Google Universal Analytics Is Going Away: What You Need to Know
Since 2005, Google Analytics has been the gold standard for tracking website and marketing performance. While Google has made additions and improvements to the platform over the years, it announced last week that it would be removing:
On July 1, 2023, one of the most common Google Analytics instances will disappear.
Now I admit that even though I use Google Analytics every day, I’m not sure what that means. Do we use generic analytics? What exactly is “property”? How does Analytics 360 fit into this picture? Assuming I’m not the only one confused, I’ll dive in to find out, and that’s what I’m going to share today. Read on to find out:
- What changed, why, and when
- How to tell if your account will be affected
- what do you need to do?
- what has changed
Simple Edition: Universal Analytics will be replaced by Google Analytics 4 on July 1, 2023.
Official announcement: Google announced that “on July 1, 2023, the standard Universal Analytics properties will no longer process data.” You will be able to see your Universal Analytics reports for some time after July 1, 2023. However, new data will only flow into your GA 4 property. “
Let’s break it down:
What is property?
This is the website or app you track with Google Analytics. If you are currently using Universal Analytics to track your website, this will be referred to as your “Universal Analytics Asset”.
After setting up GA4, you will have a “Google Analytics 4 Asset” for the same website. Since UA and GA4 are different, you can have different reports for each attribute. Learn more about Google Analytics properties here
What is Google Analytics 4?
To understand exactly what GA4 is, take a little Google Analytics history lesson.
Google Analytics: The first instance of Google Analytics came out in 2005 (when you had a Razr flip phone with your favorite song as a ringtone).
Universal Analytics (UA): A new and improved version of Google Analytics that was introduced in 2012 and became the default property type.
Google Analytics 360: This is a software suite that provides Tag Manager, Optimization, Insights, Surveys, Attribution, and Audience Center in addition to Universal Analytics. Introduced in 2016.
Google Analytics 4: This is the latest version of Google Analytics, released on October 14, 2020.
What is the difference between UA and GA4?
Google Analytics 4 offers more than just Universal Analytics. It is built differently to accommodate current and future reporting and privacy needs. Below are some of the differences and benefits.
Event-based: Universal Analytics is session-based, while GA4 is event-based. In other words, GA4 has the built-in ability to track events like button clicks, video playback, etc., which requires advanced setup in UA. This is based on the premise that page views are not the only important metric.
Cross-device tracking: UA is built around desktop web traffic, and GA4 enables businesses to understand the customer journey across all their websites and applications.
Machine Learning: GA4 uses machine learning techniques to share insights and make predictions.
Privacy friendly: UA data relies heavily on cookies, while GA 4 does not.
How do I know if I’m using Universal Analytics?
Google Analytics 4 was released and made the default on October 14, 2020, so if you created your property after that date, you are likely using GA4. If you were using analytics before that date, you are probably using UA.
If you’re not sure, you can check your asset type by clicking the down arrow next to the asset name in the upper left corner of your account:
Then check your property ID:
- UA attribute IDs start with UA and end with a number.
- GA 4 attributes have numbers only.
What do I need to do?
If you are currently using Universal Analytics, you need to prioritize three actions:
Switch to GA 4 as soon as possible
While you’re more than a year away from this change, it’s best to make the transition now so your GA4 account can gather the data needed for automated insights.
If you are currently using UA, you will need to set up a GA4 property next to the existing UA property. Using Google’s GA4 setup assistant, you can choose to use existing tags for setup.
GA4 property setting assistant
If you run Google Ads, have custom events, or use other advanced features, see Google’s page on how to switch to Google Analytics 4, which breaks down the process into 12 steps and indicates the amount of work for each step.
Adjust your Google Ads conversion tracking
Once your GA 4 property is set up, you can view Google Analytics data in your Google Ads account.
If you have conversion tracking set up, you should import Analytics conversions into Google Ads and delete all UA goals to avoid duplication.
To import your Google Analytics conversions, into your Google Ads account, go to Tools & Settings > Conversions > Add a new conversion action and select Import:
Export historical reports
Google will allow access to your Universal Analytics data for at least six months after July 1, 2023, during which time you should export data that is important to you. There are three export methods:
- You can export individual reports
- Using the Google Analytics Reporting API
- Export to BigQuery
Google Analytics 4, here we come
I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s worth mentioning again: don’t procrastinate when switching to GA4. The earlier you start, the less historical data you’ll need to export by July, and the sooner Google’s machine learning can start showing and predicting insights in your account. Stay tuned for more GA4 tips and tricks!