At the start of 2022, Google shared a big announcement with all users that they are terminating the Universal Analytics (UA) properties in favor of Google Analytics 4 starting from July 1st 2023. As a Google Analytics 360 customer, you will have an extended deadline until 1st October 2023 to switch to GA4.
Universal Analytics was first introduced in autumn 2012 and in the last 10 years has been a widely used web analytics service. Krishan Gandhi, Head of Data and Analytics, said that this change was announced with the introduction of ‘Web + App’ in July 2019. In October 2020, ‘Web + App’ was renamed to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). However, in 2021, Google made GA4 their default/recommended implementation method. The timeframe given to the industry for switching to GA4 is unexpectedly shorter and will impact the businesses who do not act fast.
Migrating from Universal Analytics to GA4 by 2023, why is it important today?
It is of vital significance to start now with the implementation of Google Analytics 4 and run GA4 simultaneously with your Universal Analytics. If configured prior to July 1st 2022, GA4 will start tracking the metrics and the business will be able to maintain the ability to compare performance year on year (when UA is terminated).
Yet, if you have already set up GA4 to run parallel to Universal Analytics, you should not sit back and be relaxed. This is a great opportunity to review your measurement framework and make sure you are ready to entirely switch to GA4 when the time comes.
In which respects do Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 differentiate between each other?
The main difference between GA4 and UA is the data model. Universal Analytics had 7 hit types compared to GA4’s event-based data model using one hit type ‘event’. When an ‘event’ was sent to UA properties, it passed through three parameters (Event Category, Event Action and Event Label). Now, with GA4 up to 25 parameters can be sent with a single event all user defined.
Moreover, Custom Dimensions will no longer be available in GA4, instead you will need to use event parameters to transfer similar data to Google Analytics. This makes the migration to GA4 to some extend more complicated than altering the tag type in Google Tag Manager. This essential difference in the data model makes the data between Universal Analytics and GA4 incomparable, due to the fact that the processing and collection method is so considerably different.