What’s Going On With Google Analytics 4 And Universal Analytics?

Lots of folks have written in and messaged about Google’s announcement that they’re sunsetting Universal Analytics – also known as Google Analytics 3, the software that probably 90-95% of companies still use for their web analytics.

What’s going on with Google Analytics?

So, what exactly is going on? Here’s the skinny, from their announcement. On July 1, 2023, the existing Google Analytics 3 will stop collecting data.


How do you know which version of Google Analytics you’re using? Easy. Look at the left hand menu:

Versions of Google Analytics

What does “stop collecting data” and “sunset” mean?

On July 1, 2023 your existing Google Analytics 3 account will be frozen in time. After that day, no new data of any kind will show up in Google Analytics 3, as part of Google’s push to have you migrate to Google Analytics 4.

What’s not going to happen immediately is the removal of the interface or your existing data. Google has said you’ll have access for at least 6 months – but not necessarily longer than that.

So What?

What does this mean for you? What should you be doing?

In short, you should migrate to Google Analytics 4 as quickly as possible in your organization if you plan to stick with the Google Analytics platform. Whether you’re a one-person shop or a Fortune 10 enterprise, if you use Google Analytics and you’re sticking with the platform, make the move sooner rather than later.

Why? Mainly because historical data is important and when you move to Google Analytics 4, your existing Google Analytics data does not go with you. It stays in your old Google Analytics 3 account.

That means for a period of time, doing things like reporting year-over-year data will be a bit of a pain. The sooner you make the move, the better – the transition will be less painful for you.

You MUST make the transition by July 1, 2023. That’s mandatory and out of your control.

One other key part we’ve not seen discussed at all since the debut of Google Analytics 4 in October 2020 is the change in system architecture. Google has made it clear that Google Analytics 4 is not a one-stop shop like Google Analytics 3 was. In Google Analytics 3, you could do configuration, analysis, and reporting all in one tool.

In Google Analytics 4, that’s changed. Configuration is best done in Google Tag Manager. Analysis – true business intelligence – is done in Google Analytics 4. Reporting – the part most people use Google Analytics for – is best done in Google Data Studio. That’s the intended use of these tools. The sooner you make that change mentally, the easier the transition will be.

How do you make the transition? When we do migrations for customers, we follow change management best practices. For Google Analytics 4, here’s the recipe we use:

  1. Audit and inventory existing Google Analytics 3 settings, goals, reports, and dashboards in both Google Analytics and other reporting software like Google Data Studio. Draw up a feature comparison list so that you know what can make the move over and what does not exist in Google Analytics 4.
  2. Audit your people – what is their comfort level with Google Data Studio and Google Analytics 4? Then design a plan to get them skilled up on the things they need to know.
  3. Audit your processes. How do you currently do reporting? What will need to change when you start moving reporting to Google Data Studio, as Google intends? What analytics governance is in place? One of the gotchas of Google Analytics 4 is Google’s rigidity around source and medium tracking – if you want some features to work, you must use approved mediums in your tracking.
  4. Audit your other platforms. What dependencies exist? For example, your existing Google Data Studio dashboards that rely on Google Analytics 3 data will need to be migrated. Your ecommerce software will need to support Google Analytics 4. In our experience, this is the part that tends to go most wrong in transitions – failing to find critical dependencies.
  5. Draw up a transition plan of who’s doing what, when, and how. Set up milestones like deployment of GA4 in parallel, report migration dates, and especially user training. Set up a plan for data export of your Google Analytics 3 data – at some point it will go away, so you’ll want that historical data in some form stored offline.
  6. We also recommend at this point that you also install a backup analytics solution like the open-source Matomo software to run in parallel.
  7. Follow the plan!
  8. Remember to provide ongoing training and support to the people in your organization who need Google Analytics support. GA4 is a totally different beast and it’s not the right tool for a lot of reporting. Most business users are better served with reports in Google Data Studio instead.

Google Analytics 4 is a different piece of software, a different way of doing things. In some ways it’s better than GA3, and in others it’s worse. Regardless, it’s now the only path forward in the Google Marketing Platform for web and app analytics, which means that we need to make the move as quickly as practical. Follow the plan and you’ll make the move as smoothly as possible.

Need Help?

We’ve been using Google Analytics 4 since the day it rolled out, so if you need a helping hand in your transition, let us know. We can do the migration for you, or provide training and support for you and your team. Get in touch if you need help making the move to Google Analytics 4.

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