Universal Analytics Ending On 1 July 2024: How to Prepare for Google Analytics 4 Migration

Universal Analytics Stopped

What is Universal Analytics?

Universal Analytics (UA) is a web analytics service introduced by Google in 2012. It was designed to provide website owners and marketers with comprehensive data and insights about their website traffic, user behavior, and marketing campaigns. UA replaced the previous version of Google Analytics, known as Classic Analytics, offering enhanced tracking capabilities and a more flexible data collection architecture.


UA’s primary purpose was to track and analyze user interactions across multiple devices and platforms, including websites, mobile apps, and internet-connected devices. It allowed businesses to gain a holistic understanding of their users’ journeys and engagement patterns, enabling them to make data-driven decisions for optimizing their online presence and marketing strategies.


With UA, website owners could track various metrics such as pageviews, session duration, bounce rates, traffic sources, and conversion rates. It also provided advanced features like event tracking, e-commerce tracking, and custom dimensions and metrics, allowing for more granular analysis and customization.


UA quickly became the industry standard for web analytics, widely adopted by businesses of all sizes due to its robust features, ease of use, and integration with other Google products like Google Ads and Google Search Console.


The Sunset of Universal Analytics

On March 16, 2022, Google announced that Universal Analytics (UA) will be phased out and cease processing new data on July 1, 2024. This decision marks a significant shift in the analytics landscape, as UA has been the industry standard for web analytics for over a decade.


The primary reason behind this move is to adapt to the evolving digital landscape and address the growing concerns around user privacy and data governance. With the increasing focus on user consent and data protection regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA, Google recognized the need for a more privacy-centric analytics solution that aligns with these principles.


Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the successor to Universal Analytics, is designed to provide a more comprehensive and future-proof analytics platform. It offers enhanced privacy controls, cross-device tracking capabilities, and a better understanding of user journeys across multiple touchpoints.


By sunsetting Universal Analytics, Google aims to encourage businesses and organizations to migrate to GA4, which is better equipped to handle the complexities of modern digital experiences and comply with evolving data privacy regulations.


Introducing Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 is the new generation of Google’s web analytics platform, designed to provide a more comprehensive and intelligent approach to data collection and analysis. Unlike its predecessor, Universal Analytics, which was primarily focused on website tracking, Google Analytics 4 offers a cross-platform solution that can track user interactions across websites, mobile apps, and other digital touchpoints.


One of the key advantages of Google Analytics 4 is its ability to leverage advanced machine learning capabilities. By leveraging Google’s cutting-edge AI and machine learning technologies, the platform can provide more accurate and actionable insights, enabling businesses to make data-driven decisions more effectively.


Google Analytics 4 introduces several new features and capabilities that set it apart from Universal Analytics. One of the most notable additions is the ability to track user journeys across multiple platforms and devices. This feature, known as “cross-device tracking,” allows businesses to gain a more holistic understanding of their customers’ behavior, enabling them to deliver more personalized and relevant experiences.


Another significant enhancement in Google Analytics 4 is the introduction of event-based data modeling. This approach allows for more flexible and granular data collection, enabling businesses to track and analyze a wider range of user interactions and behaviors. Event-based data modeling also simplifies the process of integrating data from various sources, such as mobile apps and server-side events.


Google Analytics 4 also offers improved data privacy and compliance features, ensuring that businesses can collect and process user data while adhering to relevant data protection regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).


Overall, Google Analytics 4 represents a significant shift in the way businesses approach web analytics, offering a more comprehensive, intelligent, and privacy-conscious solution for tracking and analyzing user behavior across multiple touchpoints.


Transitioning to Google Analytics 4

Transitioning from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) requires a well-planned and structured approach to ensure a smooth migration and minimal data loss. Here are the key steps companies should follow:


Set up a new GA4 property:

Before making the switch, companies must create a new GA4 property within their Google Analytics account. This property will serve as the destination for all future data collection and analysis.


Dual-tag your website:

During the transition period, it’s recommended to run both Universal Analytics and GA4 in parallel. This process, known as “dual-tagging,” allows you to collect data in both properties simultaneously, enabling historical data comparison and ensuring continuity.


Migrate existing data:

While GA4 does not support direct data migration from Universal Analytics, companies can leverage the “Data Import” feature to import specific datasets from their Universal Analytics property. This process can help preserve valuable historical data for analysis and reporting purposes.


