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Google Analytics 4: How to handle the sunsetting of Universal Analytics

Analytics visual display

By Kim Logan

First of all, and a reference for fellow Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fans: Don’t Panic! Google has fortunately given us plenty of notice on the sunsetting of their Universal Analytics platform.

Universal Analytics launched in late 2012 and has been the default Google property for tracking website data since. New kid on the block Google Analytics 4 joined the party in 2020 and, although technically superior, uptake has been…slow. Many users have deemed it to be difficult to use or too complex.

There are, however, some big positives to Google Analytics 4. Here are just a few:

  • Improved user engagement analysis
  • Better integration with Google Ads
  • Improved customer journey tracking
  • Simpler setup for goals and events
  • 35 event parameters, versus just 3 in Universal Analytics
  • Automatic tracking of common events, such as scrolling and outbound clicks
  • Better real-time reporting
  • Simple cross-domain tracking
  • AI and machine learning fill the gaps left by cookie policies, meaning more accurate user behaviour

At AB, we are fully embracing this change and are particularly excited about the improved Google Ads integration and increased event data. We do love a bit of data! So, when will this change happen?

On July 1st 2023, all Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits. Although at the time of writing this is 458 days away, the value of being able to compare historic and current data should not be underestimated. So, we’ve put some handy tips and info together to navigate the next 15 or so months.

  1. Set up Google Analytics 4 now, if you haven’t already

You will thank yourself next year when you’re not only fully up to speed on using the new platform but have year-on-year (YoY) data to work with too.

Year-on-year data is vital when investigating trends and seasonal fluctuations in your traffic. Having this YoY data will make the first year after the sunsetting of Universal Analytics much more insightful.

  1. Run Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics concurrently until July 2023

There are differing opinions on this, even from within Google’s own ranks.

We believe any potential site slow-down due to running both platforms will be worth it to see how Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 data compares over time.

  1. Export historic data from Universal Analytics

Google has confirmed Universal Analytics data will be available for 6 months following the 1st July 2023.

We strongly recommend exporting this data as soon as possible after 1st July 2023, as it will sadly not be imported to Google Analytics 4.

  1. Make use of available guides and training

Google provides links to various guides and demos on this page, or there are plenty of independent articles and videos on the subject.

We will also be producing our own guide to GA4 – watch this space!

  1. Let AB handle it

If you need some assistance, our digital experts are more than happy to help. We can handle the switch over for you and provide any guidance and training needed.

Just drop us an email at [email protected]; we love to chat!

What next?

If you’d like to keep up-to-date with the latest trends, give AB a follow on Twitter and Instagram.

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