How to Quickly and Easily Migrate from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4

As announced in March 2022, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is replacing Universal Analytics (UA). The new tool offers a different data model and navigation that differs from the previous version. The deadline for the migration passed in August, that’s why it’s crucial to act now to ensure your data is not lost.

It was also announced that any data already collected in Universal Analytics would be removed July 1st, 2024. If you’re a GA360 user, your data will still be collected until July 1st, 2024 as well. 

This short guide is for marketers and website owners looking to quickly and easily migrate from UA to GA4.

To migrate from UA to GA4: plan, review the current setup, document required changes, implement, get used to the new interface, start reporting, export data.

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 is an analytics solution that allows for data tracking and analysis from websites and apps.
It is Google’s answer to the changes in the market and the increased number of mobile apps. As you can use the same data model for websites and mobile apps, you can analyse the data from both using the same dashboard. It also relies more on machine learning to offer its users better anomaly detection and user behaviour predictions.

When do I have to migrate to Google Analytics 4?

It would help if you kept in mind a few key dates when planning your migration to Google Analytics 4. Remember that those dates are for free Google Analytics users-for GA360 dates; please refer to Google’s official documentation.

July 1st, 2023

Universal Analytics stopped collecting new data.
The tool will still be available to review historical data, but they won’t track any new user interactions. For users that use dashboards reporting year-on-year performance, June 2022 is when you must have Google Analytics 4 implemented. This way, when June 2023 comes, you’ll be able to report year-on-year.

July 1st, 2024

July 1st, 2024 is when Google will remove all collected data from Universal Analytics.
No automated solution has yet been offered, so depending on the data you have collected, you might want to explore different solutions for data export.

Keep in mind that Universal Analytics data can not be migrated to Google Analytics 4. Those 2 tools use different data models and there is no easy way to “translate” UA data into GA4 world.

Moving away from Universal Analytics

As some businesses have been using Universal Analytics for many years, they may have hundreds of custom reports created. That’s why it is important to invest time in planning before you start your implementation. 

Automated Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 migration

Google offers automated migration where Universal Analytics tags are used to track the data which is then translated to Google Analytics 4 data model. This may seem like a good option for companies that do not have the time to invest in implementing GA4 tracking. We highly recommend not relying on this option and replacing your Universal Analytics tags with Google Analytics 4 tags. This way you can ensure the tracking works the way you intend it to and all your key interactions are tracked. 

I also recommend disconnecting Universal Analytics from Google Analytics 4. When connected, data from Universal Analytics might make its way to GA4 which can results in event duplication and conversions in your reports that will not use the correct setup.

Google Analytics 4 adaptation

As Universal Analytics stops processing data, Google Analytics 4 is gaining popularity and more websites start to use it.

Following stats from BuiltWith, Universal Analytics started to be uninstalled from websites towards the end of 2021 whilst Google Analytics 4 started to show up on more websites. It does not yet match the number of websites using Universal Analytics, but as that tool was around for many years, it’s not surprising.

Migrating to Google Analytics 4

If you haven’t yet implemented your Google Analytics 4 tracking, I recommend you start now. As Universal Analytics properties started to be switched off in August 2023, you may have already lost a few months of data. To ensure you do not lose any more key metrics you should aim to set up tracking as quickly as possible. 


Think of the migration as a chance to clean up your analytical setup.
It’s also a good idea to think of it as introducing a new product, rather than replacing an already existing one. There are many differences between GA4 and UA, so you might not be able to replicate everything in the new version.This task can take you up to 2 weeks, depending on the size of your business and how many stakeholders need to be involved.

Consider the data you need to make critical business decisions

What tracking do you need to report on performance efficiently? If you’re dealing with custom event tracking, prioritise the work – determine high and low priority tracking. During this phase, you also get to decide what tracking you remove. We have all set up tracking we thought we needed and never used it, and now’s your chance to get rid of it!

Review Google Analytics 4 to ensure this is the right product for you

When Universal Analytics started, there weren’t many web analytics products around. There are now many free and paid solutions that offer different reporting methods on user behaviour. Google Analytics 4 uses a different data model, and perhaps it doesn’t meet your requirements – it’s crucial to review product documentation.

