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What To Do Before Losing Google Universal Analytics

Google’s decision to phase out Universal Analytics in favor of GA4 marks a significant shift in how we approach website analytics. While this change has been met with a fair amount of criticism, the new GA4 analytics are a must as privacy regulations and internet legislation continues to change. In the shift from Universal Analytics to GA4, users have maintained access to their historical data within the analytics platform. But as of July 2024, this is changing. Here’s what you can expect from Google Analytics this summer. 

Why GA4?

The new analytics platform, GA4, was built to make up for problems with the existing analytics platform. The new GA4 is more future-proof, and can better support users as internet privacy laws change over time. Here are the top three benefits of GA4:

1. Enhanced Cross-Platform Tracking: Consumers use their phones, computers, and tablets interchangeably throughout the day. It used to be difficult to tell when the same user would access a website from their phone and computer. These could previously have been counted as two separate users. GA4 offers improved cross-platform tracking capabilities. This allows businesses to gain a more comprehensive view of user interactions across different devices and channels. This gives more accurate attribution and a better understanding of the customer journey.

2. Event-Driven Data Collection: Unlike Universal Analytics, which primarily relies on page views and sessions, GA4 is built around event-driven data collection. This means businesses can track specific interactions such as button clicks, video views, and scroll depth, providing richer insights into user engagement.

3. Machine Learning Insights: GA4 leverages machine learning to deliver powerful insights and predictive analytics. This allows Google to give you more information about a customer’s journey to allow you to make updates to your site for a better user experience. 

What Is Changing Now?

Last year Google began a transition from its original Universal Analytics to their new analytics option GA4. When they started this transition users could no longer create a new Universal Analytics account and instead could only make new GA4 accounts. The older Universal Analytics remained functional for many users during this time but has since stopped processing new data, and Google created new GA4 accounts for any analytics users who had not already done so for themselves. 

Currently, Google Analytics users have access to their old Universal Analytics account as well as their current GA4 account. But, as of July 2024, Google will be fully removing all original Universal Analytics accounts. Because of this, it is important to save past data from Universal Analytics for your historical reference.

What Metrics to Download

As Google transitions away from Universal Analytics, users must download and preserve their historical data. While GA4 will continue to track ongoing data, historical data from Universal Analytics will not be automatically migrated. To download any data in Google Universal Analytics simply click the export button on the top right side of your browser for any given report. We recommend getting data for as long as your Universal Analytics account has been attached to your site. 

Here are some key metrics users should consider downloading:

1. Traffic Sources: This covers where your website traffic is coming from, including organic search, paid search, social media, and referrals. Make sure you save the referral sources separately, as opposed to just the traffic overview to get the different websites that sent you traffic. 

2. User Behavior: This includes metrics such as bounce rate, time on page, top pages used on your site, and pages per session to gauge user engagement and website performance.

3. Conversion Tracking: This tracked key actions such as form submissions, purchases, and sign-ups. Ensure that you download e-commerce tracking if your site sells products online. 

4. Audience Insights: Download your audience demographics, interests, and behavior. This will help you see if your audience is changing over time. 

Save all of these files for safekeeping and use them to reflect on change over time. 

Google’s transition to GA4 represents a significant change in how we use website analytics. GA4 offers different tracking capabilities and a focus on user behavior as a whole, as opposed to session-by-session tracking. But with this change comes problems in migrating historical data. By proactively saving your data files, you can help to view your website data over time no matter what changes Google makes. Need help making sense of your marketing data? Get in touch!

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