The Sun is Setting on Your Google Analytics Data
Part 1: What You Need to Know Before It’s Gone for Good
Google is sunsetting its Universal Analytics, sometimes referred to as classic analytics, in favor of its new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) system. This is a huge deal! So much so, that we’re going to create a five-part series to help you understand what’s going on and what needs to be done to maintain momentum through the switch.
Throughout the series, we’ll cover what to expect as Google discontinues the classic analytics tool, including the end of specific features and updates, and the implications for your data and reporting. We’ll also discuss the timeline for the transition and what steps you need to take to protect your data.
The transition is coming quickly, with Google noting that its new Google Analytics 4 will take over for Universal Analytics on July 1, 2023. Yes! This coming July. Here’s the timeline Google has laid out:
March 2023 – If you hadn’t already set up a GA4 account, Google created one for you in March. It will use your current settings as the baseline and will copy over any pre-set configurations. However, you should go in and make sure everything is set up the way your brand needs it. You don’t want to lose any valuable data collection.
July 2023 – You’ll only be able to access previous data, but all new data will go to GA4. Google anticipates that it will have Universal Analytics data available for download for at least six months after its sunset. After that, you will not be able to access your past data.
- If you created your analytics account after October 2020, you might already have GA4 and in that case, no further action is required.
- If you need to make the transfer to GA4, you can do so through Google’s support guide.
July 2024 – If your brand is using Universal Analytics 360, Google has pushed out its depreciation of third-party cookies until next year. Getting into GA4 early will enable you to build historical data before that happens.
What this means for users
There are lots of new features to explore in GA4, but here are some highlights shared by MonsterInsights:
New reporting interface – Not only do things look different, but GA4 allows users to build customized reports.
Tracking has changed – Google has moved away from “sessions” and onto a “stream” of data and events tracking, which should provide additional insights for those that want to dive into the details.
New metrics – Some metrics have been removed in favor of engagement numbers that show time spent and active use.
Conversions take over goals – Users will no longer create goals. Instead, brands will need to select what types of events (click, page view, first visit, etc.) need to be tracked.
A focus on privacy – This is no surprise, especially with the imminent depreciation of cookies. New privacy settings will help users stay compliant with privacy laws including the California Consumer Privacy Act and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from the EU. While there is no official U.S. federal law yet, it wouldn’t be unexpected for that to happen within the next few years.
AI/Smart Data Modeling – Google will be using artificial intelligence (AI) to pull helpful insights to guide adjustments for better marketing and website performance.
How to back up your data
You’ll want to save your current Universal Analytics data before it goes away. While six months seems like a long time, it’s better to get started now in case you decide you want multiple formats or need to go back for any reason.
Google offers several different ways to export individual reports, including into CSV, Excel, Google Sheets or PDF formats. Follow the step-by-step guide Google has provided to download your historical data.
Prepare for the sunset of classic analytics
Setting up your GA4 account and backing up your historical data are the first steps in preparing for the transition from Universal Analytics. While this might seem overwhelming, the new features being offered are exciting. Once everything is set up, we’re hopeful that the new features in GA4 will guide brands to better and more comprehensive marketing decisions and insights.
Connect with the team at Beyond Fifteen to learn more about how our marketing experts can help your brand set up and take advantage of the features in GA4.