Decide on a migration timeline and key dates

Google gave us deadlines, so your team needs to be ready for them. If you’re working with an agency, make sure they can implement GA4 in your timeline.

Review the current setup

If you created your Universal Analytics property years ago, there are likely elements of the original setup you no longer remember.
By auditing your current property, you can better understand any filters or settings and if you have to replicate them in GA4. List any events, custom dimensions and metrics, filters, or calculated metrics you can find. This task can take up to a week, depending on how advanced your Universal Analytics setup is. 

Document required changes

Review the tracking you identified as a priority

Create documentation for your developers or agency with instructions on what data you want to collect and what format. As GA4 moves away from ‘Event Category – Event Action – Event Label’ and focuses on parameters, you must create a new event hierarchy. You need to ‘translate’ any custom dimensions or metrics to the GA4 language. This step can take up to 2 weeks.

If your current setup uses goals, mark any critical events as conversions

If your current setup uses goals, mark any critical events as conversions.
GA4 moves away from the concept of goals, and it now lets users select which events should count as conversions.

Fillers and custom settings might use different names in GA4

There are several filters that no longer exist in the new version. For example, so far, GA4 does not offer a hostname filter. You will need tho create those filters at the code level or via Google Tag Manager.

For e-commerce websites, it’s also essential to correctly implement new e-commerce tracking

This is probably the most time-consuming process, but it’s also the most important one as it reports on crucial business data. Setup and testing requires time, and once data is collected, you will also need to recreate your current e-commerce dashboards.

Set up account

To create a new Google Analytics 4 account, go into your account settings and within property settings, create a new property. Select “Web” as the type of property. You will need to name your new property – I suggest using “GA4” at the front of the name so it’s easier to tell the difference between your Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 properties. 

You should also select the reporting time zone as well as reporting currency (if you plan on reporting revenue). 

Data Retention

The first setting you should change is data retention. The default setting is 2 months but it’s best to update it to 14 months. This way you won’t have a problem with reporting year-on-year performance. 

Data Stream

You will now need to add a data stream. Create a new one and once set up you will receive a tracking code that you can use on your website. This code can be added using a plugin, Google Tag Manager, or by adding it to your website’s code.  

Additional settings

Google Analytics 4 offers many other settings that might be worth reviewing at this point. Enabling Google Signals is a good feature if you run paid ads and want to share enhanced analytics data with Google Ads.

You may also want to connect Google Analytics 4 with your Google Ads account and Search Console account. This way you will have access to advanced paid ads and organic traffic data collected by those two tools.

Set up event tracking

Start with high priority tracking to ensure you collect critical business data.
If you use Google Ads or rely on user segments, set them up. The implementation can take up to 2 weeks, depending on how complex your website is and how many events or conversions you want to track.

Mark relevant events as conversions. You will also need to register event parameters and custom metrics and assign them to specific events. As Google Analytics 4 takes up to 24 hours to process data, once you implement your tracking you may need to wait a day to see it show in Google Analytics 4. Get comfortable with things not being perfect during this stage of the process.

Get used to the new interface

GA4 uses different navigation, so it may take a few weeks or months to get used to it.
Most UA reports use different names than GA4, so focus on what data you’re looking for instead of what the report was previously called. GA4 also offers a ‘reporting centre’ where dashboards can be built. You may think it’s the same as Custom Reports in UA, but it’s more advanced and offers more ways of visualising the data. It lets you create funnels, journeys, easier comparisons, etc.

Start reporting

The dashboards you currently use will need updating.
You will need to change the data connector, and you will also have to review dimensions and metrics as they have most likely changed. This is also where it’s essential to slow down and review new metrics definitions. Session in UA doesn’t necessarily use the exact meaning as in GA4.

Another excellent example of ‘same metric, different definition’ is bounce rate.
GA4 moves away from bounce rate and engagement rate. So we’re no longer looking at users who left without engaging, and we’re looking at users that engaged with the website. This means we now want the metric to be high, not low, like we used to with the bounce rate.

