Google Analytics 4 Upgrade Required by July 2023 & Sunsetting Universal Analytics

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Google is planning to officially sunset Universal Analytics and make Google Analytics 4 the new standard come July 2023. Universal Analytics is technically the “previous” version, but is still widely used.

Universal Analytics has been the standard version of Google’s Analytics platform for some time now. Google Analytics 4 was introduced over 2 years ago, but has remained a new option for those who wanted to try it. Back in October 2020, Google Analytics 4 was introduced with high expectations, but fell short in the eyes of many marketers. Since then, it has slowly been gaining features, and Google feels now is the time to propel it into the limelight and make it the de facto version of Analytics.

However, come the 1st of July 2023, Universal Analytics will become a thing of the past, making way for Google Analytics 4 – or GA4 for short.

What is Google doing and how does it impact my business?

Until July 2023, you can continue to use and collect data via the current, widely-adopted, Universal Analytics (GA3). Google Analytics 4 is an option for anyone using Analytics right now. However, many businesses, webmasters and marketers alike have avoided making the switch due to drastic changes in the platform. Not only does it miss a few key features we have all gotten used to, it takes a significant amount of time to set up and requires a different approach on how you measure conversions and your success.

Essentially, your current Universal Analytics data will continue to track as normal until 1 July 2023. However, after this date, it will stop tracking.

Universal Analytics 360 properties will have slightly longer to make the transition- with data continuing to process up until October 1 2023.

After the respective deadlines, you will still be able to access your previously processed data within Universal Analytics for a minimum of 6 months. It simply won’t be recording any new visits – you will need to have Google Analytics 4 set up and running on your site by then in order to track new visitors to your website.

Why is Google forcing the change to GA4?

To put it bluntly, Google sees GA4 as the future, and views Universal Analytics as obsolete. Google is never one to fear change – however, many users of Google’s products do fear how frequently they drop support for its own products. Which will have added to the scepticism around GA4 since it’s introduction.

Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions and more easily observable data from cookies. This measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete. Meanwhile, Google Analytics 4 operates across platforms, does not rely exclusively on cookies and uses an event-based data model to deliver user-centric measurement.

GA4 certainly has its benefits. It allows for cross-platform data tracking and insights – allowing you to view data across your websites and apps.. It does not rely on cookies for all forms of tracking, meaning if people opt-out of cookies, then it can still track behaviour. The event-based data model ensures you aso uunderstand user behaviour better than before.

Google Analytics 4 offers new features including:

  • An event-based measurement model which tracks usage across platforms
  • A data-driven attribution model to analyse your customer’s journies – attribution is given to more than just a last click, meaning you have more visibility of how your marketing impacts conversions
  • Management and compliance options to meet privacy laws – you can manage and minimise how much user data is collected while still collecting the data you need to make business decisions
  • Extract extra value from your analytics data with machine learning – AI can provide predictive insights and create audiences of users most likely to convert
  • Deeper integrations with other Google platforms such as Google Ads – Analytics can help your campaigns perform better

As an example:

McDonald’s Hong Kong met its goal to grow mobile orders using a predictive audience of “likely seven-day purchasers” and exporting it to Google Ads — increasing app orders more than six times. The team saw a 2.3 times stronger ROI, a 5.6 times increase in revenue, and a 63% reduction in cost per action.

“Google Analytics 4 has equipped us with a strong measurement foundation. We are able to get valuable insights from our first-party data with machine learning and utilize them in our marketing, driving impressive results to future-proof our business.”

— Tina Chao, McDonald’s Hong Kong Chief Marketing and Digital Customer Experience Officer

What do I need to do next?

Simply put, you should be making the switch to Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible so that you begin to build up historical data.

Not only that, but up until now many SEOs and marketers have been putting off making the switch as it’s a such a dramatic change. Now, the clock is ticking until July 2023. The quicker you adopt Google Analytics 4, the more familiar you will be with the new capabilities and interface when it becomes the standard.

You can have Google Analytics 4 on your site simultaneously with Universal Analytics. If you have GA4 running by the start of July, that means that come 1 July 2023, you will already have year-on-year data to base decisions off without needing to switch to old Universal Analytics data to see where you have improved or declined. If you make the switch next June or beyond, you won’t have any data to compare with within the same platform.

We are helping our clients to make the switch to Google Analytics 4. If you need a helping hand in getting up and running on GA4, get in touch with the team at Xanthos who will be more than happy to help. We can take care of Google Analytics 4 setup, event tracking, conversion tracking, account auditing, configuration, data insight and analytical reporting services.