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Do I have to change Google Analytics and what is “GA4” anyway?

4 May 2022 by Henry Davenport

On 16th March 2022, Google announced that it will start sun-setting Universal Analytics from July 2023. That means everyone will need to be set up on and using GA4 by that date at the latest.

Google Analytics is the go-to platform for anyone working in digital marketing. It’s a tool many of us use multiple times a day to measure and track site and campaign performance and is incredibly valuable for anyone looking to ultimately understand their customers. 

Even if you’re not a regular user of the platform, you’ve probably seen traffic coming to your website, played around with the reporting tools and I’m confident that, at a minimum, you’ve heard of Google Analytics.

…Well now, in classic Google style (see killedbygoogle.com for 267 projects they’ve killed to date!), Universal Analytics is scheduled to be turned off, leaving us with GA4 as the only option for an interface.

In this article we look at what this change in Google Analytics means for business owners and marketers, and advise what you should do to make the most of Google Analytics in the future. 

What’s happening?

Up until 2020 the Google Analytics interface used was known as Universal Analytics before it was superseded by Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in October of that year.

The two have existed co-dependently since and each have been options when creating new accounts.

It was recently announced however that Universal Analytics, the interface which we’ve all grown accustomed to, will be fully retired by 2023… It’s GA4 or nothing!

For many users of Universal Analytics, the transition to GA4 has been painful and as a result it was often put on the back burner. Reasons include the interface appearing less intuitive and difficulty in finding or creating the reports that were already being used day to day. As a result, many digital marketers (including myself) have not fully embraced GA4.

From my own experiences I have used Universal Analytics for years (some quick maths puts me at at least a decade!) so I know how it works, where to look and gives me all of the data I want quickly and easily. GA4 doesn’t offer exciting new functionality or any real benefits to speak of – so I’ve never been a rush to switch.

What do I need to do?

Don’t panic. 

Yes Universal Analytics is going… but not for a good while yet. There’s no need to rush to switch, but of course be mindful that a change is on the horizon.

Check what you already have on Google Analytics

Most web developers & marketeers have been setting up GA4 accounts as default well before the announcement that Universal Analytics is being sunsetted, so you may already have a GA4 account and not need to do anything at all. 

Install a GA4 tracking code ASAP

If you ONLY have a Google Analytics account it’s important to add GA4 alongside Universal Analytics as soon as possible in a process called Dual Tagging. There is no way to simply migrate an audience from UA to GA4; it has to be collected by the Google Analytics 4 tracking code, so the sooner the GA4 tracking code is configured the more data you’ll have at your disposal.

Use the data you have collected

Because Universal Analytics will go, it’s important to use the data you have collected over the years before it goes. It’s good practice to review insights regularly so take the opportunity to do a deep dive and understand your audience better than ever before. Create a report on all the data you have so you can refer back to it. 

 The techy bit

Migrating to GA4 can be done with the help of your developer or if you know what you’re doing the instructions are available on migrating here https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/migration/measurement

As always if you need some help and advice, reach out to me (Henry) at henry@creativehutch.com and I’ll be happy to take a look!

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