[Step-by-Step Guide] How to migrate GA Universal audiences to GA4 more easily
Calling out all CMOs, marketing, and Ads Managers! If you’re starting to feel the pressure of keeping your ads running and your costs low as Universal Analytics basks in its final moments of glory, know you’ve got an ally in us.
And don’t think for a second that we’ve forgotten about you – Google Ads specialists, Data Analysts, and Data Tracking Specialists. We’re well aware you’ve got your hands full with migrating those Universal Analytics audiences to your new GA4 property. This will also show you how to save time and import them like an absolute boss!
… We’ll show you how to do so without losing anything of the internal know-how, invested budgets, or acquired results – and, most important of all – without making it feel like a never-ending task.
Now, you may be well aware of the benefits you get by migrating those audiences to GA4 – but it doesn’t hurt to go through them again.
GA4 brings enhanced user data tracking that captures user interactions across multiple devices and platforms. Plus, it utilizes advanced machine learning models to provide accurate and predictive analytics insights, so you can better understand your customers and optimize your marketing campaigns. And let’s remember about data privacy compliance, as GA4 provides more robust data privacy controls and helps you to manage data subject rights.
Overall, migrating to GA4 means gaining deeper insights, improving your marketing, and staying on top of data privacy regulations. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s migrate those audiences and see the benefits roll in!
The way we see it, you’ve got two options for recreating your audiences.
Option #1: Create each audience from scratch in GA4. This may work fine if you’ve only got one or two audiences. However, if you’ve got a gazillion of them, your grandkids may grow old before you see the end of this task. Fortunately, there’s also option #2.
Option #2: Import the UA audiences to GA4. Even though some audiences may not be compatible with this direct transfer type, this method will save you vast amounts of time in the long run.
So, if you’re lucky enough to have your audiences compatible with this transfer type, stay tuned. We’ll walk you through the second method and ensure you import those audiences like a pro!
Here’s a quick glance over what you’re about to read next:
Table of Contents:
- Step 1 – Import audiences from a Universal Analytics property
- Step 2 – Decide how to migrate each audience
- Step 3 – Migrate audiences to a GA4 property
- Troubleshooting unsuccessful imports
Alrighty, let’s get this show on the road, shall we? First, make sure you have at least a Viewer role assigned for the Universal Analytics property you’re going to import from. Regarding the Google Analytics 4 property you will export to, you’ll need at least an Editor role. Got it? Great. Let’s move on.
For the second phase of this getting started process, you will need to install the GA4 Migrator for Google Analytics™ add-on. Do so by clicking the previous link, or access Google Workspace Marketplace from the menu of any Google Sheet by going to Extensions > Get add-ons. Type it ‘GA4 Migrator for Google Analytics’ and voila!
Alright, now that you’ve got everything in place, it’s time to move on to the nitty gritty.
Step 1 – Import audiences from a Universal Analytics property
With the extension mentioned above added, open a Google Sheet (if you haven’t already), click on the Extensions tab, select “GA4 Migrator for Google Analytics™”, and pick “Migrate audience definitions to GA4.”
As a side note, if you’re also interested in the subject of how to migrate users to GA4, we’ll be walking you through it as well in another article that we’ll have live soon enough.
You should now see a sidebar opened for you to start the importing process.
Select the Google Analytics account, choose the UA Property you need, and click “Import audiences from Universal Analytics.” Just like you see in the image below.
Your spreadsheet should now be populated with all your audiences in the selected UA Property.
Let’s take a closer look at this table’s columns to get a better understanding of the following steps.
Column (A) will be needed to check which audiences you want to import.
Column B is the add-on notification telling you whether you can migrate the audience (marked in green) or if that audience is not compatible with GA4 (marked in orange). Unfortunately, as mentioned before, not all audiences are compatible with GA4. Therefore, you’ll need to create them manually inside GA4 or modify their conditions in the “Include Segment” column to match GA4.
More on that below.
But first, let’s pause a bit. A pretty cool side of this add-on is it allows you to edit any information moving forward from column C. Say you want to update names or descriptions. Or you want to slightly adjust a definition of an audience before importing it to GA4. This add-on spares you from further editing the imported audiences in the GA4 interface. You can do all that inside this spreadsheet.
Moving on, Column C shows you the audiences’ names as they are set up in UA.
Column D, “GA4 compatibility notes”, is helpful, especially for incompatible audiences. It explains why that particular audience cannot be migrated and what to do partially :). Partially because this column may expose incomplete info on what is to do next. We consider it to be better than nothing.
Column E, “Description”, shows you a picture of that audience the way UA is describing it. This is not to be mistaken with the audience definition. It’s merely a friendly description and nothing else. Plus, as mentioned earlier, you can edit this column and add a more fitting GA4 description if you feel it’s necessary.
Column F, “Include Segment”, is the real deal. This column contains the definition of each audience, meaning the conditions they are created under.
For instance, in our example, the “Mobile only” audience has the following condition:
Column G, “Exclude Segment,” contains any exclude-type of condition. In our case, the “Exclude blog visits” audience is excluded from any session on any blog page.
