The sunset of Universal Analytics is on the horizon. Starting in July, Universal Analytics will stop recording data, and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will take the reins. If you haven’t already made the switch, you should get your GA4 set-up now to avoid any gaps in your data. However, gaps in your data don’t just happen when you fail to overlap data tracking while transferring from one analytics tool to another. Data gaps can also occur when you lose historical data, and that’s what we’ll address today. Here’s how you can avoid losing your history when transferring UA historic data to GA4.
Unfortunately, you cannot automatically transfer your data from Universal Analytics to GA4. Not only does the data not automatically transfer when you create the new property, but there’s no automated feature in GA4 to pull the data from UA. This is frustrating. It seems counterintuitive for data-collecting tools to not enable the easy data transfer, but Google has explained their reason for this.
Google has explained that Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 use different data collection methods. Universal Analytics relied on cookies to gather data and used a session-based reporting model. Google Analytics 4 is focused on tracking users across devices and uses an event-focused model. See more details on the differences between Universal Analytics and GA4. The point is, the changes in how data is being tracked and reported means that the data from UA and GA4 are different. In other words, the historic data from UA is not compatible with the new data from GA4.
That doesn’t mean that all hope (or data) is lost. Just because automatically transferring UA historic data to GA4 isn’t possible, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do. There are still plenty of ways to get the best out of your Universal Analytics while it’s still around, and make use of the new GA4’s new features.
Here’s some different ways you can save your data:
1. Manual Export and Uploads
Just because there’s not an automatic feature, doesn’t mean that you can’t do the job manually. If you have the paid Analytics360, you can export your historical data to BigQuery. Even if you are using the free tools however, transferring UA historic data to GA4 can still be done by using UA’s “export” feature, and GA4’s “upload” feature. The downside is that you will have to choose every single report you wish to save, download them, then upload them to their new storage space. The good news is, it’s easy! This method is time consuming so I do recommend listening to a podcast or audiobook while you work.
2. Use a Tool or Service
You don’t have to do it all yourself, you can make it someone else’s problem! There are some tools you can use like Google Analytics Reporting API to help you speed up the process. Google API does allow you schedule reports to update automatically in Google Sheets. The downside is, it takes some time and coding skills to set up the extension. Instead, you can also pay someone else to do the dirty work for you. Using either of these options can save you the time and hassle of making the move yourself, but there are still some things to consider. The first being that you will have less control over what data gets migrated over. You may also have some privacy concerns when allowing a third party to access your data. However, if you have already weighed these risks, taking this task off your plate could be well worth the costs.
3. Double Track for Overlap
You don’t have to use just one data tool. If you have already set up your GA4, you can record data in both properties until UA sunsets. This will cover any gap in data, and help you understand the differences between the metrics. In regards to historical data, you aren’t limited to Google tools. Most website hosts have their own analytics tools. Those tools are usually built into the platform and require little to no set up. This means you likely already have a wealth of historical data available at your fingertips!
4. Restart your data collection
Historic data can be useful, but it will not make or break your business. It’s never too late to start recording data, or to update your data collection strategy. In the case of moving from UA to GA4, you would be comparing apples to oranges; the data won’t match because the data collection and metrics are different. Instead of viewing this as a determent, you can view this as an opportunity to get to know your audience better. This can give you a chance to update your marketing strategy for the current digital age.
These are just some of the ways that businesses from around the globe are handling their data in the wake of the Google Analytics change. However, you aren’t limited to using these methods alone. You can always combine some of these strategies, or come up with something completely new. What matters is that you don’t have to loss all your historic data and tracking systems.
If you still aren’t sure how you want to handle the situation, you still have a little time. Universal Analytics will stop gathering data on July 1st, 2023, but your old data won’t disappear on that date. Google has stated that your historic data will remain available “for at least 6 months”. This gives you plenty of time to find a solution to handle your historic data transfer and become comfortable with new data collecting and reporting tools.
Summary: Transferring UA historic data to GA4 is a stressful situation for any business to handle. You’ve spent years gathering data and building your business around it, so it can feel overwhelming to reimagine your data collection strategy. Unfortunately, change is unavoidable if you use Google Analytics for your website data. However, you can take the pain out of the process and turn this transition into an opportunity with a little bit of planning.