Universal Analytics has been the go-to web analytics solution for over a decade. Since 2012, this service helped businesses across the internet to understand user behaviour, track website performance, and assist with optimisation of marketing strategies. However, with an ever-evolving digital landscape, technologies can also be expected to come and go.
That’s why, on July 1st 2023, this service will be retired in favour of a new version. Aptly named Google Analytics 4 (GA4), it promises to be a more advanced and comprehensive solution for web analytics. This evolution has come in response to the changes in technology and user behaviour over these past few years. In this article, we’ll explore the end of Universal Analytics and what the future holds with the rise of GA4. We’ll also provide advice on how you can transition smoothly with the help of our professional data analytics services.
Why Universal Analytics Is Going Away
When Universal Analytics was first introduced, online measurement was mainly based on desktop usage, independent sessions and data received from cookies. However, with the rise of mobile devices and the evolution of user behaviour across multiple platforms, capturing and understanding the full scope of a user journey has become harder.
Moreover, privacy laws worldwide, such as the European Union’s GDPR, have meant that third-party cookies, which were once essential for certain data collection methods, are no longer viable. These changes have made it more difficult for businesses to track user interactions and base their marketing strategies on this data.
Introducing Google Analytics 4
To address the evolving needs of businesses and users, Google introduced Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in October 2020. GA4 represents a significant shift from the previous Universal Analytics model, offering a more holistic approach to data analytics. The main difference between the two services is that GA4 collects data based on events rather than sessions. This change in data collection was made in an effort to provide a more detailed and accurate understanding of user behaviour across different platforms and devices.
Differences & Key Features of GA4:
- Enhanced User Journey Tracking: GA4 utilises an event-based model that captures user interactions on a deeper level. This allows businesses to gain a detailed understanding of every step along the customer journey across more touchpoints than what was once possible.
- Cross-Platform Tracking: GA4 offers improved cross-platform tracking, enabling businesses to analyse different data sources across websites, mobile apps, and other digital platforms. Moreover, most of this data will be collected in the same property, allowing for more accessible analysis and decision-making.
- Machine Learning-Powered Insights: Despite the depreciation of cookies, GA4 can fill in possible data gaps thanks to machine learning, providing valuable insights into user behaviour while still protecting user privacy. GA4’s machine learning can also generate predictions, detect anomalies in data and help you observe trends.
- Privacy and Consent Management: With increasing privacy concerns and stricter regulations, GA4 incorporates additional privacy-centric features. It allows businesses to respect user consent preferences and provides options for customisable data retention periods.
The Transition from Universal Analytics to GA4
Since its release, Google has actively encouraged businesses to adopt GA4 while continuing support for Universal Analytics. However, with Universal Analytics retiring in a matter of days, it is time for companies to embrace GA4 fully.
Businesses need to set up and implement GA4 on their platforms as soon as possible to avoid interruptions to data collection.
- Set up a new GA4 property: Create a new GA4 property alongside your Universal Analytics implementation.
- Data Integration: Ensure all relevant data streams, including websites, mobile apps, and other digital platforms, are integrated into GA4. This step will help capture a comprehensive view of user interactions.
- Analyse and Compare Data: Start analysing data in GA4 while comparing it to your existing Universal Analytics reports. Identify any discrepancies and explore the new insights provided by GA4.
- Update Tracking Codes: Gradually update your tracking codes across your digital properties to GA4 tags, ensuring a seamless data collection process.
How Ardent Can Help
The sunsetting of Universal Analytics represents a significant shift in online data collection and analysis. At Ardent, we understand the fears and concerns that some businesses may have during this period. That’s why we can assist every step of the way, from implementation to tracking optimisations.
Our professionals can take advantage of the advanced features offered by GA4, using them to enhance our marketing strategies and drive growth across campaigns. Contact us today for more information on how we can help your business leverage the power of web analytics.