In a somewhat stunning but ultimately expected move, Google announced last week it will discontinue Universal Analytics, the widely adopted standard for web analytics over the past decade. By sunsetting Universal Analytics, Google will force the adoption of Google Analytics 4, which struggled to catch on with marketers since its introduction in October 2021.
When is this happening?
Google plans to completely remove Universal Analytics from use on July 1, 2023, giving marketers and website owners just under a year and a half to pivot over to GA4. While this is no idle threat from Google, the July 1 date is by no means decided, as we saw with Google’s plan to kill third party cookies in Chrome. Initial backlash to the news was significant, and improvements to GA4 are still necessary.
Why is this happening?
This move is rolled up into Google’s big plan for a cookieless internet that puts user privacy at the forefront.
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. This measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete.
GA4 is better equipped to handle cross-platform measurement between web and app, which is much more to the benefit of enterprise companies and publishers than SMBs.
GA4 will also no longer log or store IP address information. IP addresses can be misused as personally identifiable information data, compromising personal privacy. Google built GA4 with GDPR privacy standards in mind.
How will this affect my data?
Universal Analytics and GA4 measure data in different ways; Universal Analytics data uses “hit types” and GA4 uses “event-based” measurements. While metrics like pageviews, time on page, transactions, etc. are comparable between properties, you can’t combine data from UA properties with data from GA4 properties. Adopt GA4 immediately to establish data continuity moving forward.
Universal Analytics will stop recording data on July 1st 2023, and all historical data from Universal Analytics will be erased six months later. This is obviously a big deal. If you’re measuring year-over-year data, export all your UA data and implement GA4.
What should I do?
Create a new GA4 property if you haven’t already. The sooner you set up your GA4 property, the sooner you can see year-over-year data in GA4. Run GA4 concurrently with UA to provide more context on how data collection between the two properties may differ.
Update any events and goals you track with Google Analytics, as well as any audiences or conversions you use with other Google properties like Google Ads.
Royle Media already developed GA4 properties for its clients with customized event tracking that tailors to each client’s specific needs. We can assist with any aspects of this Google Analytics transition.