Google Universal Analytics (UA) is making way for Google Analytics 4. As of July 1, 2023, companies are required to switch to the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Google Analytics will stop collecting IP addresses. In this blog, we explain what will change and why.
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Google Universal Analytics becomes Google Analytics 4
The current Google Universal Analytics will be phased out and companies will soon be required to switch to Google Analytics 4. Since this is the case for everyone, this will also apply to your website! This transition will begin on July 1, 2023; when Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits, followed by Analytics 360 on October 1, 2023.
Previously processed data in Universal Analytics will continue to be retained for at least six months after the phase-out date, but in 2023 GA4 is going to become the new standard.
Why you should switch to Google Analytics 4
So Google Analytics 4 is the new version. Well… new… the launch already took place back in October 2020. However, not all search marketers made the desired switch right away, partly due to the fact that GA4 was still under development at the time and all kinds of features were still missing. But also the modified user interface, the absence of a number of reports and a lack of integration possibilities around release were reasons why Analytics 4 could not count on much enthusiasm. Fortunately, these problems have now been more or less resolved. Google is therefore ‘forcing’ its users to make the transition now.
Google’s argumentation for this mandatory switch is that opinions on data privacy and control have changed so much in recent times that the necessary adjustments must be made for Google Analytics.
GA4 differs from its predecessor in that it is cross-platform, does not rely on cookies, uses an “event-based” data model for measurement, and no longer collects IP addresses.
”Universal Analytics will stop functioning as of July 1, 2023. The business version Universal Analytics 360 will continue to operate until October 1, 2023.”
Privacy, GDPR and Google Analytics
Even though Universal Analytics already included privacy measures, Google Analytics 4 was designed from the beginning with a focus on privacy in order to improve the experience for both the user and the visitor, according to Google. Perhaps the most important change is that Google Analytics 4 will stop collecting IP addresses.
In its announcement, Google does not specifically address the recent controversy in the European Union regarding Google Analytics. Among others, the Dutch Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens) has indicated that Google Analytics does not comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and websites that use Google Analytics are therefore actually in violation.
The benefits of Google Analytics 4
GA4 is obviously the future of Google Analytics. It is the platform where the latest features and developments have been rolled out and other additional features will be added in the near future . We have listed the 10 most important benefits GA4 offers for you below:
- GA4 is available for free;
- Cross-platform device tracking and user identification;
- Google Analytics 4 combines web and app reports;
- Advanced analytics capabilities within GA4 interface;
- Common events are automatically tracked;
- Machine learning: new, fast insights;
- Privacy is a top priority: automatically anonymizes visitor IP addresses;
- Data-Driven Attribution Model in GA4;
- Future Proof because GA4 collects as much data as possible without cookies or other IDs (cookieless tracking);
- New set of engagement statistics such as: engaged sessions, engagement rate, engaged sessions per user and engagement time.
The disadvantages of Google Analytics 4
Now let’s get into some of the current disadvantages of GA4 :
- No link/integration with Google Search Console yet (will be there eventually though!);
- One-to-one porting of Universal Analytics is not possible;
- Some of the current UA reports are no longer available;
- Historical data will be lost.
For now, GA4 works alongside the old version UA (Universal Analytics)
You will immediately see that Google Analytics 4 is completely different from the ‘old version’ you are used to. The data model of Google Analytics 4 is so different that it is not possible to take the current data you collected from Universal Analytics with you to the new version (GA4). This means Google Analytics 4 does not continue in your current property. When switching to GA4, an additional property is opened next to the one you already have.
If you implement the new GA4, it means that from that point you will have two versions of Google Analytics on your website: Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics. Both versions of Google Analytics collect their own data. In your old property you just continue where you left off. With the new GA4 property you start collecting data from scratch. For the time being both versions are running alongside each other, but Universal Analytics will soon stop collecting data. So consider switching to GA4 now, before you lose all your data and insight.
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Switching to Google Analytics 4
You can’t escape it; eventually you will have to switch to Google Analytics 4. It is important to know that Google has not (yet) announced plans to transfer historical data from the current Google Universal Analytics to your new GA4 properties. Just to be on the safe side: you should assume that this is not going to be possible. After the phase-out date you will still be able to view and export your data from Universal Analytics for at least six months, but after that your data will be gone, presumably forever.
If you haven’t set up your GA4 properties yet, then this is your wake-up call: do it as soon as possible, because you will not be collecting data until it is configured, and the more data you collect now, the more effective you will be in the “post-Universal Analytics era”.
Are ready to make the switch over to GA4, but you don’t know how? We would be happy to help you!