Farewell Universal Analytics (UA). Google is pulling the plug on what will be fondly remembered as a marketer’s best friend. The announcement came on March 16th, 2022, with the search engine leader now shifting marketers’ attention to the way of Google Analytics 4, which will remain the solely supported framework henceforth.
But why exactly is Google calling it quits on what has grown to be one of its most used web analytics services? More importantly, what does this mean for marketers and eCommerce SEO services going forward? We answer this and more questions as we put on our detective cap, and discuss how you can get ahead of the impending disruption.
What Google has said?
Mark your calendars, people. As of July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics ceases to exist as we know it. No more new hit processing. However, any digital marketing company or users running Universal Analytics 360 gets a little bit of a reprieve. They have up until October 1, 2023, to get their affairs in order as this marks the end of the road for the enterprise version.
So to sum it up:
- July 1, 2023- Standard UA properties deprecate
- October 1, 2023- 360 UA properties get kicked to the curb
That said, you’ll have approximately 6 months after July 1st before any prior processed data is also swept clean.
Why Google is putting an end to Universal analytics
In the fall of 2012, Google added a new level to its classic analytics, as it sought to revolutionize user data and give websites and businesses a window into the minds of their markets. Universal Analytics has for a long time fueled many digital marketing trends, enabling companies to sniff out and capitalize on profitable patterns.
Back then desktop traffic was huge, hogging the lion’s share of web traffic while mobile played second fiddle by some distance and was largely inconsequential. To be specific, 91.47% of it came in through desktop. With that in mind, Universal Analytics was anchored on desktop web analytic features.
Fast forward 10 years later, and a lot has changed in terms of traffic and user preferences, namely:
- Mobile phones now account for 57.38% of all web traffic, going by a February 2022 report (astronomically shooting up from a mere 8.53% in 2012)
- More than 6 in 10 web users say it’s a hard pass when quizzed if they’d go back to a site that’s not mobile-friendly.
Consequently, it’s clear that mobile has not only caught up but also outrightly flipped the tables and this can only mean one thing: the model upon which Universal Analytics was founded is surely past its glory days. The changing traffic landscape, which is gradually tilting toward mobile, is plunging the old model into obsoleteness, and down with it goes the effectiveness of Universal Analytics.
The news by Google to sunset Universal Analytics therefore shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, for any online marketing service that doesn’t live under a rock, you could see this coming from a mile away. It was only a matter of time.
Preparing for a future without universal analytics
Universal Analytics has had its day in the sun and is now in its twilight, but where do data-hungry marketers go from here? In steps Google Analytics 4- a cross-platform data analytics solution that irons out two major flaws that ultimately did in Universal Analytics. First, it offers cross-platform operation, enabling the capture of important desktop and mobile insights.
The nature of traffic aside, the way UA analyzes data brought to light major privacy concerns, in a world where data privacy legislation and policies continue to tighten while consumers became overly skeptical of digital spies, hackers, and overzealous marketers.
Universal Analytics finds patterns and user behavior, typically by:
- Storing IP addresses
- Observing cookies
- Monitoring independent sessions
You may already be able to see the red flags here, as these may certainly rub privacy regulators like the GDPR the wrong way. With Google Analytics 4, or GA4 if you will, things work quite differently. Unlike its predecessor, GA4:
- Doesn’t retain IP addresses
- Isn’t cookies based
- Opts for an event-based data measurement formula
Why Google Analytics 4 is the future for marketers
Google released GA4 back in October 2020 as a culmination of the company’s vision for the future of data analytics. For close to 2 years, the company has groomed Google Analytics as the heir to UA, rolling out numerous updates to increase its reach, expand its features and accommodate new demands from netizens and marketers.
It has quickly become the new yardstick due to its ability to meet web users’ increasing desire for better privacy protection. GA4’s surging popularity is also down to:
- Holistic insights: Unlike UA, its model is unified and not split into separate sessions.
- Range of data & functionality: GA4 pairs with many other Google products, making it an excellent option as far as ad campaign optimization is concerned.
- Better value: GA4 is able to not just analyze the past but predict the future. Its machine learning algorithms unearth key insights about your market’s next moves.
- Cross-platform convenience: From websites to apps, Google Analytics 4’s ability to measure engagement across different traffic divides has earned it favor with many marketers.
Where do you go from here?
It may seem like a long way off, but it’s best not to wait to cross this bridge when you get there. As a digital marketing agency, we’ve seen months pass by like a New York minute, and before you know it, you’ll be scampering to adopt Google Analytics 4 when your competitors have already beaten you to the punch. Remember, if you can do it today, why wait till tomorrow?
Moreover, there’s much else you stand to gain. For one, the earlier you start, the more historical data you’ll have to work with. You’ll get the hang of GA4 as well, and you’ll be on the same wavelength as your leads.
As Harold Wilson once said, “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”
Universal Analytics may be on its deathbed, but the future is alive and well with Google Analytics 4. Embrace it.