Configure Google Analytics 4 now to avoid gaps in your historical data

Google recently announced that all standard, free Universal Analytics (Google Analytics 3) properties will stop processing new data on July 1, 2023. Google Analytics 360 —the paid version of UA—will stop processing on October 1, 2023. After these deadlines pass, Google Analytics 4 will be your Google Analytics solution.

Keep in mind that UA will continue collecting data between now and June 30, 2023, or September 30, 2023—depending on whether you’re using GA3 or 360—but not after these dates. Eventually, your website’s historical data recorded in UA will be unavailable, and GA4 will only access information it began recording at the time of configuration. Fortunately, there are some ways to make the most of this situation.

The Best Solution

Set up GA4 now and start sending data to that account right away. Data in GA4 is not retroactive, which means that data collection begins when the account is created. The moment you set up GA4 for your digital properties, you’re starting from scratch—it will not show any previous analytics data, and will begin collecting new data. 

Ideally, you already had GA4 set up for your site—as several of our clients did—prior to March 15, 2022, when Google made the big announcement. However, most companies are in a situation where they either recently heard the news about UA going away in 2023, or they just don’t know where to start. The best approach is to take immediate action—activate your GA4 account today with the bare minimum setup to start the flow of new data. 

At this point, don’t worry about full implementation. All you need to do is add a Google Analytics property with default setup and do minimal tagging. The new GA4 account will start collecting data in parallel with your existing UA property—they will each record activity on your web properties until the expiration date, when your GA3 or 360 will cease operations.

However, you should create a sense of urgency in your organization about the need to develop a full GA4 implementation plan that includes migrating or safeguarding your historical UA data, and training staff. Doing it right could take considerable resources so, if possible, gain buy-in from leadership to prioritize execution of the plan. July and October 2023 will be here before we know it, and key operations—especially marketing—could suffer without access to year-over-year insights and other valuable historical data. The sooner you start tracking with Google Analytics 4, the more historical and comparative data will be available once UA sunsets.

Why is Universal Analytics Going Away?

Universal Analytics is a powerful and insightful tool, but analytics has changed drastically since it was released more than 10 years ago. UA was built for a time when analytics focused primarily on desktop web use, independent sessions, and tracking data more easily with cookies. All these things are quickly becoming obsolete. Google Analytics 4 launched in 2020 and provides enhanced cross-platform insights, cookie-free traffic measurement, additional data such as predictive analytics, and more. We wrote a blog series about GA4 features last year that you can read here.

How Can Evolytics Help?

We set up GA4 on our own website more than two years ago and completed full implementation for several clients before Google announced sunsetting UA. We could say we saw the writing on the wall, but also recognized the value of using GA4 over UA, and those who already configured GA4 are reaping the benefits. 

Our extensive experience in full GA4 implementation means that we’ve already worked through the best way to get it up and running quickly and without any headaches. We’ve got a comprehensive, yet streamlined, process, and we can help you navigate through all the critical issues associated with changing your Google Analytics platform and managing your company’s historical analytics data. 

Most IT and marketing teams are already overburdened with day-to-day tasks and projects, knowing there will always be fires to put out that re-prioritize your work. But this is a fire that will take considerable resources to extinguish—burning hotter as the impending deadline looms. More than ever, this is a time when hiring a dedicated analytics partner like Evolytics, with a proven track record of implementing GA4 at the enterprise level, could save your organization significant time and money.

Keep in mind that GA4 is much different from previous versions of Google Analytics and the learning curve is often steep for even the savviest IT and marketing professionals. We also provide the necessary training and support to ensure that your team will hit the ground running before UA stops processing data.

We’ll discuss the many benefits of moving to GA4 in a future post, but a major upside is that this is a great opportunity to rebuild your analytics program to make it stronger than ever. Get in touch for more information about how we can help to make your Google Analytics transition stress-free, seamless, and optimized for future success.

This is the first in a series of three blog posts about Google sunsetting Universal Analytics. In upcoming weeks, we’ll provide additional information about making the transition to Google Analytics 4, including benefits and features, and implementation tips. In the meantime, check out our blog series “GA4 in 400 Words“—why you need GA4, how to get started, the new data model, core reporting changes, and more.