- What is Google doing with Universal Analytics?
- When is Google transitioning to GA4
- Why is Google Analytics being shut down?
- How is GA4 different to Google Analytics?
- How do I setup GA4?
In a world powered by insight, data is the beating heart of any successful business. This is particularly true in the digital age, where the surging growth of eCommerce means brands of every category and industry can access unprecedented levels of information regarding customer behaviours and patterns.
From July 1, 2022, there is now just one year left until Google’s Universal Analytics platform stops tracking website data. If your business currently uses Google Analytics to collect data and hasn’t already migrated its website tracking tool, the countdown is well and truly on.
What is happening?
In March this year Google announced that it will be phasing out its Universal Analytics platform with no website metrics recorded beyond July 1, 2023.
The change is set to be enormous. Since launching, Google Universal Analytics has remained the gold standard in web traffic data and insight with little else on the market offering the same level of versatility. The platform is a cornerstone of successful digital marketing and has no doubt changed the face of commerce and retail.
Instead, Google users will need to switch to GA4 – the next generation of Google’s free analytical tool, to ensure website data is still being tracked once Universal Analytics effectively shuts down in 2023.
What does the GA4 transition timeline look like?
- October 2020 – Google announces the launch of GA4
- March 2022 – Google announces the planned shutdown of Universal Analytics for July 1, 2023
- 30 June 2023 – The last day of data will be recorded on Universal Analytics accounts
- 1 July 2023 – New data recording will cease on Universal Analytics accounts while data will remain available to export for six months
- January 2024 – Old UA accounts are no longer accessible
Why is Universal Analytics being shut down?
The first iteration of Google Analytics appeared in 2005 – a full three years before social media giant Facebook was created. Universal Analytics, the third and most current version of the platform, became the default recording tool back in 2012.
Universal Analytics has been incredibly popular with users and digital marketers alike as a free offering that connects with many other data sources, often without the need for a dedicated API, to track website traffic and acquisition source figures, brand, regional and local marketing activities and key performance data.
In fact, BuiltWith estimates Google Analytics to be in use on over 35 million websites, including over 50% of the top 1 million rated website domains online – highlighting its growing popularity since its inception 17 years ago.
The replacement platform, GA4, was launched two and a half years ago and was run side-by-side with Universal Analytics until this recent announcement. GA4 is taking over from Universal Analytics to suit the modern behaviours of using websites, mobile apps and the increasing need for eCommerce and goal tracking.
What is GA4 and how is it different?
There’s been a fair amount of pushback on the introduction of GA4 from marketing teams around the globe as it has fundamentally changed the priority of how data is recorded in the platform.
Universal Analytics has always tracked sessions ahead of other factors, which helps everyday marketers to understand key performance metrics like pageviews, sessions, pages per session, session durations and so on. Conversely, GA4 is focused on providing event-based reporting which focuses more on clicks, downloads, scrolls, video plays and other advanced setups of events within the platform.
Fundamentally, GA4 has shifted from a base of tracking the website performance into tracking the user activity, which includes cross-domain tracking to allow marketers to see how customers operate between websites and apps, as well as purchase behaviours on eCommerce sites.
The event-based approach may provide richer, behaviour-based data in the long-run, but the new system requires more manual setup and integration with tools like Google Tag Manager to ensure marketers get the most out of the reporting tool. This adds a level of difficulty to marketers whose main focus isn’t on website tracking.
PHD Head of Digital, Russell Moore, explains: “For the majority of businesses, their in-house teams and digital marketing agency partners, Google Analytics used to provide all the website KPIs they required with rises or falls in visitors, length of stays on the website and high-level goals tracked through the system.
“However, the digital world has developed, and e-Commerce is soaring, hence there is now a need for new dynamic data. Google has answered that call with GA4, which now provides action-based metrics and tells you more about the behaviour and intentions of site visitors, which bases reporting more on quality than quantity.
“For anyone that hasn’t done their research on GA4 and isn’t used to the new setup of events, including the use of Google Tag Manager, this change could come as quite a shock and could be a very steep learning curve.”
How do I setup GA4?
Aiming to make transition simple, GA4 is now the default option for Google Analytics. When a new property is created within an existing Google account, the setup will focus on creating a new GA4 data stream rather than offering the existing Universal Analytics platform.
In most cases, the property can be created manually or Google’s setup assistant can automate much of this process. During this process, users will need access to the website’s CMS or source code in order to upload the tracking tags required.
It will also be useful to create a Google Tag Manager account or migrate existing tags to a GA4 configuration to make the most of the new tool.
As with any major data platform change, if can be easy for marketers to feel lost or overwhelmed. To make it simple, a digital marketing agency partner can aid in this transition.
By default, PHD Marketing assists all new and existing clients in migrating to the new platform, so why not get in touch with the team today?
Remember, the timeline has already started on the closure, so it’s important for digital marketing teams to get setup as soon as possible. The platform will only track comparative data from when the new account is created, so to track progress from day 1, teams must act fast!
Can Marketing by PHD help your business stay one step ahead of data and analytics platform shifts? Call the team on (+44 (0) 1977 708643) or email [email protected] and we’d be delighted to talk to you about the benefits of working with us.