Google Universal Analytics Sunset Countdown: A How-to for Verifying and Boosting Your Data Impact with GA4

The official UA sunset is less than two-months away, but there's no need to worry - GA4 is here to elevate your data insights to new heights.


Google’s Universal Analytics (GUA) is nearing sunset. Standard Universal Analytics properties terminated data processing on July 1, 2023. Universal Analytics 360 properties were granted a processing extension that will expire on July 1, 2024. After that date, all data in GUA properties (both free and 360) will be deleted.

Given the majority of users of Universal Analytics are aware of the sunset and have migrated to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), what additional concrete efforts can you take to ensure a seamless transition and perhaps fully leverage the capabilities of GA4? GA4 is, after all, a completely different platform that calls for fresh abilities and an alternative way of thinking.

We hope after reading the blog you'll feel more equipped to adapt to UA's deprecation, and feel confident in GA4 as a highly effective replacement. In this blog, we'll detail how you can prepare for the sunset in the following aspects:

  • GUA data archiving
  • Understanding GA4 features highlights
  • Differences in reporting between UA and GA4
    • Dimension and metric equivalents
    • How to customize GA4 to recreate useful/essential UA reports
  • Migrating your GUA Events and Audiences to GA4
  • Using GA4 Audiences and Conversions in Google Ads and Other GMP Platforms

GUA data archiving

A common concern with the GA4 migration process is data loss. GA4 does not allow data import from GUA, as standard reporting in GA4 is built upon event-based data tracking rather than UA’s session-based hit data. So what can you do with your historical data in GUA?

One of  Napkyn’s past blogs explains various types of solutions to preserve historical data from Universal Analytics. If you have a large property with a lot of data and wish to store it on a granular level you can utilize BigQuery. It allows you to store your data and set up queries to output tabular reporting with your GUA data. As far as Universal Analytics has been connected to BigQuery, all UA data will be exported to BigQuery in the daily native exports in a raw, unstructured format. There is also a way to import existing data into BiqQuery if the connection has not been made early enough. Other solutions include utilizing Google API and your own database or storing data in Excel/Google Sheets.

Understanding GA4's features

GA4 contains a multitude of advancements over UA, but is still a product designed for collecting both website and app data. It’s a more intelligent version of Google Analytics with machine learning at its core, which enables predictive marketing features. It gives marketers not only more information, but more efficient ways to act on that information to increase ROI. Below are some highlighted GA4 features that might interest you: 

  • Enhanced measurement with User ID: With the help of the User-ID function (which needs to be enabled), you can link specific users' behavior across many sessions, devices, and platforms by assigning your own identifiers to users. Because GA4 treats every user ID as a distinct user, user counts will potentially be deduplicated and included in a more complete picture of how each user interacts with your company. More details can be found here.
  • Machine Learning and Smarter Insights: GA4 includes a data-driven attribution model that uses machine learning to assign credit to different touchpoints based on their likelihood to contribute to conversions. This model considers the unique journey patterns of your users, which not only relies on key events data but also Machine Learning algorithms to incorporate factors such as time from conversion, device type, number of ad interactions, the order of ad exposure, and the type of creative assets. More details can be found here.
  • Reports Customization and Exploration: Customized reports help tailor your analysis to your business needs, and track specific events, user demographics, or website behaviors, among other variables. However, when you require a high level of flexibility in the analysis, the explorations section, which is a collection of advanced techniques that go beyond standard reports, will help you uncover deeper insights about your customers' journey.
  • Consent management for user privacy: GA4 strengthens privacy controls such as cookieless measurement, and behavioral and key event modeling. The latest feature, GA4 consent mode V2, enables you to respect your users' consent management preferences and easily adapt your data collection practices in compliance with privacy regulations such as GDPR and CCPA.

Differences in reporting between UA and GA4

Universal Analytics reporting groups data into sessions. With GA4 properties, you can still see session data, but it also collects & stores user interactions with your website or app as events. 

Apart from the  foundational differences, there are a few additional updates that differentiate UA and GA4 report.

Dimension and metric equivalents

Pageview/View: The pageviews metric in UA does not report on screenviews. The screenviews are reported in a separate mobile-specific UA Property. The view metric in GA4 is the combination of pageviews and screenviews as GA4 combines both app and web data in the same property. 

Users: Different Reporting Identity methods (by User-ID, Google Signals, and Device in GA4) vs by Client ID in Universal Analytics, will cause a difference in User count. Users that visit a site on different devices and platforms (if app and web streams are connected to the same GA4 property) with activated Google Signals or/and available User ID will be deduplicated, while in Universal Analytics that user will be recorded as multiple users.

Sessions:  A new campaign will start a new session regardless of activity in UA, but not in GA4. Also, GA4 records user engagement with the page, so the one pageview session in UA might be several sessions in GA4 if a user keeps the page open and comes back to it. Sessions in GA4 with multiple session_start events will increase the session count (this happens very rarely). Late hits in GA4 arrive up to 72 hours late vs 4 hours for Universal Analytics. This may lead to lower session counts in Universal analytics.

More details on other potential parameter differences can be found in the Google support document here.

How to customize GA4 to recreate useful/essential UA reports

How many default reports in Google Analytics does your team use on a regular basis? Google has rolled out a new feature in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) that lets your company customize which reports you see in the report navigation. With customizable navigation and reports that can be created in the Library, where the names of collections, topics, dimensions, and metrics are managed, overall reporting can be more straightforward and pertinent to your business. For further insights on customizing reports in GA4, you can refer to Napkyn's blog, which outlines the step-by-step process here

Migrating your GUA Events and Audiences to GA4

Event Migration: To ensure a seamless transition from GUA to GA4, it is important to remember the data models between the two platforms are fundamentally different. Simply copying the existing event logic of GUA is not recommended, as GA4 does not have matching classifications of event associated category, action, and label. 

To this end, it is highly recommended users create a new measurement plan tailored to GA4. This will help ensure accurate tracking and reporting of data. Fortunately, GUA events can be easily mapped to GA4 with the help of event parameters, which provide additional information about the user's action. More details on event parameters can be found here. Certain events that hold importance in the success of your business can be toggled on as ‘key events’, similar to GUA goals. 

Audience Migration: Moving your audience to GA4 allows users to identify user groups and analyze their behavior on the website. In addition, you can export audiences to linked Google Ads accounts to use them in campaign targeting. You will need to recreate the audiences manually in GA4. The limit is 100 audiences per free GA4 property and 400 audiences if the property is upgraded to 360. You can follow this guide by Google to create audiences in GA4.

Using GA4 Audiences and Conversions in Google Ads and Other GMP Platforms

GA4 offers the ability to export your audiences and conversions from your linked Google Ads and GMP accounts, which can significantly improve campaign effectiveness.

In GA4 properties, updating an audience is automatic without a need to choose the destination, which makes the process hassle-free.

If you're looking to create a Google Ads conversion, you first need to identify an Analytics ‘key event’ that measures an important interaction. Once you've identified the event, you can create a new conversion in Google Ads based on it. This will allow you to share conversion data across both platforms, providing a more comprehensive view of your data.

These Google support documents provide more details on using audiences and conversions with linked advertising products.


With GA4, users can focus on mapping a more integrated customer journey, and determine what areas of data collection require improvement. GA4 offers users full control of their data, and leaves marketers well equipped to better understand user behavior and hone their campaigns with a strong, adaptable, and feature-rich platform.

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