GA4 Automigration – What you NEED to know
Google is about to start auto migrating your Universal Analytics properties to GA4 for you
You actually DO NOT want to do this, for many many reasons.
Already setup GA4? You might still be subject to automigration.
Read on for more details about it and how to OPT OUT
On Feb 9, Google sent an email saying that they will soon start configuring Google Analytics 4 for you – specifically, starting in March. Aka as early as THIS week…
Breaking it down, what does this mean:
If you have a Universal Analytics property, but haven’t migrated to GA4, Google will create a GA4 property for you based on many of the settings you have in UA such as your goals, audiences, ads links, users, and more.
But what is Google’s definition of “haven’t migrated”?
Scenario 1: You have a UA property and have not setup a GA4 property. The UA property is not opted out of the auto migration setting.
This will be a common scenario for all of the people who just haven’t had time / don’t want to setup GA4. This is essentially the “long tail” of customers Google wants to keep on GA.
If you just didn’t have the time/desire to do the migration yourself, perhaps this isn’t a bad option for you, but be aware that your data may look quite different. More details on how the migration works below.
Scenario 2: You have created a GA4 property but haven’t linked it to a UA property. Google doesn’t know it’s the same as your UA property & doesn’t consider this migrated.
Have you seen this popup modal in GA4? Likely yes, bc it pops up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. you login/refresh
What does linking do? It tells Google that you have, in fact, created a GA4 property that is tied to a UA property.
Will that stop Google from automigrating you? Not necessarily. That will depend on how much of the GA4 Setup assistant you have completed, more on that in a moment.
Scenario 3: You have created a GA4 property and linked it to a UA property, but haven’t completed all of the GA4 setup assistant steps.
If you’re not opted out of migration in UA, then in this scenario Google will start filling in the gaps for you.
What does filling in the gaps mean?
The GA4 Setup Assistant is a 12 step tool that helps you track your migration progress.
It actually has some pretty useful tools included, such as help with audience migration and an easier process for Ads linking.
Here are some of the things I find useful in the Setup Assistant:
First, Ads linking: generally, you have to have dual admin access, meaning you must be an admin on both the Analytics and Ads accounts in order to link. This can be frustrating/time consuming to ensure you have the right access levels.
The setup assistant tool references the links you have in UA and does not require admin access to Ads to link – this is great if you are having someone not normally involved in Ads helping you migrate, such as a contractor or agency.
Once you click “Import from UA”, a new screen opens up that shows you all of the Ads links you have setup in UA. You can check/uncheck the boxes for what you would like to import to GA4, and then hit “Import selected Ads links”.
It’s really as easy as that.
Second, Conversions: The tool will reference the conversions you have in UA and check if they are eligible for migration to GA4.
Eligibility (for now): event or destination goals.
Goals using other goal types or regex are not currently eligible for migration, but more options may be available in the future.
This migration screen is similar to the Ads linking screen – simply check or uncheck the eligible goals you want to migrate to GA4 conversions. Ineligible goals will be grayed out.
You have the option to change the naming of the conversion – I recommend leaving it in the format using the underscore since this is standard for GA4.
Lastly, Migrating Users: This one isn’t as flashy as the previous two, but if you have a lot of users with access to your UA property that you want to copy to GA4, it may be the most useful tool.
When you select “Import from UA”, this one will send you to a Help Center article detailing the process.
You will need to use a Google Sheets Add-on tool for this. Sounds like work but it’s actually quite quick and painless. The HC article gives great step by step instructions on how to use it.
Back to the warnings I have in store for you:
If you fall into Scenario 3, whatever you have not “marked as complete” in the GA4 Setup Assistant tool will be done for you.
This is where, IMO, things can get pretty sketch, fast.
Yes, I just told you the Setup Assistant has some useful tools. But they are useful because you can control the migration yourself.
For all 12 steps in the Setup Assistant – you will need to mark them as “Complete” – even if you have not done them, if you do not want Google to do them for you.
This is ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT for these 7 steps:
- Turning on Google Signals
- Setting up Conversions
- Defining Audiences
- Managing Users
- Linking to Google Ads
- Bidding to GA4 conversions
- Targeting ads to GA4 audiences
Breaking a few of these down:
Linking to Google Signals: Google Signals is required for remarketing/retargeting with Google products.
But, some countries may have legal implications or restrictions so I’d suggest checking with your legal team to be sure.
Managing Users: I just said how much I like this feature. BUT, with great power, comes great responsibility.
You should check the access being granted, there may be users you DO NOT want to migrate. If you let Google do it, they’ll migrate everyone from UA.
Bidding to GA4 conversions: This is where the real danger begins.
If you let Google migrate your conversions for you, and you haven’t checked them, you’re taking their word that you are still considering the actions from UA that they could migrate to be important.
Then, if you let Google Bid to those conversions in Ads, they are changing the goals from UA to GA4 conversions that you are spending real money against.
If you didn’t setup those conversions, you are risking an automated process spending your money in a way you may not want or that is not optimized towards your current goals.
Targeting Ads to GA4 Conversions: same concerns as above – you would be having Google migrate audiences for you, hoping they are good enough, and then bid towards them with your money. Your oversight is taken out of the process.
So what will migration look like?
Here are some more details on the data you’ll get from automigration:
Your UA events (in the format of Category/Action/Label) will be migrated to GA4 if using automigration.
BUT, they will be migrated in a less than ideal way…
Event Action from UA will become the Event Name in GA4
Event Label and Event Category from UA will become Parameters on the new event in GA4.
UA Category: homepage
UA Action: get started
UA Label: homepage hero
GA4 Event: get_started
GA4 Parameter category: homepage
GA4 Parameter label: homepage_hero
That was a clean example. Imagine this very dirty one:
UA Category: click
UA Action: www.example.com/12345
UA Label: (blank)
GA4 Event: www.example.com/12345
GA4 Parameter category: click
While many implementations of UA strived to have good conventions for event naming (first example), the second example is much more common.
This will result in 100’s or 1000’s of unique event names = URL collected on click even via automigration.
The GA4 data schema is new and offers the ability to really streamline how you are collecting your data.
Allowing automigration will immediately dirty up your data and make your GA4 property so messy it may be utterly unusable.
Honestly, this aspect of automigration alone is enough for me to run for the hills, but when paired with everything I mentioned above, I hope it’s clear you do not want Google doing this for you.
So are you convinced yet that you should OPT-OUT of automigration??
In your Universal Analytics account, go to Admin → Property column → GA4 Setup Assistant
Scroll to the bottom and Toggle OFF the switch for “Automatically set up a basic GA4 property”
Opting out will prevent the UA property from being migrated.
If you don’t opt-out, but are linked (that popup modal we all keep getting), then you will need to “Mark as Complete” all 12 steps (or whatever you don’t want automigrated) in the Setup Assistant in your GA4 property.
If you do not opt out, or do not mark all as complete, be prepared for Google to migrate some or all of your UA property to a GA4 property starting as early as this week.
Take the time and effort to intentionally implement GA4 and you’ll be so much better off in the future.