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If you have logged into you Universal Analytics account recently, you were probably greeted with this alarming display.

At the start of May, Google has ramped up the GA4 migration urgency with a few visual indicators on legacy Universal Analytics properties to alert users to the impending July 2023 switchover. Yes, it’s a very off-putting and scary flipping banner.

What we are doing

For our clients, we have taken the following steps so far:

  1. Install GA4 on their websites (typically using Google Tag Manager [GTM])
  2. Use this opportunity to rethink site goals!
  3. Agree on digital marketing KPIs.
  4. Implement measurement with GTM, GA4 and, where needed, the site developers.

So we have a GA4 account, installed on site, receiving useful data. Perfect!

Not perfect. Throughout April, we saw this warning:

Warning message from advising that the platform is sunsetting in in July 2023.

And now, in May, we have a full set of angry messages everywhere we click.

  • UA/GA4 linking popup on UA home.
  • Big salmon-colour warning strip across the top, with a big red call-to-action, ‘Complete GA4 setup’. The messages vary from:
    • ‘This property’s setup is not complete. Settings may be completed for you based on your original Universal Analytics (UA) property, unless you opt out in the connected UA property.’
    • ‘This property is not fully set up. You can complete the recommended setup checklist in the Setup Assistant.’
    • ‘Warning. This property will stop processing data starting on 1 July 2023. To continue measuring website performance, complete setup for your connected Google Analytics 4 (GA4) property as soon as possible.’
  • Horrible countdown numbers in the middle of the screen which never stop flipping down, down, down…

What on earth is going on? Haven’t we already setup GA4?

Manual vs. auto-migration

Google knows not every client is technical and migrating from one analytics platform to another can be a daunting task for anyone (even the digital marketing veterans).

Google communicated to every Google Analytics user in February 2023 about ‘Jumpstart’, the automatic, forced migration from UA to GA4. ‘We’ll soon configure Google Analytics 4 for you’.

Although Google strongly advises manual migration (i.e. the steps outlined at the start of this article), auto-migration remains the default behaviour unless you opt out. Google will ‘Jumpstart’ GA4 using the UA gtag.js or analytics.js tag installed on your site or GTM for every tracking property in your account, even if you have created an equivalent GA4 property. This could lead to multiple, poorly-configured GA4 trackers on your site collecting bloated, rubbish data.


Types of auto-migration

Not all ‘Jumpstarts’ are created equal:

Google Analytics 4 is replacing Universal Analytics. On July 1, 2023, your Universal Analytics properties will stop collecting data. Only GA4 properties will collect data after July 1. To help you with this transition, beginning in March 2023,

  • We’ll create a GA4 property for you, based on the settings in your Universal Analytics property, unless you opt out.
  • If you have already created a GA4 property, and that property is connected to a Universal Analytics property, we’ll copy over any configurations (e.g., goals, audiences, etc.) from your Universal Analytics property that you have not marked as complete in your GA4 property, unless you opt out.

So, from March 2023, Google has been rolling out automatically configured GA4 properties to all UA users.

For users with no GA4 linked to their UA, these GA4 properties have been created automatically and configured to mirror UA settings as well as the automated migration will allow.

For users who have created a GA4 and linked it to their UA, Google will still be copying over measurement configurations for UA even if they don’t fit the GA4 data being manually sent to the property.

… That last point has probably caught a few people off guard. It was a shock to some of our clients who had, up to this point, creating and linking a GA4 property would satiate ‘Jumpstart’ and Google would leave their data alone.

What to do next

We’ve explained these in more detail below but if you need a quick action plan, use these.

  • 1. Opt out of ‘Jumpstart’

    Disable auto-migration in your UA admin area for every UA property you want to prevent from generating an automatic GA4 property on your site.

  • 2. Link UA and GA4 properties

    In either your GA4 or UA admin area, tell Google which legacy UA property is being replaced by GA4.

