Google Universal Analytics to GA4 - What Marketers Need to Know

Tomorrow is the day that marketers might have a panic attack. Google is making the standard of their analytics platform the new GA4, and eliminating Universal Analytics.

Google Universal Analytics to GA4 - What Marketers Need to Know

Tomorrow is the day that marketers might have a panic attack. Google is making the standard of their analytics platform the new GA4, and eliminating Universal Analytics, or UA, as has been the short-hand version. Google is mandating this change to take place tomorrow, July 1st, 2023. Marketers must make the switch in order to avoid data loss, as Google will make the switch for legacy accounts - with or without you.

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No, let's dive into the change and what marketers need to know.

The Departure of Universal Analytics

Universal Analytics has been a driving force behind the digital marketing world, helping businesses understand their website's performance and gauge the value of their marketing campaigns. However, UA's time is drawing to a close, with Google planning to cease data processing in standard Universal Analytics properties from July 1, 2023. Analytics 360 properties with a current 360 order will receive an extension until July 1, 2024​.

Google will automatically create a GA4 property for users who haven't already done so by March 2023, based on the settings of their Universal Analytics property. Until July 1, 2023, marketers can continue to collect new data using their Universal Analytics properties. After this date, previously processed data will remain accessible for at least six months, with Google recommending that users export their historical reports during this period​.

It's important to note that this change primarily impacts properties created before October 14, 2020. If your Google Analytics property was established after this date, you're likely already using a GA4 property with no action required​.

The Arrival of Google Analytics 4

GA4 is being touted as the next-generation measurement solution, designed for a world of privacy and partial data collection. The new platform promises numerous benefits, including improved attribution, measurement using your own identifiers, greater data accessibility, and closer integration with Google Ads​.

The shift to GA4 is expected to change how marketers measure website performance and gauge the success of their campaigns. It's essential to understand the motivations behind this move, as it represents a significant change in the digital marketing landscape. Google's primary reasons for this shift seem to revolve around driving GA4 adoption, improving the web ecosystem, increasing ad revenue, and simplifying GDPR compliance​.

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What This Means for Marketers

The transition from UA to GA4 is a disruption that could lead to more meaningful conversations about performance measurement. The end of UA may mark a shift from simply measuring sessions to understanding influence, offering marketers a more nuanced view of their campaigns' impact​.

For marketers with Google Ads campaigns linked to their Universal Analytics property, it's essential to be aware that UA data will stop flowing to Google Ads after July 1, 2023 (or July 1, 2024 for Analytics 360 properties). This could affect bidding on imported Universal Analytics goals, the use of UA audiences, and importing of UA site metrics. Google recommends migrating Universal Analytics property's Google Ads links to the GA4 property and importing GA4 conversions and/or audiences for remarketing​.

Final Thoughts

While the upcoming transition from Universal Analytics to GA4 presents a significant change, it also offers a fresh opportunity for marketers. By embracing GA4, marketers can access improved attribution, data stability, and integration with Google Ads, among other benefits. It's a change that requires preparation and adaptation, but it may also open the door to more sophisticated and effective digital marketing strategies.

Despite these insights, further research is required to fully understand GA4's potential benefits for marketers, as my research was cut short. However, the above information provides a solid foundation for understanding this important transition in the world of digital analytics.

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