The Complete Guide: How to Migrate Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4

Migrate to Universal Analytics

With the sunsetting of Universal Analytics (UA) on July 1, 2023, for standard users and July 1, 2024, for Google Analytics 360 users, the time has come to embrace the future with Google Analytics 4 (GA4). To ensure you gather enough year-on-year (YoY) data before the complete migration occurs, you should migrate to GA4 as soon as possible. This significant shift in how data is stored, moved, and collected through Google Analytics might seem daunting. But with our step-by-step Universal Analytics to GA4 migration guide, we will ensure you thoroughly understand the process and the confidence to make this crucial change.

What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?

GA4 is the latest version of Google Analytics, designed to provide businesses with a more comprehensive and integrated data analysis experience. GA4 stands for the fourth iteration of Google Analytics. Previous editions include:

One of the main features of GA4 is the ability to integrate mobile app and website usage data into a single GA Property. The Single GA property enables businesses to gain a more comprehensive understanding of user behavior across different platforms.

GA4 is already in production, and Google recommends running the new GA4 property in parallel with your existing GA3 property. Running this in parallel will ensure a smooth transition to GA4, following the 100% replacement for UA properties on July 1, 2023. Despite Google sunsetting UA, it is essential to maintain your UA property until Google officially discontinues it. 

Frequently Asked Questions about the Universal Analytics to GA4 Migration

Why must I transfer from Universal Analytics to GA4?

Unfortunately, the migration from UA to GA4 is mandatory for every website owner. As of July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics will stop collecting data altogether, making switching to GA4 crucial for maintaining your website's data analytics.

The upgrade of the Google Analytics product is to cater for the growing privacy concerns and the need to comply with GDPR. GA4 has implemented automatic privacy enhancements. GA4 does not collect users' IP addresses, facilitates data deletion, and minimizes data retention time frames. These improvements protect user privacy and help website owners stay compliant with data protection regulations.

Can I Transfer Historical Data from Universal Analytics to GA4?

No. It is impossible to migrate historical data from UA to GA4 due to the differences in their data models. GA4 will only collect data from the day the tracking code is implemented. 

However, Google has addressed this challenge by providing dual-tagging features allowing you to collect raw data on GA4 and UA properties simultaneously until July 1, 2023. This way, you can ensure a smooth transition without losing valuable data as you familiarize yourself with the new GA4 platform.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Migrate from Universal Analytics to GA4

The best time to start was yesterday, and the next best time is now. Now is the optimal time to begin to migrate from Universal Analytics (UA) to GA4. Though transferring your historical data from Universal Analytics GA4 is impossible, you can leverage the available data effectively right after the transition.

Follow this step-by-step guide for migrating from UA to GA4. Efficient and error-free process guaranteed.

Step 1: Conduct a Comprehensive Audit of Your Universal Analytics Property

To ensure a smooth transition to GA4, it is crucial to begin by conducting a thorough audit of your UA Property. This step is fundamental as it enables you to understand the extensive data that UA has accumulated over the years.

Analyze the information and identify the valuable data points to be transferred to GA4. Create a detailed report of these essential data factors and save them in your preferred format, such as CSV, PDF, Excel or Google Sheets.

Once you know the data elements you intend to replicate in GA4, you are ready to proceed to the next phase: the setup assistant.

Step 2: Begin the Google Analytics 4 Property Setup Assistant

manage GA4 migration

When you access your UA property, you will find a Google disclaimer informing you that you must migrate to GA4 because UA will no longer process data after July 1, 2023. By clicking the "Manage GA4 Migration'' button, you will be redirected to a page to start your migration with the Setup Assistant.

Google Analytics 4

Select 'Get Started' to initiate the process. The system will automatically generate the new property for you.

What is the role of the Setup Assistant?

The setup assistant offers valuable guidance, informing you about the subsequent steps involved: it will establish a new GA4 property, transfer your basic settings seamlessly, commence data collection for the new property, and provide the option to enable enhanced measurement if necessary.

Migrate to Universal Analytics

To proceed, click "Create and Continue", advancing to the next screen that awaits your attention.

Now your new GA4 property has been successfully created. However, more work still needs to be done before you can proceed. Choose "Go to your GA4 Property" to move on to the next step.

Step 3: Configure Google Tag Manager to Enable Data Collection

google tag manager google analytics 4 migration

As you access the main Data Stream Interface on GA4, you will receive a notification indicating that data collection is currently inactive for your website. GA4 will gather data once Google Tag Manager is implemented on your website.

