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The Pros and Cons of Auto Migration to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

On 9th February 2023, Google sent out an email stating that they will be automatically configuring GA4 for users, starting in March.

Overview

Interestingly, there are confusing messages from Google – on one hand they are saying that they will be automatically migrating users to GA4, on the other hand they are strongly recommending you manually migrate and not to opt-out of auto-migration.

Google Analytics 4 Migration
https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/12938611

“We strongly recommend you manually migrate your Universal Analytics settings to GA4 prior to auto-migration to ensure the quality of your data.”

What is GA4 auto-migration?

Auto-migration is a process where Google automatically configures your Universal Analytics properties to Google Analytics 4 for you. This means that 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.

 

Definition of ‘Haven’t Migrated’

However, it’s important to understand what Google means by “haven’t migrated”. There are three scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: You have a UA property and have not set up a GA4 property. The UA property is not opted-out of the auto-migration setting. This will be a common scenario for people who haven’t had the time or don’t want to set up GA4. If you just haven’t had the time or desire to do the migration, this may not be a bad option for you. However, it’s essential to be aware that your data may look different.
  • 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 and doesn’t consider this migrated. Even if you have set up GA4, you may still be subject to auto-migration.
  • Scenario 3: You have created a GA4 property and linked it to a UA property, but you haven’t completed all GA4 Setup Assistant steps. If you’re not opted-out of migration in UA, then Google will start filling in the gaps for you in this scenario.

Why opt-out of auto-migration?

There are several reasons why you should opt-out of auto-migration:

  • Control over your data: With auto-migration, Google will be in control of your data and may change your data without your knowledge or consent. By opting out of auto-migration, you retain control over your data and can make informed decisions about how you want to migrate to GA4.
  • Data discrepancies: Auto-migration may lead to discrepancies in your data between UA and GA4. This is because GA4 uses a different data model and different tracking codes. By opting out of auto-migration, you can ensure that your data remains consistent and accurate.
  • Loss of historical data: Auto-migration may result in the loss of historical data. This is because GA4 has different data retention policies than UA. By opting out of auto-migration, you can ensure that you retain your historical data and can use it for analysis and decision-making.
  • Lack of customization: Auto-migration may not take into account your unique business needs and may not be customized to your specific requirements. By opting out of auto-migration, you can ensure that you have complete control over the migration process and can customize it to your needs.
  • Unwanted conversions: Auto-migration may lead to unwanted conversions, which may be a waste of your advertising budget. 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.

How to opt-out of auto-migration?

If you decide to opt-out of auto-migration, you can do so by following these steps:

  • Select “No” on the “Migrating from Universal Analytics” pop-up when appears on your screen, or
  • Log in to your Universal Analytics account and 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 do not opt-out or do not mark all as complete, Google might migrate some or all of your UA property to a GA4 property starting as early as this week.
  • If you are already using GA4, you may still be subject to auto-migration. You can opt-out by following the same steps.

How to migrate to GA4 manually?

If you decide to migrate to GA4 manually, you can follow these steps:

  • Create a new GA4 property.
  • Link your UA property to your GA4 property.
  • Create custom dimensions and metrics in GA4.
  • Create a new data stream in GA4.
  • Update your website tracking code with the new GA4 measurement ID.
  • Configure your GA4 property settings.
  • Import your UA goals, audiences, and events to GA4.
  • Create custom reports in GA4.
  • Verify your data in GA4.
  • Turn off tracking in UA.

Final Thoughts

Auto-migration to GA4 may seem like a convenient feature, but it comes with several drawbacks, such as loss of control over your data. If data is an important and business-critical feature of your organization we can help with a structured, planned and expert migration to GA4 to ensure you keep your important data accurate and consistent.

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