  • 3. Complete the actions in the GA4 setup assistant

    A more gramular checklist for GA4 measurements. You can find this in your GA4 admin area. Complete each action and mark it off to indicate to Google that the property is measuring data.

1. Opt out of ‘Jumpstart’

The main take away from this article: if you do not want your existing UA tag to start tracking GA4 for you (either creating a GA4 property from scratch or pushing UA data into your nice, new, clean GA4 property) then you must opt out of auto-migration.

Directly from Google:

To opt out, you need the Editor role on your Universal Analytics property.

  1. In Google Analytics, click Admin.
  2. Make sure you are in the correct account and Universal Analytics property.
  3. In the Property column, click GA4 Setup Assistant.
  4. At the bottom of the page, turn off the Automatically set up a basic Google Analytics 4 property toggle.

If you have multiple UA properties (for example, multiple trackers on one site, or testing/staging properties) make sure to opt out of ‘Jumpstart’ on every single tracking property if you don’t want the auto-migration to take place.

Screenshot showing the GA4 Setup Assistant settings on UA for connecting to GA4

2. Link UA and GA4 properties

This is important for a few reasons:

  • Prevent Google from automatically creating, installing and sending data to a new GA4 property on your site through an old tracking code (i.e. duplicate GA4 properties).
  • Make sure Google is sending automatically migrated data to the correct GA4 account (if you are staying opted in to ‘Jumpstart’).
  • It turns some of the angry red on your screen to a more pleasant green colour.

If you aren’t immediately greeted by the linking pop-up window when you open up GA4, you can find the setting in your UA property.

  1. Navigate to the Admin area.
  2. Go to the Property column.
  3. Select ‘GA4 Setup Assistant’ (it should be the first item in the menu).
  4. Choose the ‘I want to connect to an existing Google Analytics 4 property’ option and select your UA property.
Screenshot of a UA admin screen with a popup showing a message about linking UA and GA4 properties.

3. Complete the actions in the GA4 Setup Assistant

You can find the GA4 migration checklist in your GA4 property.

  1. Go to your GA4 Admin area.
  2. Select the GA4 property you want to check.
  3. In the Property column, click Setup Assistant (it should be the first item in the menu).
  4. Mark the completed configurations. This will stop the configuration from being copied from UA to your GA4 property.

More of a checklist than an action but if you ever reach out to Google Technical Support, the first thing they’ll do is check your setup assistant progress.

These don’t complete automatically as you configure the property and marking things as done doesn’t seem to ward off the migration warnings on your account. Checking items off this list will halt the auto-migration process for that particular item.

Screenshot of the GA4 setup assistant checklist showing a complete progress bar with 7/7 steps complete.

… If you don’t opt out in time

In case anyone is reading after July 2023… Though Google did start creating properties from March 2023.

If you didn’t opt out in time and Google has created your automatically configured Google Analytics 4 property (and you don’t want it), you can disconnect and remove the property.

  1. In your Google Analytics, click Admin.
  2. Select your Universal Analytics property from the main list of properties on the account.
  3. In the Property column, click GA4 Setup Assistant.
  4. Next to “Connected property”, click Disconnect.
  5. Go to your GA4 property and delete it.

Will there be more to do later?

One of the most frustrating aspects of the GA4 movement is the drip-fed documentation from Google. We’re finally at a stage, in May 2023, where the GA4 docs feel nice and bulky but we are still discovering new features (and bugs) in GA4 even with a month to go for the hard UA sunset deadline.

In short, for mitigating risk to your analytics data during the final ‘sunset’ countdown, as long as you:

  • Link your main UA tracking property to a GA4 property.
  • Opt out of auto migration for manually created GA4 properties (and on UA properties you want to sunset for good).
  • And/or complete the more granular measurement actions in the GA4 Setup Assistant (and mark them as complete).

Then you’re in a good position for July 2023.

Inevitably, there will be another thing to check in a few months time. An update here, a process there. For now, completing the actions outlined in this article will keep your analytics data in the best condition, ready for Google’s next manoeuvre.