Data export

12 months after Universal Analytics stops collecting new data (July 1st, 2024), it will remove all existing data.
There aren’t many solutions to data export – there isn’t a magic button that moves all UA data to GA4. You most likely won’t be able to download and store all the data – you must decide what metrics are most important to your business and how much historical data you require.

List all the key metrics and data intervals you usually look at. Some might require a daily count of users broken down by exact device type, while others might only need a monthly number of visitors. The amount of data you need to export depends solely on the required data.

Download the data manually or using API

You will have to download the reports using the UA interface – saving a file into Excel, Sheets or CSV. You can also use GA API – either by writing code yourself or using some GA plugins. For example, Google offers a Google Sheets plugin that lets you schedule data downloads.

Google Analytics 4 migration checklist

  1. Understand the Urgency and Timeline:
    • Acknowledge that Universal Analytics (UA) stopped collecting data after July 1, 2023.
    • Plan to complete migration before UA data is deleted on July 1, 2024.
  2. Planning Your Migration:
    • Audit your current UA setup to understand what needs to be migrated.
    • Determine which data and custom reports are crucial for your business decisions.
    • Prioritize tracking needs and decide what obsolete tracking to discard.
    • Review GA4 to ensure it suits your business needs.
    • Set a realistic migration timeline considering your business size and complexity.
  3. Account Setup in GA4:
    • Create a new GA4 property in your Google Analytics account settings.
    • Set up the reporting time zone and currency.
    • Change the default data retention setting to 14 months.
  4. Data Stream and Tracking Code Setup:
    • Add a new data stream to receive the GA4 tracking code.
    • Implement the tracking code on your website via Google Tag Manager or directly in the codebase.
  5. Configure Event Tracking and Conversions:
    • Identify and set up high-priority event tracking first.
    • Mark relevant events as conversions in GA4.
    • Register event parameters and custom metrics for detailed tracking.
  6. Review and Adjust Settings:
    • Understand and recreate any necessary filters or settings from UA in GA4.
    • Enable Google Signals and connect GA4 with Google Ads and Search Console if needed.
  7. Familiarize With GA4 Interface:
    • Spend time getting comfortable with the GA4 interface and navigation.
    • Learn to build dashboards in the new ‘reporting center’ and adapt to the different data visualization options.
  8. Update Reporting Tools:
    • Modify existing dashboards to connect with GA4.
    • Review and understand new metric definitions in GA4 compared to UA.
  9. Data Export from Universal Analytics:
    • Identify essential metrics and historical data that need to be preserved.
    • Export data manually or using the API before the UA data deletion date.
  10. Continuous Learning and Professional Help – keep experimenting and if you come across problems you can’t solve, seek professional help.

Final thoughts

Google Analytics 4 is a relatively new product.
When the news of replacing UA with GA4 came out, it took us by surprise. 

Throughout this post, I kept on suggesting you start the migration now.
And as you experiment with it, you will learn how to use the tool confidently and how to report using data you trust.

And if that doesn’t work out, you can hire a professional who will help guide you through this migration process and train your team to use the new version of Google Analytics.


2 Responses

  1. Ilmu Forensik says:

    What steps should businesses take to prepare for the transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and ensure they are ready for the changes in data model and navigation?

    • Jan Kierzyk says:

      Great question!
      The first step would be identifying current setup – what do you track, what data is important for your business and how do you report on it. You can then decide if you want to keep all your tracking or if you’d like to update it (remove anything you don’t need, add new tracking you would find useful). And then you need to set that tracking up – we recommend using Google Tag Manager for that.

      Updating reports might take some time as it isn’t as simple as changing the data connector. Some metrics from UA don’t exist in GA4, some changed their name. So you will need to review them all to ensure there aren’t any issues with the data.

      If your users are experienced Universal Analytics users, it will take them some time to get used to the new navigation. It’s good to run an intro course to GA4 so they are aware of the differences. And then all that’s needed is time and support – with time users will gain experience and learn the new navigation.

      If your business needs support with setting up GA4 or training, feel free to reach out or review our offer here:

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