Google Analytics 4 was announced as the successor to Universal Analytics some time ago. As of July 2023, Universal Analytics will no longer collect new data. By now, most customers should have migrated to the new system and slowly become familiar with it. However, even though the sunset is getting closer, there are still many open questions and bugs that make certain use cases in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) difficult or impossible to implement. In this blog post, we give you practical tips for the current situation.
Those who have not yet done so should definitely start implementing GA4 now to ensure continuous data collection. GA4 is not simply an update to the old version, but a fundamentally different product. While Universal Analytics was built as a web analytics tool to quickly and easily generate insights from web traffic data, GA4 works with an agnostic and therefore much more flexible data model and can therefore also be used for app or product analytics.
Therefore, the migration process requires not only time, but also the willingness to break away from old ways of thinking and to deal with the possibilities offered by modern analytics tools like GA4. It is therefore crucial for companies to allow sufficient time for the planning and implementation of all necessary changes and ideally to rely on the support of experts.
UNIVERSAL ANALYTICS WILL BE SHUT DOWN BY THE END OF JUNE. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
- Standard Universal Analytics properties will continue to collect and process data until July 1, 2023.
- After July 1, 2023, Google guarantees that existing data will remain available for at least six months. However, it is possible that this period will be extended.
- Business customers of Universal Analytics 360 have more time for migration: here, data will be collected until July 1, 2024. However, Google emphasized at the same time that Product Maintenance for Universal Analytics will be reduced by the beginning of 2024 at the latest. How long the data will still be accessible after July 1, 2024, has not yet been precisely defined – but certainly until the end of 2024.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF THE UNIVERSAL ANALYTICS FADE-OUT?
After Universal Analytics stops processing data, users will still be able to access Universal Analytics to view records as “read-only” and analyze for historical data.
Once a Google Analytics 4 360 contract is signed, it will replace the previous Universal Analytics contract. Existing Universal Analytics 360 properties will be downgraded to standard properties six months after the new contract goes into effect.
AN AMBITIOUS TIMELINE FOR THE FULL TRANSITION
It was always clear from Google’s plans for its Analytics suite that the all-new Google Analytics 4 would be the way forward – not an evolution of Universal Analytics. The former evolved from an app-centric measurement system called Firebase Analytics and has a fundamentally different data model that is less specific to the needs of website analytics, but also less constrained by it.
It is true that there is now an automated migration process. However, this is very generic and not suitable for moving more complex setups to GA4. We therefore advise not to rely on this auto-migration, but to perform the process manually and deliberately in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Google has been recommending the use of “dual tagging” for some time, i.e., measuring website traffic with both systems at the same time. This helps to get familiar with the new system and to identify possible discrepancies in the collected data.
What is becoming clear: as already communicated by Google, no feature parity is to be achieved with Google Universal. This means that most of the use cases from Universal Analytics can still be implemented, but the implementation, visualization and analysis must be adapted to the fundamentally different data model of GA4.
This requires some getting used to. The number and completeness of the predefined reports also leaves a lot to be desired. It was therefore assumed in the industry that Universal Analytics would remain available for quite a while until its successor had proven itself as a tried and tested analytics solution suitable for business.
SWITCH TO GOOGLE ANALYTICS 4 NOW
If you have any questions about migrating your business to GA4 or would like to take this opportunity for a baseline assessment of your analytics needs, our Digital Analytics and Marketing Technology teams are here to help. Contracts for Google Analytics 4 360 are available now for all customers.
«Over the past two years, we’ve helped diverse clients migrate from purely niche players in the e-commerce space to global enterprises with complex multi-domain deployments. In the process, we’ve gained a broad range of knowledge and best-practice experience with different requirements and conversion systems, which informs our consulting.»
Director Data & Technologies, Webrepublic AG