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RIP Universal Analytics, Hello Google Analytics 4

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Google Analytics Report

Date
29 Apr 2022

Author
Jonathan Ward

Analytics is a key part of running any website. Google Analytics has been a favourite for many thanks to its dynamic tools and its moderately easy setup. Now after more than a decade, Google Analytics is pulling the plug on Universal Analytics as it shifts to a new standard.

Google Analytics 4 rolled out in October 2020. It’s the latest iteration of the Google Analytics platform. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) replaces Universal Analytics (UA) as the default analytics measurement in GA. And now – On the 16th of March 2022, Google announced that GA4 will be the only option beginning on July 1, 2023. Universal Analytics properties will stop processing hits on October 1, 2023.

Google Analytics 4 Logo

Previously processed data in Universal Analytics are to be stored for a minimum of six months from the dates mentioned above.

Analytics is a key part of running any website. Google Analytics has been a favourite for many thanks to its dynamic tools and its moderately easy setup. Now after more than a decade, Google Analytics is pulling the plug on Universal Analytics as it shifts to a new standard.

Why Is Google Analytics Making This Shift to Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics has been developing since its creation. With the rise of mobile apps, changes in consumer behaviour, and the introduction of GDPR, this shift in the way we collect and analyse data is fitting and justified.

Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions and more easily observable data from cookies.

Russell Ketchum – Director & Product Management at Google

Google Analytics 4 supplies us with a more rounded cross-channel view of the customers. By blending the insights we all know and love from Universal Analytics with the data model of Firebase to provide seamless insights and data-informed decision making.

Google Analytics 4: What’s New?

The new platform launched back in October 2020 with considerable changes from its predecessor.

  • Google Analytics 4 is designed to work across multiple platforms. Tracking data throughout websites and apps, without the need for cookies, is now possible.  
  • Measurements are constructed from an event-based data model. The principle here is that any interaction (scrolls, outbound clicks, site search and video engagement) can be captured as an event instead of just capturing page views and sessions.
  • GA4 utilises data-driven attribution. Basically, it allows marketers to track user journeys with more accuracy and accredit conversions to their activities with more clarity.
  • The platform doesn’t store IP addresses. This means the privacy of your users is intact. It helps businesses stay on the right side of GDPR & privacy regulations.
  • Access to more data through machine learning. Conversions, user behaviour, and predictive insights allow users to understand their audience far better.  
  • GA4 is slightly more oriented towards custom report templates than built-in reports. The Path Analysis template allows you to map user interactions starting from or leading to a specific event.
  • Better integration between Google products, making it simpler to work on Google Ads campaigns.

What Should you Do Now?

Are you up and running with GA4 yet?, if not, you need to start. We (and many others in the industry) recommend parallel tracking or dual tagging to build up historical data in anticipation of fully committing to GA4 in the future. This announcement means that you’ll need to act fast and fully implement GA4 before July 1st this year to have year-on-year comparisons for all your fundamental interactions when the deadline hits.

Four Steps That We’d Recommend Taking as Part of Your Migration Plan:

  1. Document all existing tracking in Universal Analytics, so you know what’s currently in place.
  2. Use this chance to take a step back and think strategically about exactly what you NEED to track and measure.
  3. Carefully plan out your event naming classification in GA4. The new data model is more intuitive and flexible than the old event category, action, and label structure in Universal Analytics. Take the opportunity to leave old or inefficient methods behind and make the most of the new data model.
  4. With all focus on the technical side of the migration, it would be easy to forget that you and your team need to use GA4. Consider the training needs of your team.

What Are The Key Takeaways?

  • Google is nudging businesses to move platforms earlier than expected. Businesses must transfer over by 1st October 2023.
  • Google is moving towards a more privacy-conscious approach.
  • The new features of Google Analytics 4 will improve the way marketers work with data.
  • More customisability for large enterprises.

Final Thoughts

Now is the perfect time to start planning and activating your migration plan. It is also the ideal opportunity to start elevating your team’s skills and knowledge ready for the transition over to Google Analytics 4.

If you have any queries or questions regarding  Google Analytics 4 or Universal Analytics, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, our web analytics team is on hand to help you.

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