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Major Announcement re: Google Analytics

By jenny
March 21, 2022
Read Time: 5 minutes

A huge announcement was made last week by Google, letting the world know that Universal Analytics (the version the vast majority of folks still use) will be shut down next year. Unlike prior analytics version changes, they will NOT be migrating the code over if you do nothing. If you do nothing, your website data will no longer be tracked. It's a huge deal for marketers!

Our resident analytics guru, Sam Cox, wrote a summary that outlines the must-know information about the update. Again, we have been warning about this change for a while (you can see an old blog post from December 1, 2020!) and if you still haven't acted, now is the time.

Google Analytics 4: What You Need to Know
by Sam Cox, Marketing Analytics Specialist

Summary

Next July, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will replace Universal Analytics as the default tracking platform for Google Analytics. GA4 represents a fundamental change in the way data is tracked within Google Analytics and offers many benefits over traditional Universal Analytics (UA).

This change means that all current UA properties will need to be switched to GA4 before July 1, 2023.

What’s the difference? The biggest difference between GA4 and UA is in how data is tracked. Whereas Universal Analytics relied on sessions and pageviews to track data, in GA4 data is tracked in events and parameters. In simpler terms this means that you can more flexibly track what’s important across any devices and platforms a user might interact with, allowing for a fuller picture of how users interact with your web properties.

For example, with UA if a user visited your app on their mobile device and then completed a purchase on your website on their laptop, that would previously be tracked as 2 unique sessions. With GA4, it’s possible to track that same user’s interaction with both your app and mobile device as several different events with the same user.

GA4 allows for full cross-device and cross-platform reporting within a flexible event-based data model, giving Analytics users greater insight than ever before as to how users interact with your web properties.

At Anvil, we are excited by the new tracking opportunities GA4 presents, and we’re committed to making sure the transition away from Universal Analytics doesn’t impact the access you have to the insights that matter most.

Q and A

Will I be able to access my old analytics data after moving to GA4?
No. As of July 1, 2023, UA properties will stop recording new data. You will be able to access that data for at least 6 months after that, but it will eventually become inaccessible.

Can I access historical data through the new GA4 platform?
No. Since the foundations of UA and GA4 track data in fundamentally different ways, you can only access GA4 data once the tracking code is installed on your website. It is important to set up a GA4 property as soon as possible in order to have access to the largest range of data possible.

Will I be able to set up a new dashboard that looks the same as my old dashboard?
Yes, pretty much. However, we would recommend using this opportunity to evaluate your current dashboard and weigh whether any new GA4 capabilities might change the way you view and interpret your data. Also, some metrics you may use to evaluate the performance of your website, like bounce rate, have changed in GA4. We are committed to ensuring you have access to the same insights as before, even if a few of the metrics we track may look a little different.

Next Steps:

Install the GA4 tracking code on your website as soon as possible if you have not already.
Since the switch to GA4 will mean that Universal Analytics will stop collecting data July 1, 2023, you’ll want to build up as much data in GA4 as possible before then, especially if you look at YoY data. The good news is that you can install GA4 on your website in tandem with Universal Analytics to maximize the benefits of both analytics platforms.

Evaluate all current Google Analytics integrations and update them to GA4.
Everything from your website to paid advertising platforms, CallRail tracking, CRM to data studio dashboards may be utilizing old UA data that will need to be updated to GA4.

Update Data Studio Dashboards.
Switching to GA4 will cause any current Universal Analytics data in dashboards to break, so all dashboard pages that incorporate UA metrics will need to be updated. Take the time to consider some of the new capabilities of GA4 and if that changes anything when it comes to KPIs and how you’d like to visualize your data.

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If you're a client, don't worry. The team will be reaching our shortly with our plan of attack for your setup and dashboards. If you're not a client and need help, give us call and we can create a plan of attack to make sure you don't lose any data.

 

Photo Credit: Kristin Wilson on Unsplash

About the Author
Jenny Bristow is the CEO and Co-Founder of Anvil, a digital + analytics agency in St. Louis, Missouri. Anvil focuses on creating data-driven digital strategies that help clients develop scalable, measurable digital marketing programs for clients in the healthcare, education and manufacturing space. Prior to starting Anvil, Jenny launched, grew and sold a digital agency in Seattle, Washington and worked at Amazon.com. She was named one of St. Louis Business Journal’s 30 under 30, won a Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018 and speaks regularly at industry and local events.
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