Intelligence
Migrating to Google Analytics Version 4
Migrating to Google Analytics Version 4

Intelligence

Migrating to Google Analytics Version 4

Nov 12, 2020By Greg Zguta

In October 2020, Google released a new version of Google Analytics – Google Analytics 4

This fourth major change to the essential web analytics tool significantly shifts the back-end architecture and tracking code. The upside: Google Analytics can now better track web and application data together; deliver advances in security and privacy, and enhance event tracking capabilities. Similar to the Universal Analytics upgrade several years ago, Google Analytics 4 means you’ll need to change your analytics configuration and Google Tag Manager integration.

A beta version of Google Analytics 4, called Google Analytics App + Web, has been out in the wild for several months. It’s been possible to create new, separate properties in Google Analytics using the beta version within your existing Google Analytics account. Now that Google Analytics 4 is official, there is a migration path to move your existing Universal Analytics to the new version. You will need to make decisions about when and how you upgrade.

The upshot

  • Google Analytics 4 requires a new property within Google Analytics. Google has a setup assistant tool to move settings over, but it’s fair to say that more complex or extensive configurations will take some effort to move.
  • Universal Analytics properties and Google Analytics 4 properties can exist side by side in your account, tracking data in both places. This means you can work on the migration to Google Analytics 4 while maintaining your existing configuration.
  • Setting up Google Analytics 4 with Google Tag Manager has additional steps, including substantial changes to event tracking. Plan on changes to your implementation if you use extensive event tracking.
  • At some point, we might see Google automatically convert/upgrade Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4. For now, users must opt-in, but expect Universal Analytics to be deprecated, and perhaps auto-migrated, at some point in the future!

Nearly every institution uses Google Analytics. This change impacts almost everyone in higher education.

How to prepare for Google Analytics 4

Expect changes when you log in to Google Analytics and Tag Manager.

For example, creating a new property in Google Analytics now defaults to a Google Analytics 4 property. However, Universal Analytics properties can still be created. Within Google Analytics, expect to see the features and terminology transition to focus on Google Analytics 4 (but, don’t worry, traditional Universal Analytics will be around for a while).

Plan to make the switch in the coming months.

For many institutions, we expect the change to Google Analytics 4 to require some planning. Those with more complex analytics frameworks will want to craft a plan to transition and ensure the timing doesn’t negatively impact in-flight projects and analysis.

Audit your existing setup.

The Google Analytics 4 upgrade is a good time for an analytics audit. Assess goals, establish good baseline data, simplify the environment, and leave behind unused tracking code.

Learn as you go.

Expect a bit of a learning curve with the changes to event tracking and common analytics terminology. Google typically evolves the administrative and reporting interface of Google Analytics over a period of time as these changes roll out.

Google Analytics 4 sets the stage for the tracking and analysis higher ed will use in years to come. It’s role is as important as ever. It will improve data privacy controls, offer new reporting tools, and set the stage for the evolution of the suite of Google tools (including Data Studio, Tag Manager, and Optimize) higher ed marketers use daily. Higher ed marketers will get a better understanding of their students’ website experience across their entire lifecycle, from acquisition to conversion and retention.

Reach out to mStoner for help shoring up your analytics implementation and rolling out Google Analytics 4.


  • Greg Zguta Director of Client Support I've been working on education web projects since the late 90's and enjoy visiting campuses and watching how technology has transformed higher education since I got my first email account at Oberlin College in 1992. Back then, I mostly used the web to check weather radar and sports scores . . . I suppose technology hasn't transformed everything yet.