It’s official, standard Universal Analytics (UA) or Google Analytics 3 (GA3) will be replaced with Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This means after specified dates, GA3 users will no longer receive analytical data, and leaders need to create an action plan before the sunset.
Important Sunset Timelines
July 1, 2023 – Standard Universal Analytics properties will no longer process data. Users will be able to see Universal Analytics reports for a period of time after July 1, 2023, but new data will not be available and will only pass into Google Analytics 4 (GA4) properties. Reports will stop processing data into reports, meaning zeros in results. Only historical data will be available.
Those with the paid version of Google Analytics (GA 360) will have more time to move to Google Analytics 4 or an alternative solution.
July 1, 2024 (previously October 1, 2023) – Google 360 (GA 360) Universal Analytics properties will stop processing hits.
Check Which Google Analytics Version Is Operating
Leaders may not be familiar with the visual differences between UA and GA4. Here are a few ways to check the current version running.
If businesses are active in GA 4 their main menu will show the following tabs: home, reports, explore, advertising, and configure. Companies operating in Universal Analytics will see additional menu options, including customization and a reports tab showing real time, audience, acquisition, behavior, and conversions.
Another way to verify which version of Google Analytics is active is by looking at the property ID. Only numbers will be shown in a GA4 property, while in UA users will see the property ID start with UA.
An additional area to check in Google Analytics is the admin section. In UA, users will see three columns and GA4 will only show two columns.
Should Teams Transition to Google Analytics 4?
Change is hard, especially when businesses are forced to move away from Universal Analytics. Teams should consider the tools they’re already comfortable using before shifting to a new platform.
Google Analytics 4 is a solid solution for those satisfied with Universal Analytics and not ready to invest in a more enterprise solution.
“The earlier teams transition, the better. This way, clients can get accustomed to new features and start building data,” states Blue Acorn iCi’s VP of Analytics and Optimization, Chase Bruch.
Looking for an enterprise solution? Our experts typically see organizations invest in a more robust tool like Adobe Analytics if there is a need for more versatile reporting, predictive intelligence or omni channel data sources.
Exciting Features on Alternative Analytics Platforms
Many paid analytics tools already offer enriched ecommerce features such as audience building and customer journey tracking. Now, Google Analytics 4 will include some of those features.
Audiences: This is a way to form membership groups in GA4. By choosing the criteria, they will be auto populated over time, for example, everyone who visited a particular blog page and purchased something 30 minutes later. Better audience building through a variety of events like channel or demographics will also help with retargeting efforts.
Big Query Export: Users can now export their raw data into Big Query and do their own analysis outside of Google Analytics with the powerful BI engine. With this, teams can connect GA4 data with third-party APIs.
Data Model: Send custom events to Google Analytics and describe these events with parameters. Whether a customer visits a website on desktop, mobile, or another online event, data model helps with tracking and understanding their complete customer journey.
Debug View: It is now easier to see incoming data and troubleshoot problems. This granular level of debugging data saves time while implementing ecommerce tracking.
Funnel Tracking: Teams can create as many funnels as they wish and be flexible with the steps, allowing for filtering and segmenting. Funnel tracking provides better visualization of how website users go through each step of the buying journey.
Next Steps to Take
Companies currently in Universal Analytics and wanting to move to GA4 will not be able to migrate data over and will need to create a new Google Analytics 4 property. We recommend setting this up as soon as possible.
“It’s like starting from scratch. None of your historical data will be in it. Say for example you wanted to see year-over-year data from a large holiday promotion, that won’t be there. It’s important to start sending that data into your Google Analytics 4 property right now,” Chase Bruch explains.
When Universal Analytics sunsets entirely, it will become a difficult task to compare something like 2023 sales to 2022 sales if that data isn’t tracked inside Google Analytics 4. An early transition will allow teams to build historical data on the platform, get familiar with the latest features, and prepare for the sunset of UA. Don’t let your analytics fall behind. Blue Acorn iCi specializes in analytics and optimization to help businesses make data-driven decisions. Contact our team today if you need help configuring or optimizing your analytics data whether on Google, Adobe, or another technology.
(This post was updated on November 10, 2022 to reflect Google’s new sunset timeline.)