Update tracking codes:

Once the new GA4 property is set up, companies must update their website’s tracking codes to implement the GA4 data stream. This process may vary depending on the website’s platform and content management system (CMS).


Configure events and conversions:

GA4 uses a different event-based data model compared to Universal Analytics. Companies should carefully review their existing event tracking and conversion goals, and map them to the appropriate GA4 events and conversions.


Implement enhanced measurement:

GA4 offers enhanced measurement capabilities out-of-the-box, such as automatic tracking of scrolls, file downloads, and outbound link clicks. Companies should review and enable these features as needed to capture valuable user interactions.


Customize data streams:

GA4 allows for the creation of multiple data streams within a single property, enabling companies to segment and analyze data based on specific criteria, such as website, mobile app, or geographical region.


Integrate with other tools:

If companies are using other tools or platforms that integrate with Universal Analytics, they should explore options for integrating with GA4 or seek alternative solutions to maintain data continuity.


Train teams and stakeholders:

Transitioning to a new analytics platform involves a learning curve. Companies should allocate resources for training their teams, including analysts, marketers, and developers, on the new GA4 interface, features, and reporting capabilities.


Set a cutover date:

Once the GA4 property is fully configured and tested, companies should establish a cutover date for completely switching to GA4 and retiring their Universal Analytics property.


By following these steps, companies can ensure a smooth transition to Google Analytics 4, minimizing data loss and disruption while taking advantage of the new platform’s advanced features and capabilities.


Data Migration and Historical Analysis

Migrating historical data from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 is a crucial step in ensuring a seamless transition and maintaining data continuity. However, this process is not without its challenges and limitations. Google has provided tools and guidance to assist with data migration, but companies should carefully evaluate their specific needs and develop a tailored strategy.


One approach is to leverage the “Data Import” feature in Google Analytics 4, which allows for the importation of raw data from various sources, including Universal Analytics. This method can be particularly useful for businesses that require access to granular, event-level data for analysis or integration with other systems. However, it’s important to note that data import has limitations, such as a maximum file size and processing time constraints.


An alternative strategy is to leverage the “Data Migration” tool provided by Google. This tool allows for the migration of specific metrics and dimensions from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, enabling businesses to maintain historical trends and comparisons. However, it’s essential to understand that not all data will be migrated, and there may be discrepancies due to differences in data collection and processing methods between the two platforms.


Regardless of the approach chosen, companies should anticipate potential challenges during the migration process. Data quality issues, such as missing or incomplete data, may arise, necessitating careful data validation and reconciliation. Additionally, businesses may need to adjust their reporting and analysis workflows to accommodate the new data structure and capabilities of Google Analytics 4.


To mitigate these challenges, it’s recommended to establish a dedicated team or working group to oversee the migration process. This team should consist of stakeholders from various departments, including analytics, IT, marketing, and data governance. Collaboration and clear communication will be essential to ensure a smooth transition and minimize disruptions to ongoing data-driven initiatives.


Moreover, companies should consider conducting a thorough data audit and mapping exercise to understand the impact of the migration on existing reports, dashboards, and integrations. This exercise can help identify potential gaps or areas that may require additional development or customization within Google Analytics 4.


While the migration process may seem daunting, it also presents an opportunity for businesses to reevaluate their analytics strategy and align it with their evolving data needs. By proactively planning and executing a well-structured migration plan, companies can ensure the continuity of their data-driven insights and decision-making processes, while leveraging the enhanced capabilities of Google Analytics 4.


Impact of analytics with google ads

Impact on Google Ads Tracking

The transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 will have a significant impact on companies’ existing Google Ads campaigns and tracking. Google Ads and Universal Analytics have been tightly integrated for years, allowing businesses to seamlessly track and analyze their advertising performance within the analytics platform.


With the sunsetting of Universal Analytics, companies will need to take proactive steps to ensure a smooth transition of their Google Ads data and tracking to the new Google Analytics 4 platform. Failure to do so may result in data discrepancies, incomplete tracking, and inaccurate performance reporting.


One of the primary changes is the way Google Analytics 4 handles data streams and event tracking. Unlike Universal Analytics, which relied on pageview-based tracking, Google Analytics 4 uses an event-based model. This means that companies will need to review and potentially update their existing event tracking implementations, including those related to Google Ads campaigns.


Additionally, Google Analytics 4 introduces new features and capabilities, such as enhanced measurement capabilities, cross-device tracking, and machine learning-driven insights. Companies will need to familiarize themselves with these new features and understand how they can leverage them to optimize their Google Ads campaigns and improve their overall marketing efforts.


