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The sun is setting on Universal Analytics

23 November, 2022 Reading: 3:36 mins
Richard Copping

By Richard

Whether you live marketing analytics daily, dip into them when you need insight, or have someone else do that for you – big change is looming on the horizon with Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

The sun is setting on Universal Analytics

Your organisation likely uses Google Analytics for its website measurement to understand how people are interacting with the pages. And you're also no doubt tracking performance of your marketing campaigns with Google Analytics too.

But right now, you need to act – and act quickly by upgrading to GA4. I don’t want you to get caught out, and be that marketer asked to present the monthly website user numbers to the Board, only to then have to say, “sorry our Analytics stopped collecting data.” There’s a reason it’s being referred to as ‘the sunset’ of Universal Analytics - unless you make the right preparations you’ll be left in the dark. So, it’s time to fire up!

Google Analytics has been around since 2005 and its current version 3 is about to disappear into the sunset – come 1st July 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hit data. You won’t be able to see ‘up-to-the-minute’ statistics for your website, and eventually your historical data won’t be supported, too.

Is GA4 better?
I might have answered differently a year ago - and said it’s different, not better. After spending some time with it, using and creating custom reports and getting to know it more, I’d say it’s better and has great potential to be expanded on.

What are the benefits of GA4?
There are several, but one stands out for me. It’s easy to set-up additional event tracking, out-of-the-box:
• This is called Enhanced measurement and it “automatically measures interactions and content on your site in addition to standard page view measurement.”
• It includes outbound clicks, scrolls, video engagement and file downloads – and you can track with no extra code.
Note: If you have a gated file download - just make sure your team are clear on the difference between Enhanced measurement file download vs what might be a ‘new lead’ that has downloaded an e-book.

What is GA4 replacing?
GA4 is replacing the current version of Google Analytics, ‘Universal Analytics’, which has been the de facto standard for measuring how people are using a website for over 10 years. Although Google Analytics has had a few tweaks and updates over the years, technologies change a lot in that time and according to Russell Ketchum, Director-Product Management, Google Analytics, ‘Without a modern measurement solution, you leave essential insights on the table that can impact your business. So now is the time to make Google Analytics 4 your cross-platform Analytics solution. We will begin sunsetting Universal Analytics — the previous generation of Analytics — next year.’

Is GA4 better for privacy?
GA4 was designed with privacy at its core and has many features that will ensure compliance with the many emerging privacy laws. Significantly, IP addresses are no longer stored in Google Analytics 4, improving on the features within Universal Analytics to anonymise IP addresses.

Will Google Analytics continue to be free?
Yes, for the most part – Google makes money in other ways, and they want to help you track ads and support marketing activities. However, there is a paid version of GA 360 with increased functionality which is for larger organisations and enterprises that require a robust service level agreement.

How do I move to GA4?
There are several ways to get started with GA4 and Google has promoted an essential migration step checklist here.

Key dates
• July 1, 2023 - Universal Analytics will stop processing new data
• October 1, 2023 - Universal Analytics 360 properties will stop processing new data
• Data that has previously been processed will remain available for at least six months.

However, if it all feels a bit daunting or you don’t have the in-house tech expertise to make the transition, then we have a team of experts at hand to help you every step of the way. Talk to us today – we’re here to help you navigate any challenges.

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