Universal Analytics is dead. Long live GA4.
Well, not quite. However, Google have announced the sunsetting of their hugely popular Universal Analytics (UA) in favour of the newer Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
If you’ve never used Google Analytics (GA) before, it’s the leading web analytics platform and used by marketing teams across the country. Whether you’re an SEO agency, consultant or general web admin then you’ll find the information provided by Google Analytics invaluable. You can read more about the history of Google Analytics here.
Universal Analytics was first introduced by Google in 2012. After almost a decade, this version of GA is the accepted standard and many are finding the transition to the (relatively) new GA4 version very painful. GA4 was released in 2020 but has failed to attract the same sort of adoption experienced by UA. By all accounts, GA4 is a huge overall of the analytics platform and offers a completely different interface, data model, configuration, tracking components…the list continues.
With any sort of change comes resistance. This statement is especially true in this case where communities have been created around the UA product and countless hours spent mastering the tools. All this work will have to be repeated. Even for everyday users, people become accustomed to completing tasks in a certain way and are struggling to adapt to the new processes, layouts and interface within GA4. While a lot is different, much also remains the same. The data being tracked remains very similar (if not better) but we must find new ways to access the information we need.
GA4 appeared to be launched half-baked and has been plagued by issues. In doing so, Google set GA4 off to a bad start and it has already developed a poor reputation. However, over the last 12 months, development of the platform has noticeably accelerated, bringing fixes and new features. GA4 will continue to improve over the next 15 months ready for the torch to be passed in July 2023. While many people prefer UA right now, GA4 will become more popular as issues are resolved and people become more familiar with the interface.
Digital marketing relies on good data. Being able to track, analyse and improve activities is essential for a campaign to be successful. Whether you’re working on design improvements, SEO or even email marketing, GA and other web analytics tools provide crucial information for teams to make better decisions. We recommend setting up your GA4 property as early as possible – we notified our clients back in 2020 and our advice remains much unchanged:
- Run UA and GA4 in parallel for a period of time (around 6 months minimum)
- Ensure everything is working as expected before you fully commit to GA4 as your primary reporting tool
- Get familiar with the new interface – decide which reports you want to transfer and explore the new data available
- The longer you have GA4 active the more data you’ll have for historical comparisons (without having to switch between versions)
- When you’re happy, switch to GA4 as your primary reporting tool but keep UA active in the background (around 6 months minimum)
There’s at least a 12 month timeline here, which is certainly achievable if actioned now. If you’re new to Google Analytics or concerned about switching to GA4, we’re happy to help. Give our team a call and we’ll be able to advise on the next steps.