GA4 Part 1: Ensuring a Smooth Transition: Exporting and Preserving Your UA Data Before the End of 2023

Technical Advice - 20.07.23

As we approach the end of 2023, it is so important for businesses and website owners to prepare for the transition from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). One essential step in this process is exporting and preserving your historical UA data. The primary question revolves around whether users of GA (Google Analytics) can transfer or migrate their Universal Analytics data to the Google Analytics 4 property.

Unfortunately, the migration of data to GA4 is not supported. The two versions utilise distinct data models, making it highly unlikely for such a feature to be available. The disparities in dimension definitions and calculations between the two versions create an obstacle to merging the data. 

Google Analytics Version 4 

In the first part of this two-part blog on Google Analytics 4, we address the current limitations of transferring Universal Analytics data to the GA4 property. As highlighted in an article from Search Engine Journal, we dive into the best methods for exporting and migrating your UA data, ensuring a smooth transition while preserving valuable insights. So let’s jump in with some key insights on how best to preserve your historical data. 

1. Exporting UA Data

Google Analytics provides several methods for exporting UA data, depending on your specific requirements. Here are the most effective methods:

a. Google Analytics Data Export API:

The Google Analytics Data Export API allows you to retrieve data from your UA account. By using this API, you can export data in a structured and automated manner, ensuring accuracy and consistency. This method is suitable for businesses with advanced technical capabilities.

b. Google Analytics Reporting API:

Similar to the Data Export API, the Reporting API enables you to extract UA data in a particular way. It provides more advanced reporting features and allows you to specify custom dimensions and metrics. This method is ideal for businesses requiring detailed and customised data extraction.

c. Google Analytics User Interface (UI):

For users with limited technical expertise, the Google Analytics UI offers a user-friendly interface to export your UA data. Although it is not suitable for large-scale data exports, it provides a convenient option for smaller datasets or ad hoc reports.

2. Migrating Historical Data to GA4

After exporting your UA data, the next step is to migrate it to GA4. While GA4 does not directly support importing historical UA data, there are several recommended approaches for preserving this valuable information:

a. Historical Data Storage:

Create a separate data storage solution, such as a dedicated server, to store your exported UA data securely. This ensures that your historical data remains accessible and available for future analysis, even after transitioning to GA4.

b. Data Consolidation and Integration:

Leverage data integration tools and platforms to consolidate your UA data with the new GA4 data. This approach enables you to combine historical and real-time data, providing a comprehensive view of your website's performance. Tools like Google BigQuery, Google Cloud Storage, or third-party data integration platforms can assist in this process.

4. Ensuring Data Accuracy

While exporting and migrating your UA data, it is crucial to prioritise data accuracy. Here are some best practices to ensure the integrity of your data:

a. Verify Data Consistency:

Regularly cross-check and validate your UA data exports to ensure accuracy and consistency. This involves comparing the exported data with the data available in your UA account to identify any discrepancies or missing data.

b. Perform Quality Assurance:

Conduct thorough quality assurance tests on your migrated data in GA4. Validate key metrics and reports to ensure that the migrated data aligns with your expectations. This step is important to maintain the integrity of your historical data.

Leveraging data storage solutions 

Once the UA data is exported, there are recommended approaches for preserving historical information in GA4. This includes setting up separate data storage solutions, implementing parallel tracking and data collection, and leveraging data integration tools to streamline UA data with GA4 data. These steps enable businesses to maintain a comprehensive view of website performance and ensure continuity in trend analysis.

Data accuracy is paramount throughout the exporting and migration process. Regular cross-checking and validation of exported UA data will help ensure data consistency and integrity.

By following these best practices and understanding the available options, businesses and website owners can navigate the transition from UA to GA4 more smoothly, preserving their valuable historical data and unlocking the benefits of the new data model in Google Analytics 4.