA4. The courses cover a wide range of topics, from the basics of GA4 to more advanced analytics techniques. Marketing professionals can take advantage of interactive lessons and practical exercises to enhance their GA4 skills.

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  1. YouTube – Google Analytics: YouTube is a treasure trove of video tutorials and guides on using Google Analytics 4. Many experts and industry professionals share their insights, tips, and best practices for effectively using GA4. By searching for “Google Analytics 4” or “GA4 tutorials,” marketing professionals can find a plethora of informative videos to deepen their knowledge.

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  1. Google Analytics Blog: The official Google Analytics blog regularly publishes updates, feature releases, and best practices related to GA4. Marketing professionals can stay up-to-date with the latest developments in GA4 and learn how to leverage new features to enhance their marketing strategies.

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  1. Online Marketing Communities and Forums: Joining online marketing communities and forums can be invaluable for networking with peers and exchanging knowledge on GA4. Websites like Reddit’s r/GoogleAnalytics or specialized marketing forums often have dedicated sections where professionals discuss GA4 tips, tricks, and solutions to common challenges.

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Beth Hellowell
Founder of Women in Agencies and co-founder of Signify Digital. Mother, social media scroller and frequent pasta eater.