Chief Marketing Officers and Digital Marketers, take note: Google announced on March 16, 2022, they will sunset Universal Analytics on July 1, 2023, and sunset Universal Analytics 360 three months later on October 1, 2023. The announcement comes 18 months after the introduction of Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Due to the evolving nature of consumer behaviors and internet privacy, Google’s previous method of tracking users and forming buyer personas is now rendered obsolete. Google Analytics 4 promises to protect consumers’ privacy while providing new features aimed at safe data collection across websites and applications. For marketers, Google is building a sustainable platform for future data collection and reporting.
Benefits of GA4
Universal Analytics primarily centers around individual user sessions on desktop browsers. Because of this, completion of a full-funnel view of the customer journey requires additional work. Due to the increasing usage of mobile devices to complete transactions, gather information, and complete other online functions, the ability to track users without cookies is difficult. Additionally, GA4 can track data across applications, something the current program cannot capture. In a marketing landscape dominated by apps with an emphasis on collecting first-party data, this new feature promises to provide additional insights for marketers.
Progressing beyond simple last-click attribution models is essential in a complex online landscape. GA4 relies on event-based data models that can help marketers view and measure the impact of different initiatives. How do these variables impact essential metrics such as conversion rates, overall conversions, and bounce rate? GA4 can now inform marketers of these actions, whereas UA could not.
As previously mentioned, GA4 uses event-based data collection across websites, applications, and platforms. This enhancement of first-party data collection provides eCommerce sites an opportunity to construct enhanced buyer personas and lookalike audiences better. Despite no longer utilizing IP addresses to collect data, this attribution model offers a fuller picture of the life cycle in the relationship between company and consumer.
Google Analytics 4 also aims to provide users with comprehensive integration with other platforms and features in its marketing suite, such as:
- Googles Ads
- Google Search Console
- Google Ad Manager
- Google Merchant Center
- Google Display and Video 360
- Google BigQuery
- Google Search Ads 360
This cross-platform integration provides a seamless user experience and boosts efficiency for digital marketers when working in the Google suite of programs.
Phasing out Google’s Universal Analytics and Universal Analytics 360
After the sunsetting dates, Universal properties will cease to track new hits on websites. Data in Universal Analytics will continue to be in place for six months after the grace period. The data will not be accessible following the grace period. This will impact a majority of US-based businesses, with 55.59% of companies currently using Google Analytics.
Response to the Forced Move to GA4
Reactions to the move are mixed at best. Many in the industry have been reluctant to switch over to GA4, opting to stay with their existing UA and UA 360 accounts. This points to a glaring issue: if GA4 cannot attract the attention of marketers with its new features, how can it be better than the current iteration of the program? Google will update the product and revise user experience and machine learning. Still, with the forced transition less than six months away, marketers are concerned it could lead to a tumultuous transition period.
Additionally, the lack of access to historical data once GA4 becomes the default program throws the industry a major curveball. Comparative reporting is a staple of many marketers, particularly in SEO, which needs long-term data to demonstrate effectiveness.
Lever Recommended Next Steps
Lever Interactive is recommending implementing GA4 immediately for all our clients. This will establish historical data as soon as possible, allowing it to accrue before the forced transition from UA and UA 360 to GA4. We also recommend utilizing Google Tag Manager to add the proper script to webpages and testing all data streams to verify the efficacy of all URLs. If the implementation does not occur soon, here is a list of consequences businesses are facing:
Companies will be…
- Lacking historical data for year-over-year comparative reporting.
- Missing key insights for strategic efforts from event-based data.
- Remaining reliant on expiring third-party data.
- Working with an incomplete picture of their customer funnel.
- Risking scripts being incorrectly implemented and undertested.
- Losing an opportunity to QA tags in Google Tag Manager.
Guidance from a Google Premier Partner
If Google changes deadlines or information pertaining to Google Analytics 4, Lever Interactive will continue to update this post to reflect the most current facts.
For more guidance and to connect with a Premier Google Partner Digital Marketing Agency, reach out to us today. Discover how we can help grow your business through digital marketing while keeping you ahead of the latest advancements in technology.