Prepare now for the switch to Google Analytics 4 

Google announced the dates. Come July 1, 2023, the company will suspend Universal Analytics support. Just three months later, on October 1, 2023, Google Analytics 360 will be shuttered and will stop collecting and reporting new information, too. Previously recorded metrics won’t be lost, at least not immediately. Although the older Google Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 360 platforms will stop collecting new data as of those dates, both will store their previously collected information for six months. But, beginning January 1, 2024 and April 1, 2024, organizations will no longer be able to access data previously collected by the Google Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 360 platforms, respectively.

The changes aren’t occurring out of the blue. Google introduced the replacement search analytics and reporting platform, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), two years ago in October 2020. Universal Analytics, itself, is growing old, having debuted a decade ago in October 2012, while Google Analytics 360 was released in March 2016. With some 15 months’ notice, organizations have time to prepare migrations to the new solution, but they shouldn’t dally.

Why The Change And Need To Embrace GA4 Moving Forward?

Much has changed since the older analytics platforms were introduced to assist marketers in tracking traffic and user engagement on websites and within applications. The way users navigate the Internet, consume content, interact with programs and receive information, and changing privacy requirements, all impact tracking and reporting needs and requirements.

In announcing the changes, Google director of product management Russell Ketchum said the Google Universal Analytics platform was designed for a generation of online measurement centered around desktop web interaction, independent sessions and data easily tracked using cookies. Those methodologies, he said, are becoming outdated. Hence the changes.

Analytics associated with websites, and user behaviors, of course, must evolve, as do privacy requirements. The older engines depended upon browser cookie text files that record and track behaviors but that are becoming obsolete. The newer GA4 platform captures user data more directly, while better supporting cross-platform activity and applying machine learning technology to the data collected, thereby reducing cookie dependencies and better permitting privacy compliance, including by eliminating the need to store individual IP addresses, a process that can compromise user privacy.

Because the process of converting from the older Google Universal Analytics and Analytics 360 platforms to Google Analytics 4 typically proceeds better when you review the data you’re capturing now, audit the reports you have in place, plan which metrics you wish for future reports to track and schedule the newer platform’s deployment, organizations should begin work now. With a little more than a year to plan for and implement the changes, and because the move to GA4 impacts how digital marketing firms and professionals use Google Analytics for tagging, tracking and reporting, beginning the corresponding efforts now helps avoid last minute scrambles, which can lead to mistakes, oversights and possibly the loss of needed tracking data.

Using GA4

After performing a review of current metric tracking and reporting capabilities, digital marketers should next consider setting up new data streams within GA4. The change is made within the Google Universal Analytics administrative console, where properties can be upgraded. Making the change creates a new property within the data-tracking platform that starts with a “G-” moniker.

The older Google Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 360 solutions, meanwhile, should typically be kept operating. Most digital marketers will likely choose to keep both platforms’ tags, tracking and reporting operational during the transition, as doing so ensures these metrics continue flowing while the organization and its marketing professionals learn and test the new platform.

Creating the new stream prompts Google to create a full property and code using the new GA4 engine. Firms must then deploy the new code to their live sites to begin testing its operation. From the start, Google Analytics 4 measures a variety of user behavior and engagement elements. By default, the platform captures page views, scrolling behaviors, file downloads, outbound clicks, site searches and video interactions, among other metrics tracked. To fine tune their strategies, however, marketers will typically wish to explore various adjustments. For this reason, numerous organizations will, as previously mentioned, require time to test, study and adjust data and metrics returned by the newer GA4 platform while collecting information and powering current campaigns using the older solutions.

Google provides additional guidance designed to assist organizations in properly navigating the migration. Should you need more help or have questions, contact Louisville Geek at 502-897-7577 or send an email message to [email protected].

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