How to Prepare for Universal Google Analytics Depreciation
It is the moment that marketers have been dreading. Google announced on March 16, 2022 that Universal Analytics will be depreciated July 1, 2023 and Universal Analytics 360 will be depreciated October 1, 2023. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will be the new tracking standard going forward.
Why is Google No Longer Offering Universal Analytics?
In short, they are trying to improve cross-platform attribution while protecting and enhancing the privacy of the consumer. As browsing and purchasing technology evolves, it is essential that tracking keeps up. For example, a potential buyer may be sitting at home browsing products on a website in front of the TV and later purchase a product through the brands app. With Universal Analytics, this cross-attribution funnel could not be measured from start to finish. GA4 changes this.
Google Analytics 4 has the flexibility to measure many different kinds of data, delivering a strong analytics experience that’s designed for the future. It allows businesses to see unified user journeys across their websites and apps, use Google’s machine learning technology to surface and predict new insights, and most importantly, it’s built to keep up with a changing ecosystem.
What is Happening to the Historical Data Collected in Universal Analytics?
As of now, Google states that brands will have 6 months from the depreciation date to export their Universal Analytics information. Currently, Google does not have a plan to maintain or transfer the historical data.
For many brands, this is a very large concern. Google Analytics launched in November of 2005. And, while there have been many iterations and product upgrades, historical data has always been available. Losing the ability to reference information from the past is going to be extremely impactful.
How Should Businesses Prepare for the Universal Analytics Depreciation?
The most important preparation you can make right now is to install Google Analytics 4 on your website immediately. As of right now, GA4 and Universal Analytics are able to work in tandem. This means you can start collecting data for your marketing reports under GA4 without losing your current history immediately.
Businesses need to make a plan for this transition and start acting now. To best prepare for this impending update, we are recommending the following:
Install GA4 in tandem with Universal Analytics to ensure you begin collecting historical information ASAP.
Communicate with brand stakeholders. If executives and decision makers are used to seeing reports from Universal Analytics, they need to be prepared for this change.
If you regularly use your Analytics, start becoming familiar with the new GA4 reports and data. The entire interface for GA4 has been overhauled. Understanding these new reports will be a learning curve for businesses and marketers alike.
Start outlining which reports will be necessary to export for historical records. Think about traffic segments, filtered data, campaign initiatives, time frames, and other important details. Universal Analytics provides hundreds of combinations for data exploration. This list may not be easy to compile for many brands.
Make a plan for exporting this content. Most brands will want to wait until close to the depreciation date to ensure they have as much cross over data as possible. However, this export process will likely be time consuming. Make sure you are planning ahead for the time investment necessary.
Use Google Data Studio? Your data connections and reporting metrics will need to be updated.
Use Google Tag Manager? Again, updates will be necessary to ensure data collection is not compromised.
This is an update by Google that shouldn't be taken lightly. Website tracking is one of the most important pieces of the marketing puzzle and ensuring that there are no gaps in data is essential. Brands need to start preparing now.
If you need help updating your Google Analytics, compiling your data exports, configuring your Google Data Studio dashboards, or any other necessary updates related to the depreciation of Universal Google Analytics, contact us! We can help your brand formulate a strategy for the future of website tracking.
About the Author
Shelly Cihan is the owner of Rooted Rock Marketing and has been installing, configuring, and using Google Analytics for a variety of clients and industries since 2009.