It’s official now. Google has stated that the previous version of Google Analytics, known as Universal Analytics or GA3. It will be phased down on July 1, 2023, implying that it is time to transition to the next generation of Google Analytics, known as Google Analytics 4 or GA4.
This decision may come as a surprise to many and it will undoubtedly have an impact on the almost 30 million websites that now use Google Analytics. The only solace we have is knowing that we’re all in this together.
We have a little more than a year to complete the changeover and become acquainted with GA4’s new interface. This move will necessitate new ways of thinking; it will necessitate that we all modify our internal procedures. Learn new technologies, and become more mindful of how and why we acquire consumer data.
Why Is Google Discontinuing Universal Analytics At This Time?
Google Analytics 4 was released to the market in October 2020. We all assumed that Universal Analytics would remain there for at least three to five years longer. Because no specific end-of-life date had been established; unfortunately, this is no longer the case.
There are a few external variables motivating Google’s decision to accelerate the migration to GA4. And phase down Universal Analytics earlier than expected.
While Google hasn’t explicitly stated one way or the other. We believe the most pressing external factor is the recent scrutiny of Universal Analytics. In terms of data privacy laws and regulations, such as the Austrian Data Protection Authority’s determination. That Universal Analytics likely violates GDPR. Rather than rewriting Universal Analytics to be compliant, Google has chosen to accelerate the transition to GA4, which is more compatible.
In Universal Analytics, for example, data privacy protections are opt-in, which most websites would choose not to use. Privacy restrictions are enabled by default in GA4. In GA4, for example, IP address anonymization is always active and cannot be disabled.
What Will Happen To The Data I Collected Using Universal Analytics?
To be clear, between now and June 30, 2023, you will be able to use and gather additional data in your Universal Analytics properties.
However, on July 1, 2023, all normal Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits. After this date, you will only be able to see historical reports. It is of previously processed data in Universal Analytics for a period of up to six months. These sites will stop processing new hits on October 1, 2023, if you are using the premium version of Google Analytics (known as Google Analytics 360).
Google has not yet announced a specific date when users would no longer be able to use the Universal Analytics interface. But our advice is to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. We anticipate that Google will cease operations entirely by the end of 2023. This implies you have a little more than a year to say farewell to your Universal Analytics assets.
At a minimum, you should 1) migrate to GA4 by July 2023 and 2) export your historical data from Universal Analytics before December 2023. This will guarantee that your reporting procedures are disrupted as little as possible.
While this gives you some breathing room, we do not advocate waiting until these deadlines to act. Keep in mind that data in Google Analytics 4 is not retroactive. Thus data collecting begins at the time of creation. The sooner you can install GA4 for your online and mobile app data streams. The sooner you can start collecting data in GA4 for future historical reports.
Is It Possible To Transfer Data From Universal Analytics To GA4?
No, it does not. GA4 can only gather fresh data if it is set to do so. Data from Universal Analytics should be exported and combined with GA4 data in a different data visualization tool, such as Data Studio or Tableau.
How Should I Compare GA4 To Universal Analytics?
Universal Analytics and GA4 are two distinct products that should be considered as such. You will be disappointed if you anticipate an apples-to-apples migration with the same features, measures, and processes you are used to.
Universal Analytics is described as an all-in-one solution since it combines data collecting, processing, and reporting into a single user interface. Google Analytics 4, on the other hand, focuses only on ad hoc data analysis and is intended to be used in conjunction with other tools.
- Tag Manager for data gathering;
- Google BigQuery for cloud data warehousing; and
- Google Data Studio for data visualization and reporting.
Because GA4 is not an all-in-one tool, you should anticipate becoming acquainted with the following tools in order to properly transition to GA4.
Furthermore, they have two unique measurement models, which means you will need to reconsider how you gather data. Universal Analytics properties employ a user-, session-, pageview-, and hit-based measurement methodology. But GA4 now uses an events-based measurement model. Anything that happens on a site is now considered an event—including page views, clicks, transactions, searches, and so on.
How Should I Approach A Full GA4 Migration?
If you are presently using Universal Analytics, you should begin preparing a migration to GA4 as soon as feasible so that you can perform an orderly migration rather than a frenzied dash in the spring and summer of 2023.
There are a few measures you can take right now to guarantee a seamless transition to GA4:
- Make a list of all the Universal Analytics measures you already have. Make a list of the measurements you want to keep track of in GA4.
- Create a design reference for GA4 solutions. Consider how to effectively arrange your GA4 account so that it can grow with your company in the future.
- In GA4, create properties and data streams. It’s worth noting that you can now collect and analyse multiple web and mobile app data streams within a single property, so this will necessitate some careful planning.
- Use the configuration tag in Google Tag Manager to activate your GA4 analytics tracking code on your site.
- Establish a data-gathering system.
- Allow for improved measurement events such as page views, scroll depth, file downloads, on-site search results, and video interaction (if applicable).
- Create a tag management strategy and implement bespoke event tracking using Google Tag Manager’s event tag. Check that they correspond to any Universal Analytics custom events you want to collect in GA4.
- Export raw event data from your GA4 properties to Google BigQuery for long-term storage without having to worry about GA4 data retention constraints.
- Flow BigQuery data into your prefered Business Intelligence (BI) application (e.g., Data Studio or Tableau) for data visualisation and reporting.
- Set a reminder for July 2023 to export your history data in Universal Analytics to guarantee you never lose access.
Universal Analytics Is Being Phased Out.
We understand that this process might be intimidating. Especially for those of us who have relied extensively on Universal Analytics over the previous decade. It’s easy to forget how much time we spent customizing metrics, and gathering data. And reporting figures to our liking—all from a single, handy interface. Not to mention that the Google Analytics community has spent the previous decade developing best practices. Templates, and tutorials to help its customers navigate the learning curve.
But now we must restart in GA4.
As we prepare to say our final goodbyes to Universal Analytics, which we have all come to know, love. And occasionally despise, we have the incredible chance to usher in and embrace the next generation of Google Analytics—a tool developed specifically for the future of digital analytics. We are making history as a group.