Why Did Google Switch From Universal Analytics to GA4?
On July 1, 2023, Google sunset its Universal Analytics platform once and for all. This turned the page to a new chapter where website data measured by Google is housed within the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) platform — the modernized approach of collecting and displaying key metrics that matter most.
While GA4 offers a handful of the same attributes that people most appreciate about Universal Analytics, it also hosts a multitude of brand-new features created to fully harness big data and machine learning. In the past, Universal Analytics relied on session-based data, meaning a visitor’s series of page views. GA4 is driven by event-based data in the form of page views, clicks, forms submitted, and custom events defined by the user. This shift opens up the door to more data, stronger insights, and the ability to track almost nearly every facet of your website’s user journey.
When taking a closer look at GA4 provides predecessor, including:
- Better compatibility with apps and media platforms to seamlessly track data across tools you already use. This allows for direct integrations to media platforms that help drive actions on your website or app — no matter the device.
- Advanced privacy controls that use cookie-less measurement and no longer store IP addresses.
- Better measurement with an event-based data model that records how site visitors are interacting with your app or website. By moving away from session-based data, GA4 provides more accuracy along with greater reporting flexibility, painting a more complete picture.
- Predictive capabilities for easier guidance within a simpler model. GA4 uses machine learning to merge data from different sources for better insights, refining its results over time.
- Nearly unlimited storage capabilities with GA4’s integration with BigQuery that allows brands to seamlessly import and analyze their metrics — no matter the size.
With Universal Analytics in the rearview mirror, many digital marketers and web managers are concerned with the loss of their historical data. Thankfully, Google is giving all Universal Analytics account managers one more chance to download their metrics. Starting on July 1, 2023, website managers will have one year to export and download all final Universal Analytics data. Note, while this data is important for historical reference, it cannot be imported into GA4.
Should you decide to export any data from Universal Analytics, it’s important to evaluate what data your team will actually need. No two brands are the same — and neither should their final exports. As your team is planning the final download, it is always best practice to assess what is available and only download what you need. Your team (and hard drives) will thank you. Once you decided on what to download, the only decision left is where — and how — you’d like your data downloaded:
- Export custom reports in CSV, TSV, Excel, Google Sheets or PDF format
- Export Google Analytics Reporting API data to cloud storage and connect to Looker Studio for easier display and insight
- Install the Google Sheets add-on for Analytics
While it may take some time and exploration to fully get used to the GA4 platform, its user-friendly layout and aesthetic similarities to Universal Analytics make the transition easy. Put simply, the simplified and streamlined GA4 platform significantly improves web managers’ ability to track data and draw insight about how users interact with their websites.
Regardless of your audience, industry, or goals, harnessing your website’s data is critical to the success of your brand. Not doing so puts you behind the pack. If you have questions about the transition to GA4, understanding how to leverage the data, or take action in the form of strategy, we’re here to help. Our integrated approach to digital marketing in Buffalo, NY, and beyond starts the way every strategy does: We assess your metrics, define clear goals, and target audiences to drive actions that provide results. And then we learn and adjust.
The first step toward building a better, smarter relationship with your website is GA4. The next step is starting a digital marketing project with us.