The sun is setting for Universal Analytics

25th Mar 22 | News

As digital marketing specialists, we know how important our clients’ data is for strategy and planning, which is why the latest Google Analytics news deserved its own insights post. 

Last week, Google announced their plans to begin sunsetting Universal Analytics in June 2023, and switching over to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). All property accounts on Universal Analytics will stop recording new data on 1 July 2023. For those using Universal Analytics 360, Google has stated that they will have 3 more months of data processing, until 1 October 2023. 

It is important that you contact your marketing team, in-house or agency, as soon as possible to plan the migration from Universal Analytics to GA4. 

What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?

GA4 was designed to meet everyone’s most important objectives, including driving sales or app installations, generating leads, and connecting online and offline customer engagement.

We’ve summarised the key benefits offered by GA4 below:

Customer insights across various touchpoints 

This time, Google is giving you a complete overview of the customer life cycle with a measurement tool that isn’t broken down by platform or organised into individual sessions. Gymshark is one company who have used GA4 to understand how their consumers move through the purchasing process. Find out more here.

Boost ROI with data-driven attribution

The use of data-driven attribution will give you a better understanding and insight into your marketing activities' impact on customers. This feature assigns attribution credit to more than just the last click, which helps show how all your marketing activity collectively influences conversion rate. You can then export that analysis to Google Ads to help optimise your paid campaigns.

More valuable data 

Within GA4, machine learning will forecast predictive insights about your users behaviours and conversions, create new focussed audiences who are likely to purchase or churn, and will highlight critical insights that will help to improve your marketing activity.

Activate your insights & take action 

Search Engine Journal has emphasised that your data will now become more actionable as GA4 has integrated with other Google products, including Google Ads, which means that you can work across GA4’s web and app data to optimise your campaigns.

Privacy focussed 

You will be able to customise the structure of your GA4 properties to meet data ownership needs. This means that different agencies or partners within your team can access all the data they need in line with your policies.

New and exciting features means that it might take a while for you to wrap your head around the new interface. A lot of marketers have taken to Twitter to express their concerns, and Google liaisons took to Twitter to explain why GA4 is better than Universal Analytics, as well as providing you with some top training tips, as this new platform might take time for you to get used to.

Why is this news important? 

Firstly, why is this happening? Well, Search Engine Journal hit the nail on the head, simply, Universal Analytics is not able to deliver cross-platform insights. But, GA4 can measure data across both websites and apps.

It’s imperative that everyone migrates to GA4 as early as possible to ensure that year on year data comparisons can still be made, because Universal Analytics won’t migrate your existing data into GA4. Therefore if you don’t set up your properties on GA4 soon, you could lose your historic data. And if you lose your data, planning, preparation and strategy might become more difficult for your marketing team.

Search Engine Roundtable emphasised the importance of exporting historical data from Universal Analytics to ensure you still have access to older report data, because after Google’s proposed dates, you will no longer be able to see your Universal Analytics reports in the analytics interface, nor access data via the API.

What are the next steps for your business? 

1. Create a GA4 property (Now!) 

We recommend that you create and set up your new GA4 property and then implement the new gtag.js on your website to replace the old UA analytics code. For more information on setting up your GA4 property, click here.

There is a sense of urgency on having GA4 properties setup before 1 June 2022 if you still want to be able to compare year-on-year data. The goal is to start capturing data now so that you have comparable data to work with next year.

2. Recreate your event and goal tracking 

Next, we recommend replicating your existing Universal Analytics setup within GA4 so that your events and goals are set up to be tracked, because they aren’t automatically added. This setup will allow you to compare historical data which you may need in the future.

We recommend taking time to rebuild these events and goals within the new tracking guidelines to ensure you can still monitor web actions effectively.

3. Google Integration Applications 

Don’t forget to check your connected applications. Most marketers and agencies will have connected their Google Ads, Google Search Console and Google Data Studio to their Analytics. This means that you will have to reconnect these applications to your new GA4 property to ensure you can still pull sufficient reporting data and have streamlined Google tools.

4. Data Download Plan 

With Google’s plans to sunset Universal Analytics, you will need to think about implementing a data retention plan to salvage your historical data. After all, that’s years of data you don’t want to lose!

When downloading historical data, be mindful of sampling as this makes the data inaccurate. But don’t worry, Google has stated that they will be offering more top tips and guidance on data exporting data in the coming months.

Google has highlighted that you will only be able to view / download historical data 6 months after sunsetting, so don’t wait, once Google gives more guidance on data exports, implement it quickly so you have all the data you need.

5. Familiarise yourself with GA4 

Once you’ve followed the steps outlined above, it’s time to look at the new Google Analytics interface. It will take time to get used to and navigate, but after time you will be able to work GA4 like you worked GA3 (Universal Analytics).

If you require any help setting up your new GA4 property, Google has provided several links to help make the switch over easier to manage. Alternatively, get in touch with us today and we will help you with the transition.

Need help with more than just your GA4 setup? 

If you’re looking to keep your marketing aligned with industry best practices, Click2Convert can support you in elevating your marketing strategy. Get in touch with us today.

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