Universal Analytics is Ending: Here's Why You Need to Switch to GA4 Now

Apr 17, 2024
min read

On July 1, 2024, Google will officially block all access to Universal Analytics Properties and all data stored in UA properties will be deleted.

This change marks the beginning of Google Analytics 4 as the default analytics property and its event-based tracking system the future of web analytics.

In this article, we'll guide you through why GA4 is a vital upgrade and provide you with a detailed roadmap for migrating seamlessly from Universal Analytics.

Whether you're a seasoned marketer or new to digital analytics, understanding the ins and outs of GA4 will ensure your analytics infrastructure is robust, compliant, and ready for the future.

Key dates and milestones for the transition period.

Before we dive into the details, it's important to understand how this transition is taking place. Here's a quick breakdown of everything that's happened and what's on the horizon.

Timeline ➝

July 31, 2019: The beta version of Google Analytics 4, initially introduced as "App + Web," is launched. This early version marks a new approach to analytics, blending app and web data for a unified user analysis platform.

October 14, 2020: Google officially launches Google Analytics 4 as the new default Analytics property. From this date, any new properties created are part of GA4, marking a significant shift towards a future-focused analytics framework designed for the cross-platform digital landscape.

March 16, 2022: Google announces the sunset date for Universal Analytics, providing the first official timeline for businesses to transition to GA4. This announcement serves as a critical heads-up for businesses to start planning their migration strategies.

July 1, 2023: The operational shutdown of Universal Analytics. From this date forward, all standard Universal Analytics properties ceased to process new data. This meant any user actions were no longer recorded in UA properties, making the switch to GA4 not just advisable but necessary for continuous data tracking.

July 1, 2024: The final curtain call for Universal Analytics. On this day, access to your UA properties and API, including all historical data, will be discontinued. This marks the last opportunity for businesses to export their valuable historical data for future reference.

Why Google Sunset Universal Analytics

Now that we've laid out the timeline, let's know more about why Google felt the need to make this change to their Analytics property.

This move is driven by several key factors ➝

1. The Rise of Multi-Platform User Interactions As the digital landscape evolves, user interactions have expanded dramatically across multiple platforms, particularly with the rise of mobile usage. Universal Analytics was originally architected for a desktop-dominated era, making it less capable of effectively tracking and integrating the diverse and complex user journeys that span both web and mobile today.

2. Data Privacy The global shift towards stricter data privacy standards, such as GDPR in Europe and CCPA in California, has put a spotlight on the limitations of Universal Analytics, which relies heavily on third-party cookies. These cookies are increasingly blocked by modern browsers, challenging the ability of Universal Analytics to gather comprehensive and compliant user data.

3. A Unified Analytics Experience Universal Analytics and Firebase Analytics have historically functioned as separate entities, complicating the ability for businesses to gain a unified view of customer interactions across platforms. GA4 resolves this by integrating web and app data streams, enabling a more cohesive understanding of the user journey.

4. Future-Proofing Analytics Google Analytics 4 is built on a flexible, event-based model that adapts more smoothly to the shifting technological landscape and varying user behaviours. This model allows for more detailed and customisable data collection, ensuring GA4 remains effective and relevant as digital technologies and privacy requirements evolve.

The benefits of GA4 over Universal Analytics

Before we get into a step-by-step process of migration to GA4, let's first learn about what are the actual benefits that GA4 offers over Universal Analytics for marketing teams.

Simplified Cross-Platform Tracking

Data Streams in GA4 vs. Views in UA:

Universal Analytics used 'views' to create different data perspectives within a single property. Each view could filter and present data differently, which was useful for segmenting data but required separate setups for web and app tracking, complicating cross-platform analysis.

In Google Analytics 4, data streams are utilized to collect and analyze data from various touchpoints (websites, iOS apps, Android apps) within a single GA4 property. This allows for a holistic analysis of user behaviours across platforms without needing to switch between different properties, which is essential for tracking the full user journey seamlessly.

Improved Data Accuracy

Event-Based Tracking in GA4 vs. Session-Based in UA:

Universal Analytics focused on sessions and pageviews, where sessions could contain multiple interactions grouped together, often making it difficult to isolate specific user actions without additional configuration.

Google Analytics 4 employs an event-based model that captures data based on interactions or events, which can occur multiple times and carry unique parameters. This model provides a more precise measurement of user actions, offering detailed insights into specific behaviours within sessions.

Ease of Custom Event Creation in GA4 vs. UA:

In Universal Analytics, setting up custom events typically required inserting custom code into the tracking code, which often demanded developer resources and made the process less flexible.

GA4 simplifies the creation of custom events, with no need for extensive coding. Analysts can set up and modify events directly in the interface or through minimal adjustments in the tagging setup.

GA4 also includes built-in enhanced measurement events that automatically track interactions such as scrolls, outbound clicks, site search, video engagement, and file downloads, which had to be manually set up in UA.

Improved Privacy Controls

GDPR Compliance and IP Address Logging:

UA logged IP addresses unless manually anonymised, which could complicate compliance with privacy regulations like GDPR.

GA4 does not log IP addresses by default, aligning more closely with GDPR requirements. This change enhances user privacy by not storing sensitive data that could identify individuals.

