While Universal Analytics has proven excellent for data collection across websites since its launch in 2012, there was one notable problem right from the very start: the inability to generate cross-platform insights across both websites and mobile applications.
The good news is that, last year, Google introduced an updated version of its popular tool – called Google Analytics 4 – which bridges the gaps in the Universal technology.
We recently took a deep dive into the new GA4 tool, looking at what’s new in this latest release of Google Analytics. Now, we want to expand on this a little more, showing how you can upgrade to Google Analytics 4 from an existing Universal Analytics installation.
The Essential First Step
The first and most important thing to do when upgrading to GA4 is to ensure you have ‘Editor’ permissions enabled in your Google Analytics account. You won’t be able to upgrade if your permissions are set to ‘Manage User’, ‘Collaboration’ or ‘Read & Analyze’ status. If you don’t have ‘Editor’ permissions, you can easily change this in your account by navigating to Admin > User Management, and selecting the ‘Editor’ option.
How to Upgrade to GA4
The Google Analytics 4 setup wizard makes it very quick and easy to upgrade from Universal Analytics to GA4. You can find the setup assistant by navigating to:
Admin > Account > Property > GA4 Setup Assistant
By clicking on ‘I want to create a new Google Analytics 4 property’, the setup wizard will walk you through the steps needed to start collecting data through GA4. As part of the setup, you may need to manually add Analytics tags to the web pages you wish to collect data for, but you can avoid this if you’re already using gtat.js tags. GA4 can use these existing tags for data collection, which can make setup more straightforward.
Once complete, click ‘Create Property’. You should see the first data sets starting to appear within the first 30 minutes of setting up a new Google Analytics 4 property.
What Happens to my Universal Property?
Despite the new version of Google Analytics, there appears to be no plans to discontinue the Universal version. The new GA4 property is distinct from Universal, which means you can use both simultaneously for broader data collection. You can switch between properties by navigating to Admin > Account > Property in your account.
If you do decide to use GA4 exclusively, you can use the setup assistant to migrate all existing configurations and data from your Universal property to your GA4 property.
What if I Don’t Have a Universal Property?
This guide assumes that you’re already using Universal Analytics, and want to upgrade to the newer GA4 version. However, if you want to collect data for a new website or application – or you have a site you’re not currently collecting data for – it’s very easy to add a Google Analytics 4 property from scratch and start generating insights.
If you haven’t already registered for a Google Analytics account, that is the first step. Remember to ensure permissions are set to ‘Editor’ (this is default when opening a new account). During account setup, you will be prompted to create a property and add a data stream, which with GA4 can be web, iOS app, or Android app. If selecting web, you’ll need to add the analytics tag to relevant web pages to start collecting data.