To ensure a smooth transition, companies should take the following steps:

Audit Existing Tracking Implementations:

Conduct a thorough audit of your existing tracking implementations, including Google Ads tracking codes, conversion tracking, and any custom event tracking.


Update Tracking Codes:

Update your website’s tracking codes to the new Google Analytics 4 format. This may involve working with your development team or agency partners.


Migrate Historical Data:

While Google Analytics 4 does not allow for direct data migration from Universal Analytics, you can leverage tools like the BigQuery export to maintain historical data for analysis and reporting purposes.


Retag Google Ads Campaigns:

Retag your existing Google Ads campaigns with the new Google Analytics 4 tracking codes to ensure accurate data collection and reporting.


Familiarize with New Features:

Explore the new features and capabilities of Google Analytics 4, such as enhanced measurement, cross-device tracking, and machine learning-driven insights, and understand how they can benefit your Google Ads campaigns.


Train Teams:

Provide training and resources to your marketing, analytics, and development teams to ensure they understand the changes and can effectively work with the new Google Analytics 4 platform.


By taking these steps, companies can minimize disruptions to their Google Ads campaigns and tracking, ensuring a smooth transition to the new Google Analytics 4 platform while unlocking its advanced capabilities for better data-driven decision-making.


Updating Website Tracking Codes

Updating the website tracking codes is a crucial step in the transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4. The tracking code is responsible for collecting and sending data to Google Analytics, and failure to update it can result in data loss or inaccurate reporting.


To ensure a seamless transition, follow these step-by-step instructions:

Create a Google Analytics 4 Property: If you haven’t already, create a new Google Analytics 4 property within your existing Google Analytics account or create a new account if necessary.

Obtain the New Tracking Code: Once the property is created, navigate to the “Data Streams” section and copy the new tracking code snippet provided.

Update the Tracking Code on Your Website: Locate the existing Universal Analytics tracking code on your website’s pages and replace it with the new Google Analytics 4 tracking code snippet. Ensure that the new code is placed correctly, following the same placement guidelines as the previous code.

Test and Validate: After updating the tracking code, use Google Analytics’ debugging tools or browser extensions to verify that data is being collected and sent correctly to the new Google Analytics 4 property.


It’s important to note that the new tracking code is different from the previous Universal Analytics code and cannot be simply added alongside it. Failing to remove the old code can lead to data duplication and inaccurate reporting.


Additionally, if you have any custom tracking implementations, such as event tracking or enhanced ecommerce tracking, you may need to update these implementations to work with the new Google Analytics 4 syntax and data model.


By updating the website tracking codes promptly, you can ensure a seamless transition to Google Analytics 4 and avoid any disruptions in data collection and reporting.


Training and Upskilling Teams

The transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 represents a significant shift in the way data is collected, processed, and analyzed. To ensure a smooth transition and maximize the potential of the new platform, companies should prioritize training and upskilling their teams.


Firstly, it’s crucial to identify key stakeholders and team members who will be responsible for managing and leveraging the new analytics platform. This may include marketing teams, data analysts, web developers, and decision-makers. Providing comprehensive training tailored to their respective roles and responsibilities will ensure a cohesive understanding and effective implementation of Google Analytics 4.


Consider partnering with experienced analytics consultants or Google-certified trainers to conduct in-depth workshops and hands-on sessions. These experts can provide invaluable insights, best practices, and practical guidance on leveraging the new features and capabilities of Google Analytics 4.


Additionally, encourage self-paced learning by curating a library of resources, including online courses, webinars, and documentation from Google’s official resources. This will allow team members to learn at their own pace and reinforce their knowledge as needed.


Continuous learning and knowledge sharing should be encouraged within the organization. Establish internal communities of practice or regular knowledge-sharing sessions where team members can collaborate, discuss challenges, and share insights gained from their experiences with Google Analytics 4.


Furthermore, consider incorporating Google Analytics 4 training into your onboarding process for new hires or team members transitioning to roles that involve data analysis and marketing analytics. This will ensure a consistent understanding and adoption of the new platform across the organization.


By investing in comprehensive training and upskilling initiatives, companies can ensure their teams are well-equipped to navigate the changes brought by Google Analytics 4, unlock its full potential, and drive data-driven decision-making for better business outcomes.


