2022-07-12 | Article | Insights
Recently, Google announced that they will sunset Universal Analytics next year. While some have been expecting this for some time, it may still come as a surprise for many, especially if you have been putting off implementing Google Analytics 4 until now. Transferring historical data from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 properties will not work due to the different underlying data model. Digitl also advises you to familiarise yourself with the new interface right away, since not only the data model but also the user interface has changed completely. Therefore, better prepare for the future and switch to Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible to collect the required historical data for year-over-year analyses before Universal Analytics stops processing new hits.
Google Analytics 4 is the next-generation measurement solution and will replace Universal Analytics. If companies are still using Universal Analytics, we highly recommend starting the migration to have enough historical data to run year-over-year analysis and ensure a seamless transition.
On July 1, 2023 standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits. Universal Analytics 360 properties will receive a one-time processing extension ending on October 1, 2023. After the deadline, you can still access previously processed data in Universal Analytics for at least six months. In the upcoming months, Google will provide a future date when existing Universal Analytics properties will no longer be available.
Dates you better mark in your calendar:
For example if you want to compare conversion data for September 2023 with conversion data from September 2022, this will be much harder to do without available data from a Google Analytics 4 property. If Universal Analytics is then even completely switched off and even analyses within the interface are no longer possible, it will be impossible to analyse the annual comparisons on the basis of uniformly collected data. Therefore, the sooner you start tracking in Google Analytics 4, the more historical data you can collect.
To avoid loss in data, we strongly recommend exporting the historical data from Universal Analytics during this time period. There are several ways to export data from your Universal Analytics property. Export individual reports (via CSV, TSV for Excel, XLSX, Google Sheets, PDF) or use the Google Analytics reporting API or Google Analytics 360 customers can also export to BigQuery. Google also announced to provide more guidance on data export once Universal Analytics is no longer available.
Universal Analytics was developed for a generation of online measurements that was established only on the desktop web. This measurement methodology became more and more obsolete in the past. Google Analytics 4 is an exciting step forward because it provides tracking across websites and applications, helping companies to understand the complex, cross-platform journeys of their customers - all while prioritising user privacy. Google Analytics 4 no longer stores IP addresses, and new sub and roll-up properties in Analytics 360 allow customising the structure of properties to meet data governance needs. This ensures that different teams or partners, such as advertising agencies, can access the data they need in accordance with company policy. Control of data collection has become more and more important in recent years as users increasingly expect more privacy protections and control over their data.
A big improvement is the BigQuery link now available in the free version of Google Analytics 4. This allows accessing raw data and diving deeper into data. Also tools like Display & Video 360 and Search Ads 360 can now be linked with Google Analytics 4 free version. Improving linking capabilities increases the power of Google Analytics 4 and the ad tech tools, as well as data maturity in general.
Unless your Universal Analytics property is linked to Google Ads, your Google Ads Account will not be affected. If your Universal Analytics property and Google Ads account are linked, Universal Analytics data will no longer be sent to Google Ads after July 1, 2023 (October 1, 2023 for Analytics 360 properties) and this could affect your Google Ads campaigns. Our recommendation is to migrate your Universal Analytics property’s Google Ads links to your new Google Analytics 4 property.
The move from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 implies many changes and requires a well thought-out strategy. Communicate the change in time within the company and inform colleagues so that other external connections can also be updated with the new source, e.g. links to dashboards or to your CRM system.
We understand that some companies may feel intimidated by a migration and may be upset about the change, as they have probably made large investments in deploying Universal Analytics. The events to be tracked cannot simply be moved, but rather need to be adapted to the new data model and features, requiring great care and attention to ensure that data is still properly in place. If you need advice, we at Digitl are happy to support you. Reach out to us if you want to have a conversation and discuss the best Google Analytics 4 migration strategy for your data architecture.