Google Analytics UA vs GA4

Switching from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4

February 10, 2023

Google announced last year that they would be deprecating Universal Analytics (UA) in favour of the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) dashboard. Here’s what you need to know about the switch from UA to GA4.

What does the change mean for users?

Universal Analytics will no longer capture or process data starting July 1, 2023. There is no plan for Google to transfer your existing UA data to GA4, but from what we know users will still be able to see their UA dashboard to review past traffic and insights.

Do you have to manually create a GA4 property?

Google announced in January that any properties in Universal Analytics that have received traffic in the last 12 months will now be eligible for the automatic creation of a GA4 property if one has not yet been created. This means that you will not have to worry about setting up the new GA4 dashboard, as setting up GA4 manually lacks user-friendliness and is less intuitive than the UA experience.

What will the automatically generated GA4 property include?

Google has reported that the automatic creation of GA4 properties will begin in March 2023. Not only does the automatic creation mean that the switch to the GA4 dashboard is now easier to manage, but the update will:

  • Create a GA4 property and web data stream
  • Copy UA property-level users to the new GA4 property
  • Reuse the existing site tag, when possible
  • Reproduce UA events using the GA4 data model
  • Reproduce UA event and destination goals as GA4 conversions
  • Reproduce UA audience in GA4
  • Migrate Google Ads links from UA
  • Swap UA conversion used in Google Ads with GA4 equivalents
  • Pair UA audiences used in Google Ads with GA4 equivalents

This means that while the interface and reporting in GA4 will be new, Google will automatically transfer your base integration for as seamless of a transition as possible. This process was likely announced as a result of the challenges users experienced getting started with GA4.

Should you still create a GA4 account manually or wait for the automatic deployment from Google?

It’s been suggested for months to create a GA4 property as soon as possible so that you can capture your data for the greatest period of time. Now that we know Google will automatically create the properties for us we need to consider whether or not it’s still the best idea to manually create your property.

The benefit of manually setting up GA4 is that you have a few weeks of additional data, but it comes at the cost of working with a challenging system to integrate the new property with your existing site tags, reproduce all users, events, audiences & goals in GA4, and update your Google Ad settings using their new equivalent.

If you’re willing to wait a few weeks to begin collecting data in GA4, it is likely preferred to let Google automate the setup and carry over your base settings as a first step. The expectation is that you will have a smoother transition than starting from scratch, and this limits the steep learning curve associated with the new interface.