This week Google announced that it will terminate Universal Analytics from 1st July 2023. If you’re a 360 customer, you’ll have a little longer with an extended deadline reaching out to 1st October 2023.
What does this announcement mean for my data?
From the deadline your Universal Analytics properties will become read only. New data will not be collected, and any hits received after the deadline passes will not be processed.
Released in 2012, Universal Analytics has been the go-to analytics solution for many businesses over the last 10 years. But times are changing, there’s increasing regulations around the world making measurement challenging.
With data collection becoming less reliable, data modelling will play a bigger role in the future of measurement filling the gaps tracking has missed. Google Analytics 4 has machine learning at its core and is designed to adapt to a world without cookies and identifiers.
Now that we have a deadline, there is a clear point in time we need to plan towards and implementing Google Analytics 4 just became a high priority.
More importantly, it is a commitment from Google to make improvements and find solutions to the limitations that so far have held businesses back from fully leaning into Google Analytics 4.
But we’ve got until 2023, why should we care?
The announcement gives you 15 months to migrate tracking to Google Analytics 4. This doesn’t mean you can wait until 2023 – you should be starting preparations today.
The key difference between the platforms is the data model. Google Analytics 4 is fully event based, everything is an event rather than Universal Analytics various hit types pageview, event, transaction, etc.
Though, it is not like Universal Analytics events; Google Analytics 4 has no event category, action, and label instead events are given parameters to map custom dimensions and metrics.
Unfortunately, this means the collection and processing of data is so different between Universal and GA4 that the systems just are not comparable.
If you want a year of historical data to work with when migration time comes around (most businesses will want/need this) – you ideally need to have your core setup in place before July.
Next steps, recommendations for your migration plan
Perform an Audit
- Make sure you document all your existing Universal Analytics tracking. This is an important step; you want to know exactly what is in place already and provide a launch pad for future planning.
- Remember to include your reporting as part of the audit, any business using automated data pipelines need to consider how they will get the required data into the hands of those who use it.
Create a Measurement Plan
- Perform a measurement planning workshop. As this change will be a fresh start this provides the perfect opportunity to re-think your measurement strategy from the ground up.
- At connective3 we work closely with our clients to understand their business objectives and measurement requirements. We then translate those requirements into an actionable implementation plan.
Define the Data Structure
- Plan your GA4 event naming taxonomy carefully.
- We understand, you want to keep it simple. Everything already in place just needs to be replicated for continuation, right?
- Fact is, we’ve all become accustomed to the Event Category, Action and Label hierarchy given in Universal Analytics. But it’s a big mistake to continue using that structure. The new data model in GA4 is more flexible – take advantage of it.
Implement The Events
- Event parameters add a complexity and having a clearly defined plan and structure will help implement all your interaction events correctly.
- It’s not as simple as just changing the tag types in GTM. If you want to set yourself up the future you’ve got to take your time and get the setup right.
- Don’t forgot to set up your paid media in line with the new tracking and link up Google Ads to the new property.
Activate The Data
- An analytics migration is a technical task, but it’s important not to forget it’s people who use it.
- Focus and attention initially will rightfully go into the technical set up of the migration but it’s just as important to consider the training needs of colleagues.
- The user interface combined with the new data model is a departure from what we’ve known before. Migrating early gives a chance for everyone to get used to Google Analytics 4 before the big switch in July next year.