First introduced in 2012, Universal Analytics has been the standard for collecting data into Google Analytics (GA) over the past decade.
However, earlier this week, Google announced the sunsetting of Universal Analytics which will be replaced by an improved version of GA, Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This announcement means that Universal Analytics will be sunset for both the standard (free) GA product as well as for the (enterprise, premium) Google Analytics 360 (GA360).The end of operation for Universal Analytics will be 1st July 2023 for standard (free) GA customers, whilst for (premium) GA360 customers, it will be 1st October 2023.
The new version of GA, GA4, is currently in beta, and due to remain in beta until 31st December 2022.
From the “end of operation” dates outlined above, Google will no longer be processing any tracking hits sent to Universal Analytics properties, and reported metrics will drop to zero. Previously processed data in Universal Analytics properties will continue to be available for at least another six months.
What you need to do
Google’s announcement removes any uncertainty about needing to work on your migration to GA4. Advertisers, publishers, site- and app-owners should implement GA4 – and start to accumulate historical data in it as soon as possible. Below are some best practices to keep in mind:
- Start reviewing your Universal Analytics setup: it’s time to review your implementation, assess your technical debt and get your data layer up-to-speed.
- Get familiar with GA4: Google provides demo accounts for GA4, both for web and app. It can help you get a sense of where the differences are and what to expect from this new product.
- Prepare for a data back-up and think Google Cloud: start exporting all the data that you need from Universal Analytics, before the cutoff date. For GA360 (“Premium”) customers, consider activating Google Cloud Data Transfers for Universal Analytics, and it will backfill 13 months of data or 10 billion hits.
How Croud can help
At Croud, we have already been helping many clients implement and begin migrating to GA4. The process always begins with snapshotting your current setup and making sure it connects well with your business objectives. Having the right technical set up, in particular a correctly-implemented data layer, will help smooth the transition to GA4. Now is the right time to prioritise this work. Get in touch with our team to learn more.
On Google Cloud Platform, we can spear-head the setup, incl. Data Transfers and reproduces major reports for the User Interface with enhanced granularity.
Lastly, we can train your team on every aspect of GA4, with close attention to the differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics.
More about Google Analytics 4
GA4 started as Firebase Analytics, an app measurement product that Google later positioned as the successor to Universal Analytics. Below are some key features of GA4:
- It acknowledges the integral role that apps have come to play in the customer experience and seeks to bridge tracking between app and site
- Technologically, it is a brand new product with no dependency on, legacy from or ties to Universal Analytics
- It is a unique architecture built from the ground up to address current and future analytics needs
GA4 brings very exciting features to the table when it comes to audiences, including predictive analytics, powerful segmentation abilities and strong deep-dive features for analysis. GA4 will feature unique modelling to represent behavioural data that would otherwise be unavailable due to new privacy features. . For data collection, the new product relies on only one approach, and it brings a significant boost in terms of data quality. On privacy, it comes with better controls and Google will no longer support the storing and processing of user IP addresses (they are always immediately deleted).
However, GA4 comes with shortcomings in ease of use of reporting as compared to Universal Analytics. Some familiar reporting features are currently missing from GA, such as automated email reporting and filtering; and segments come with limitations for regular reports. Marketing channels are not currently customisable.
The GA4 user interface differs greatly from the Universal Analytics one, and requires users to learn and adjust to new navigation, as well as the new GA4 features.
Finally, the pricing model is changing too. While GA4, like Universal Analytics, is available through the standard (“free”) GA product, for customers of the “Premium” GA360 version, pricing moves from a fixed price to a variable model, based on number of events.
Find out more through these Google resources
To learn more about how Croud can help your brand prepare for this change, please get in touch with our team.