Compliance and Data Privacy

Google Analytics 4 introduces several changes in how user data is collected and processed, which has implications for compliance and data privacy. Companies must be aware of these changes to ensure they remain compliant with relevant regulations and maintain transparency with their users.


One significant change is the way Google Analytics 4 handles user identifiers. Unlike Universal Analytics, which relied heavily on cookies, Google Analytics 4 utilizes an event-based data model that can collect user data across multiple platforms and devices. This means that companies may need to update their privacy policies and obtain explicit consent from users for data collection and tracking across different touchpoints.


Additionally, Google Analytics 4 offers enhanced data controls and settings, allowing companies to better manage the data they collect and process. This includes the ability to adjust data retention periods, control data sharing settings, and implement data deletion requests from users. Companies should review these settings and ensure they align with their data privacy policies and regulatory requirements.


Certain regions and industries may have specific regulations or guidelines regarding user data collection and processing. For example, companies operating in the European Union must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which imposes strict rules on how personal data is handled. Companies should consult with legal experts and data protection officers to ensure their implementation of Google Analytics 4 adheres to relevant laws and regulations.


Transparency is also crucial when it comes to data privacy. Companies should clearly communicate to their users what data is being collected, how it is being used, and provide options for users to manage their data preferences. This can be achieved through updated privacy policies, consent banners, and user-friendly settings within the company’s digital properties.


By addressing compliance and data privacy considerations proactively, companies can ensure a smooth transition to Google Analytics 4 while maintaining trust and transparency with their users.



Benefits of Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 offers a range of significant advantages and benefits for businesses, making it a compelling upgrade from Universal Analytics. One of the key benefits is improved data insights through enhanced measurement capabilities. With Google Analytics 4, companies can gain a more comprehensive understanding of user behavior across multiple platforms and devices, providing a holistic view of the customer journey.


Another major advantage is cross-device tracking, which allows businesses to track user interactions seamlessly across different devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and desktops. This feature is particularly valuable in today’s multi-device world, where customers often switch between devices during their purchasing journey.


Google Analytics 4 also promises to future-proof businesses’ analytics setup. As a more modern and flexible platform, it is designed to adapt to emerging technologies and changing consumer behavior. This ensures that companies can stay ahead of the curve and continue to make data-driven decisions based on accurate and up-to-date information.


Additionally, Google Analytics 4 introduces advanced machine learning capabilities, which can help businesses uncover valuable insights and patterns that may have been overlooked with traditional analytics methods. This can lead to more informed decision-making and better optimization of marketing and business strategies.


Furthermore, Google Analytics 4 offers improved privacy controls and compliance features, which is crucial in the ever-evolving landscape of data privacy regulations. By adopting this platform, companies can ensure they are adhering to best practices and protecting their customers’ data while still gaining valuable insights.


Overall, the benefits of Google Analytics 4 are substantial, positioning businesses for success in the digital age by providing them with the tools and insights necessary to understand their customers better, optimize their strategies, and stay ahead of the competition.


Getting Started with Google Analytics 4

To begin your transition to Google Analytics 4, follow this step-by-step checklist:

Create a New Property: Log in to your Google Analytics account and create a new property for Google Analytics 4. This will be separate from your existing Universal Analytics property.

Configure Data Streams: Set up data streams to collect data from your website, mobile app, or other digital properties. Data streams replace the concept of “views” in Universal Analytics.

Install Tracking Code: Update your website or app with the new Google Analytics 4 tracking code. This code will send data to your new GA4 property.

Explore the Interface: Familiarize yourself with the new Google Analytics 4 interface. It has a different layout and navigation compared to Universal Analytics.

Set Up Conversions: Configure conversion events to track user actions that are important to your business, such as purchases, sign-ups, or form submissions.

Customize Reports: Explore the various reporting options in GA4, including the new “Life cycle” and “User” reports. Customize and create new reports to suit your business needs.

Enable Data Collection: Ensure that data collection is enabled for the relevant data streams, such as website, app, or both.

Set Up Audiences: Create and manage audiences based on user characteristics, behaviors, and interests. Audiences can be used for analysis and remarketing.

Integrate with Other Tools: Connect Google Analytics 4 with other tools in your marketing stack, such as Google Ads, Google Search Console, or third-party platforms.

Train Your Team: Provide training and resources to your team members to ensure they understand the new features and capabilities of Google Analytics 4.


Remember, the transition to Google Analytics 4 may take time, and it’s recommended to run both Universal Analytics and GA4 in parallel for a while to ensure data continuity and historical analysis.

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