Is Google Analytics going away? Don’t lose your data!

Matt Jackson 26 May, 2022

Google announced the much-loved version of Analytics will be discontinued mid-2023. In it’s place, they’re introducing GA4 as the new and improved alternative. It is set to be the biggest shake-up in analytics since the arrival of Universal Analytics in 2012.

Goodbye Universal Analytics & Hello GA4 – what’s changing, when & why?

In major news that has come as a shock to users, Google has advised that users won’t be able to port over data from Universal Analytics (UA) to the new GA4. This will likely force many to migrate to GA4 long before the final sunset date if comparing year-on-year data is important.

“You won’t be able to use Universal Analytics to track your website data from July 2023 and historical reports and data will be deleted from the tool in 2024.”

Here’s what we know so far, as well as answers to some questions you might have about the changes and next steps.

Why does Google need to do this?

The main reasons that Google is retiring UA relate to cookies, privacy, and tracking cross-platform data (across websites and apps). In a nutshell, Google is staying up-to-date with how people interact digitally.

UA uses cookies (now old tech) to collect data when someone visits a site and cookies have become increasingly unreliable over time thanks to the end of 3rd party cookies, privacy regulations, iOS changes, and ad blockers.

As stated by Google: “Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions, and more easily observable data from cookies. This measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete.”

Meet the next generation of Google Analytics

Is GA4 better than UA?

Ultimately GA4 is better than UA in that it’s designed for the future we all face as website owners and marketers. That said, there will be some short-term pain as everyone becomes familiar with the major changes from the previous version.

The key differences are:

  • GA4 is more privacy-focused than UA and will not store a user’s IP address
  • GA4 works across multiple platforms tracking data throughout websites and apps without the need for cookies
  • Measurements are built from an event-based data model. Everything is now an ‘event’. You click something = event, view a page = event, scroll down = event, and so on
  • GA4 utilises data-driven attribution which allows marketers to track the user journey and conversions with greater accuracy
  • Access to more data through machine learning
  • Better integration between other Google products – making it easier to work on Google Ads campaigns

What are the key dates?

On 1st July 2023, all UA properties will stop collecting new data. This means that from July 2023, no new website activity will be recorded.

Google also announced that existing UA properties will only be able to be accessed for around 6 months after this date. This means that all historical data could be gone forever after that date.

If you want to analyse year-on-year data after the July 2023 cut-off, you’ll need to have a fully working version of GA4 live by July 1 2022!

What do I need to do?

Run UA & GA4 in parallel!

We strongly recommend setting up a GA4 view now and running it in parallel with your existing UA set-up. Since the new reporting view in GA4 cannot collect data retrospectively, you’ll start from ground zero if you leave your migration to the last minute.

Also by having both UA and GA4 set up, you’ll still have your familiar reports as a backup while you get comfortable with the new interface.

The switch to GA4 will require changes to the tracking code on your website, Google Data Studio dashboards and other reports using UA data. if your performance marketing relies on UA ‘goals’, these will need to be updated too.

Make it easy for me … what should I do now?

Keep using UA for now and make it a priority to get a GA4 property set up for your website asap.

Begin to learn how to use the new reports, so that when GA4 is the only version of analytics available, you’ll be able to find all the data you need.

As always, please feel free to get in touch with the friendly iSonic team so we can help with the transition to GA4 for your website. We can also help with creating new Google Analytics accounts as well as setting up new campaigns and tracking.

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