If you’ve logged into Google Analytics recently, you probably saw a notification that Google will automatically create a Google Analytics 4 (GA4) property in your account. But what does it mean? And more importantly, do you even want Google to automatically handle your migration for you?
In most cases, the answer will be no.
Sure, creating a new GA4 property only takes a few minutes, but the real value is in setting up the reporting to measure the goals that really matter to your bottom line. An automatically created GA4 property likely won’t capture that valuable information unless your current Universal Analytics configuration is relatively straightforward and accurately tracking your goals.
In this post, we’ll break down the announcement and Google’s next steps. We also pulled in our GA4 experts to help you decide what’s right for your business.
The Announcement: What does it say?
Here’s the full text of the announcement that first started appearing in Universal Analytics (UA) properties on or around February 1st:
“On July 1, 2023, this property will stop processing data. Starting in March 2023, for continued website measurement, migrate your original property settings to a Google Analytics 4 (GA4) property, or they'll be copied for you to an existing GA4 property, reusing existing site tags.”
Users also received a similarly-worded email:
The notification sounds fairly straightforward and pretty helpful, right? I respect and appreciate Google’s proactivity to help companies migrate to GA4 in advance of the deadline. Let’s dig in to find the real opportunities for marketers willing to invest a little more time to get it right from the start.
Breaking down the announcement
There’s a lot going on here. Let’s look at this announcement one piece at a time.
“On July 1, 2023, this property will stop processing data.”
As previously announced, Universal Analytics will no longer collect data as of the July 1st cutoff date. That means your Universal Analytics reports won’t contain any new data and your historical data will only be available for a few more months. GA4 will be the only Google Analytics product available after the cutoff date.
Marketers all over the world are either A) preparing GA4 migration plans now, or B) hiding their heads in the sand waiting for an extension that likely won’t come.
“Starting in March 2023, for continued website measurement, migrate your original property settings to a Google Analytics 4 (GA4) property, or they'll be copied for you to an existing GA4 property…”
This is the newsworthy part of the announcement. Google Analytics will automatically create a new GA4 property for sites that are currently tracked in Universal Analytics.
Unless you opt out by February 28th.
I see why Google is doing this. They want to encourage GA4 adoption and don’t want anybody to lose valuable web analytics data.
The GA4 migration support documentation gets into more detail and I encourage you to read it. The tl;dr is if you don’t opt out or tell Google how to proceed with your site, the process could inadvertently create a new GA4 property or overwrite some of your GA4 configuration settings if you:
- Haven’t connected your existing GA4 property to your older UA property, or
- Haven’t told Google which migration steps you’ve already completed.
Again, go read the documentation and make sure you follow the steps to tell Google where you are in your GA4 migration process.
“... reusing existing site tags.”
This is where it gets tricky. The automated migration process will use existing Universal Analytics tags and event structures.
The assumption is that your site is tagged properly and your custom events and goal definitions are 100% perfectly suited for GA4’s data structures. I haven’t seen any sites yet where this is the case. GA4 is so different and so flexible that it requires an intentional effort to set up events and conversions that accurately measure the most important parts of your customer journey.
Should I let Google Analytics automatically migrate my site to GA4?
Or should you opt out and plan a more customized migration? There are pros and cons to both approaches.
The automated migration process could be a great solution for businesses that:
- Don’t have the bandwidth to manage a GA4 migration but want to get up and running with minimal effort.
- Have a very simple Universal Analytics setup that tracks everything they need it to without a lot of customization.
- Don’t integrate analytics data with other platforms such as a CRM or marketing automation tools.
- Don’t plan to use GA4 to measure their marketing efforts but want to retain some basic data just in case.
But many marketers don’t want to just port their UA setup into GA4. Here are a few reasons why marketers may want to opt out of the automated migration and customize a new GA4 property:
- You don’t want to simply copy/paste what you have in UA. The automated transition forces you to stick with what you have today (at least until you fix it yourself later).
- You are using multiple UA goal types, not just events. The automated migration relies on your current event tracking setup—not Destination, Duration, or Pages/Screens per session goals.
- Your Event setup would create more than 50 custom dimensions or 50 custom metrics. GA4 limits you to 50 custom dimensions and 50 custom metrics. The automated migration may create tracking for less important events in GA4 while leaving out others that you rely on in UA.
- You need more integrations with other platforms. The automated migration only includes a Google Ads integration. Many marketers connect Google Analytics data to data visualization tools, BI platforms, data warehouses, and CRM systems.
How should I handle my GA4 migration?
To get the most from Google Analytics 4, you’ll want to customize your site tags and conversion events. Don’t leave it to chance by letting Google decide what is most important to your business.
If your site has a complex goal tracking configuration, or no goal tracking at all, you’ll need an expert’s help. That’s where we come in. Our GA4 Migration Services are designed to get you up and running as quickly as possible, sometimes in as little as 9 days!
Ready to get started? Get in touch and let our experts help you choose the best migration plan for you. Or if you’re the DIY type, our free GA4 Migration Planner PDF might be just the thing you need to start your successful migration.
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