To rectify this, enable "Enhanced Measurement" on your property. By activating Enhanced Measurement, you allow GA4 to automatically enable recommended events, ensuring accurate tracking of crucial data points once the Tag is set up. To proceed, select "View Tag Instructions".

Step 4: Implement Google Tag for GA4 Tracking

For GA4 to function, installing your new GA4 tag ID on your website is imperative. There are two methods available for accomplishing this task:

install gtag with cms google analytics 4 migration guide

Install Your Google Tag with a Builder or CMS: If you utilize a platform like WordPress or Wix, select "Install with a Website Builder or CMS".

If you use WordPress as the backend of your website, you could utilize the official Site Kit by Google. This handy WordPress plugin helps you install the GA4 Tag to your website. Follow these steps:

Site Kit will prompt you to link your property by providing your email and credentials. Follow the subsequent steps until you reach the "Configure Analytics" stage. Ensure you have copied your tag ID, then paste it accordingly. Save the changes. Congratulations, your Google Tag Manager ID has been successfully implemented.

Installation instructions

Install the Google Tag Manually: Conversely, if you have a custom website, the installation process requires manual intervention. Select "Install Manually" and copy the specific Google Tag associated with your new GA4 property. It is crucial to add the code to each page of your site immediately after the designated element.

Please note: The recent modifications can take up to 24 hours to be accurately reflected within your GA4 property.Moving forward, GA4 will start the data collection process on your website.

Now the migration from Universal Analytics to GA4 is officially done.

Additional Steps Before Finalizing Your Universal Analytics to GA4 Migration

While the migration process might appear complete, there are four extra elements to ensure your data collection workflow is the same as your previous one from Universal Analytics:

Custom and Manual Events

GA4 comes with a set of integrated events through the Enhanced Measurement feature. Review these built-in events to ensure you don't create duplicate events in GA4. GA4's Enhanced Measurement might already include some of these events. 

Identify the events you used in UA and replicate them in GA4 through the Event Menu. These events may include:

For custom and manual events that you cannot map to GA4's built-in events, create new custom events in GA4 using the user interface. Test them with real-time reporting in GA4 and verify that the events are firing as expected.

Conversion Goals

In GA4, goals are now called "conversions," and all conversions are event-based. To migrate the conversion goal from UA to GA4, you should start by reviewing your existing Universal Analytics goals and making a list of all your conversion goals. Remember that UA was limited to 20 goals per report view, whereas GA4 allows up to 30 conversions per property.

For each of your UA conversion goals, create a custom event in GA4. This step lays the foundation for setting up conversions in GA4. Follow the steps below for different types of goals:

Migrate Event-based Goals

It would help if you first migrated your event-based goals from UA, as they are more similar to GA4's conversion setup. Locate the corresponding custom events you created in GA4 and mark them as conversions in the Events Table.

Migrate Destination-based Goals

For destination-based goals in UA, you can either add the goal to GA4 via the interface or with code. Create a custom event in GA4 for each destination-based goal and mark it as a conversion in the Events Table.

Migrate Engagement Goals

To migrate engagement goals, you first have to create a GA4 audience. Recreate the engagement-based goals in GA4 using the newly created audience. This process allows you to track user engagement and conversions in GA4 effectively.

Migrating Ecommerce Metrics

The old e-commerce tracking setups will not automatically replicate from UA to GA4, and you must set them up again. The setup involves complex procedures. Visit the official Google document to identify the suitable method for your e-commerce metrics setup.

Reconnect Google Products

Manually reconnecting your previous Google products to your new GA4 property is necessary for the entire migration process. Navigate to the property admin section to find the option to manage product links. Locate the Product Link Extensions at the top level within the property admin navigation. This section allows you to connect your Google products to your GA4 property.

Next, make a list of all the Google products you use and select each Google product on your list and connect it to your new GA4 property(ies). Follow the on-screen prompts to establish the connection between your GA4 property and the selected Google product.

After reconnecting all Google products, double-check that the connections have been successfully established. Checking this will help avoid potential data tracking and reporting issues in your GA4 property.

Export Your Historical GA3 Data to Finalize the Migration

Executing a successful migration from UA to GA4 requires significant attention to detail and deep knowledge of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. However, a Google-led successful migration won't future-proof your website analytics and analysis. 

To ensure your GA3 historical data is accessible in the future, saving it from Google Analytics is essential. GA3-exporter is the go-to solution for exporting your Universal Analytics data

Learn more about how Ga3-exporter can save your historical Google Analytics when you migrate to GA4.

Google Analytics 3 Export