Google has announced the deprecation of Universal Analytics (UA), the much-loved and much-used tool that provides website owners with a wealth of information about visitors to their site, how they got there and what they did.
It will stop collecting data on 1st July 2023 and data in your account will be available for at least six months after that (see Google’s official announcement here).
A Complete Change for Google Analytics
The replacement for Universal Analytics, Google Analytics 4, came out of beta at the start of this year and can be run in parallel with UA on your website.
It’s safe to say that GA4 works very differently to its predecessor – whilst there is an upgrade tool from Google, settings such as Goals and ecommerce tracking cannot be carried over, meaning that a basic install of GA4 will leave you without any conversion tracking (amongst other things).
The Time is Now for GA4
Clearly, if you don’t already have a fully-configured GA4 setup in place for your site, it is imperative that you do so as soon as possible so that when UA ceases to gather data, you will be able to create reports comparing periods of time such as year-on-year. GA4 will not import any historic data from UA, so you will only be able to get reports from the point in time GA4 was installed on your site – meaning the sooner the better!
As noted above though, just installing the GA4 tag on your site won’t get you all the data you need. You will still need to set up GA4 events to measure any kind of conversion or non-pageview interaction (e.g. downloads of PDFs from your website). The Events and ecommerce tracking used by Universal Analytics are not supported by GA4, necessitating a whole new setup and possibly web development work (particularly for ecommerce sites).
It’s also worth noting that “enhanced measurement” is enabled by default in GA4 and this puts the responsibility for not passing personally identifiable information (PII) on to the website owner. For example, firing an event to tell GA4 that someone entered their email address to access a download means that you must ensure the email address itself is not passed to GA4.