Last but not least, the “Membership Duration” column contains the number of days a user remains in the audience.
Now look at this list and decide which audiences you want to import. You may want to edit some of them before proceeding with the import. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to move on to step #2.
Step 2 – Decide how to migrate each audience
Before anything else, did you make any changes to the expressions from ‘Include Segment’ or ‘Exclude Segment’ columns? If so, we strongly recommend you click ‘Validate manual changes’ to validate them (see image below).
Good. If the changes are correct, you’ll see the message below in less than 30 seconds.
We should give you a warning that all the information needs to be correctly set up, or else the validation process will take longer. The problem is this add-on is a bit of a slouch when pointing out what you did wrong. You’ll know this if you see the ‘Operation in progress…’ prompt for over 2 minutes. When this happens, we recommend that you go over your changes once more. To reduce the waiting time, validate each change individually as soon as you make it. That way, if anything seems out of order, you’ll know exactly where the problem comes from.
Good! It’s time to choose the audiences you want to migrate to GA4. Again, you’ve got two ways to do this. The first is to select them manually from column A. The second is to use the ‘Select all migratable audiences’ button from the side panel. Once you’ve done so, click ‘Continue.’
Step 3 – Migrate audiences to a GA4 property
Good job! You’ve made it to the final step of the process. Now, select the GA4 property to import the selected audiences and click Migrate.
You’ll know the phase was completed after seeing the message below. But you’re not out of the woods yet. To make sure the migration was successful, you need to check the resulting sheet.
Here’s what you need to look for. Firstly, in our example, we selected 5 audiences. The resulting sheet should therefore contain 5 rows – which, in our case, does.
Now, take a look at your GA4 property. As you can see in the image below, we only see 3 audiences in ours:
- Mobile-only – successfully imported audience
- All Users – hey, this audience is not imported; because it is a default audience. So we don’t need to import the “All Users” audience at all.
- Purchasers – also not imported, and also a default one.
So, we imported only one of our five audiences within the spreadsheet. Not going to lie; it was a bit of a bummer to see this.
However, it’s worth noting that we tested this method on clients with tens of audiences, and we can confidently say that it eased us off recreating at least 20% of them in GA4.
Now, we did discover a bunch of scenarios that caused some importance to fail. And we’ll give you the scoop on a few of them below.
Understanding unsuccessful imports
After trying this tool over and over again, what we discovered was that most errors happen due to unsupported types of audiences. This means this fancy app simply doesn’t have the capability to move some of them to GA4. Let us walk you through some examples below.
Now, what about the audiences that share the same name as the ones you’re trying to import?
You won’t get any warning signs in the sheet’s column D – which could make you believe you’ve successfully migrated that audience. Yet, when you try to find it in the GA4 interface, it’s not there. So, what does this mean? Well, it’s actually good news because it means you don’t have to fuss about migrating audiences that already exist in GA4 (such as the All Users audience). Phew!
Howeveeer, there’s a chance you may have a name double-up in GA4 for a different audience. In that case, go back to Step 2 and change its name. Then, only select that audience for import and follow Step 3 like a pro.
Now let’s shift our focus to audiences that use exclusion segmentation or sequences. Hold on to your socks because here’s the deal: ‘Audiences with excluded segments are not migratable.’ Yep, you’ve read that right. And unfortunately, neither are those snazzy sequence audience segments. Bummer, we know! Don’t worry, though. You can still set up these audiences in GA4 easy-peasy.
And there’s more. Audiences based on Universal Analytics goals won’t work for migration either. But fear not! You can create these audiences straight in GA4. No biggie!
Finally, we have audiences that use Universal Analytics dimensions that GA4 doesn’t support. Look at the examples below: landing page path and event action dimensions. You may see one of the following notes, “Segment expressions with dimension ‘ga:landingPagePath’ are not migratable.” or “Segment expressions with dimension ‘ga:eventAction’ are not migratable”. Now, if you’re fluent in API language and know how to replace those conditions to achieve the same outcome while being compatible with GA4 API, consider yourself lucky. Otherwise, go ahead and create those audiences directly in GA4.
We hope this article helped relieve some of the pressure of migrating your Universal Analytics audiences to GA4. We understand the importance of keeping your ads running and your costs low, and with GA4, you can gain deeper insights, improve your marketing, and stay on top of data privacy regulations.
Whether you create each audience from scratch in GA4 or import them, we hope our shortcut makes the process feel easier. Don’t forget, with the GA4 Migrator for Google Analytics™ add-on, you can edit any information moving forward, including names, descriptions, and audience definitions, all inside a single spreadsheet.
So, what are you waiting for? Install the add-on, assign the necessary roles, and start migrating those audiences like a pro. It’s time to see the benefits of GA4 roll in!
Oh, and if switching to GA4 starts feeling overwhelming, or you just can’t find the time for it, know that help is just one email away. Schedule a free consultation, and we’ll rush to your assistance as soon as possible.