Data Deletion and Retention:

GA4 Provides enhanced controls over data retention, allowing organizations to set the duration for which data is stored before being automatically deleted. It also supports granular data deletion requests, helping businesses comply with user data deletion requests as per GDPR.

UA Had more limited data retention options and did not support detailed data deletion capabilities, which could pose challenges in complying with user deletion requests.

A quick guide on migration

To reap all those benefits, you need to migrate to GA4 and set it up properly (if you haven't already). Here's a quick beginner's guide on how to get this done.

Step 1: Check Your GA4 Setup Status

  • Verify Property Creation: First, check if a GA4 property has been automatically created for your account. You can do this by logging into your Google Analytics account and looking for any GA4 properties listed. If you see a GA4 property, Google has likely initiated the automatic migration process for your account.
  • Review Configuration: Assess the configuration of the automatically created GA4 property to ensure it aligns with your tracking requirements. To review, go to ‘Admin’ > ‘Property Settings’ and review configurations such as data collection settings, user property definitions, and event measurements.

Step 2: Configure Data Streams

  • Set Up Data Streams: If not already configured, or if additional streams are needed, go to the Admin section of your GA4 property, select Data Streams, and add any new streams by specifying the type (web, iOS app, Android app).
  • Verify Stream Settings: Ensure that each data stream is correctly capturing data by checking parameters like the stream URL for web streams or the app package name for mobile apps.

Step 3: Set Up Conversion Events

  • Identify Important Conversions: Document all critical conversions you tracked in Universal Analytics. These might include transactions, sign-ups, downloads, etc.
  • Configure in GA4: In GA4, navigate to Admin> Data Display> Events. Here you'll see a list of all you custom events you are tracking in GA4.  Simply switch the Conversion event toggle on for any event you want to mark as conversion. If the event does not exist yet, you may need to create a new custom event before marking it as a conversion event.

Step 4: Export Historical UA Data

  • Backup Data: Before the final shutdown of Universal Analytics on July 1, 2024, ensure you have exported all the historical data you need to retain. Access your UA property and go to ‘Admin’ > ‘View’ > ‘Reports’ > ‘Export’. Choose your export format (CSV, Excel) and download the files.
  • Post-Export Actions: Consider importing necessary historical data into business intelligence tools or other analytics platforms for continued access or integration with new GA4 data.

If you want to dive into the details, here's a link to a more comprehensive guide to migration.

Bonus Tips for Optimising Your GA4 Setup

Sync GA4 property to Big Query

Syncing your GA4 data to Big Query has several advantages

  • Indefinite Data Retention - This means you can store your analytics data for as long as you need without the risk of deletion.
  • Access to Un-sampled Raw Events - In Google Analytics 4, data sampling may occur when the number of events used to create a report, exploration, or request exceeds the quota limit for your property
  • No Cardinality Limitations - Big Query handles high-cardinality data without any limitations, ensuring detailed data points are preserved and reportable.
  • No Latency in Reporting - Real-time data captured in GA4, will flow directly into Big Query in real-time without any delay so you can analyse it in your reports immediately.

If you want to know more about why syncing to Big Query needs to be done, we've deep-dived and written more about it here.

Link Google Ads to GA4

  • Enhanced Campaign Performance Tracking -  Linking GA4 to Google Ads allows you to access detailed insights directly in GA4 regarding how users interact with their ads. This integration helps you understand which ads drive traffic to your site, how users behave once they arrive, and which campaigns are most effective in terms of user engagement and conversion.
  • This visibility provides a comprehensive view of campaign performance, enabling data-driven decisions to optimize ad spend and improve campaign strategies for better outcomes.
  • Improved Conversion Tracking - With GA4, you can define and track conversion events more flexibly and link them directly to specific ad clicks from Google Ads. This means you can track a wide array of conversions, from form submissions to product purchases, and directly associate them with the ads that drove those actions. This precise tracking capability leads to clearer ROI calculations.
  • Feed GA4 Audiences into Google Ads for Retargeting Campaigns - In GA4, utilise advanced segmentation tools to create audiences based on detailed user behaviour on your site, such as pages visited, events triggered, or engagement levels. These audiences can then be directly fed into Google Ads. Leveraging these rich, behaviour-based audiences for your Google Ads campaigns allows for highly targeted re-marketing. This strategy enhances the relevance of your ads to users based on their past interactions with your site, potentially increasing conversion rates and maximising ad spend efficiency.

Here's how Toplyne can help you build better audiences to increase your ROAS

Think of Toplyne as a data scientist for marketing teams. We sync your first-party data across multiple platforms into a single unified database and then build AI models on top to help you build audiences that are most likely to meet your business goals.

As a marketer running ads, you can use Toplyne's Performance Ads AI agent to use machine learning models to identify and build high-intent audiences that are most likely to convert basis your custom conversion events. You can then sync these audiences back into Meta and Google to run retargeting and prospecting campaigns and increase your ROAS.

Our Performance Marketing agent typically sees 30-40% higher ROAS than campaigns that use simple heuristic-based audience segmentations.


As the digital landscape evolves towards a cookie-less future, transitioning to Google Analytics 4 is a strategic move for us marketers.

By setting up GA4 now, you're taking a crucial step towards adapting to these changes, ensuring your marketing strategies remain effective and data-driven.

Happy targeting to you

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