Google’s Universal Analytics is being retired, and fast, with Google forcing change to the more robust, albeit more complex Google Analytics 4. 

Every marketer knows Google Analytics and for good reason. The platform revolutionized how organizations track website performance, providing insights that extended above and beyond simple website metrics, providing  audience and target market insights for the first time ever.

Google Analytics was designed to be simple to implement, a single tag on your website to trigger data tracking and collection through a third party cookie, which can then be enhanced for more robust analytics implementations. 

On  March 16th 2022, Google shocked the industry with an announcement that Google will sunset their Universal Analytics product on July 1st 2023. Universal Analytics 360 customers will have an additional three months to complete their migration, with that product being sunset on October 1st 2023.

This is a far cry from Google’s recent announcements around their depreciation of the 3rd party Cookie in Chrome, and their updates to the Android operating system for approval of data tracking, to which they’ve prepared customers with over 2 years notice. 

But they have a replacement solution on the rise – Google Analytics 4.  

Google Analytics 4 to Replace Universal Analytics

Released in October of 2020, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) promises a shake up of traditional Google Analytics reporting by providing deeper integrations with other Google marketing cloud products. Reactions have been mixed, with the complexity of implementing GA4 being viewed as more manual and simultaneously more customizable and robust. It’s like removing the “Easy Button” and replacing it with the “Re-evaluate My Business Analytics Button.”

Many companies have never enhanced their deployment and tracking within Universal Analytics and are now faced with a warp speed off ramp and migration to GA4 from which they will be forced to build a data analytics foundation they truly need – emphasis on the “build”. Your organization now has to ask itself what you truly want to measure with analytics and how you use these insights to optimize your business. This will force reconstruction of dashboards and funnels specific to your business needs and the data available versus the prepackaged dashboards that became synonymous to success within Universal Analytics, which may or may not have ever really been relevant. 

Even with the more complex set-up, reactions of those that have permanently made the transition have been mostly positive.  Although we suspect that many first movers in migrating to GA4 were likely more advanced analytics organizations, others are now being forced to follow their lead, and on the lookout for new best practices. Ultimately, what you create will better benefit your organization down the line than the traditional Universal Analytics.

Google Analytics 4 Driven by Cookie Loss

The announcement of the sunset of Universal Analytics and the fast-tracked push to Google Analytics 4 is related to the end of third-party cookies and the rise of ever more restrictive global privacy requirements that directly impact Google’s products. Unlike its predecessor, Google Analytics 4 does not rely on cookies and instead uses an event-based data model for analytics and measurement. 

Google’s Russell Ketchem further explains why Google is forcing the switch, saying, “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.”

What Companies Should Know About Google Analytics 4

GA4 is centered around machine learning and serves as a way for companies to gain the kind of insights needed in a changing digital landscape. With the rise of personalization, the ways companies track, reference and use customer data simultaneously needs to be more malleable and flexible across all devices, not just a desktop website.

Some of the prominent features of GA4 include:

  • The new realtime report will allow your review of customer data coming in from the last 30 minutes
  • Being built to accommodate new and upcoming privacy regulations means its more a durable and futureproof foundation for your data
  • Improved integration with the Google advertising platform will provide even greater ROI measurement on your campaigns
  • Their use of machine learning will provide greater insights like churn visibility and enhanced traffic comparisons

How Companies Can Respond to Google Analytics 4

Migration can often be a daunting task, with so many business critical analytics data points to get right. It’s imperative to get started on your migration quickly, as it’s your best path toward a seamless migration and reducing risk of data loss. 

Times like this are also great opportunities to reevaluate your tech stack as a whole. The digital landscape over the last two years has changed dramatically.  The deep dive analysis required for the GA4 implementation makes it easy to evaluate the needs of your entire stack. Like defragmenting your hard-drive, take this time to analyze and optimize across the stack, getting rid of antiquated platforms that don’t integrate and migrating other tools that are underperforming or no longer needed. 

The complexity of GA4 will also open new pathways to stronger integrations within your tech stack. There are many benefits to having a vendor-neutral data foundation that goes beyond just Google Analytics. Google Analytics 4 will be a very important part of your data strategy, but since you’ve got to change your data collection practices anyways, take the chance to update your entire data collection foundation.

Contact your CSM or request a demo today if you’re ready to tackle your customer data strategy and the impending migration to Google Analytics 4. 

Post Author

Hilary Noonan
Hilary is the Director of Content at Tealium.

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