Universal Analytics is dead; long live Google Analytics 4

We’re now in a post-Universal Analytics world. The data processing platform was retired on July 1st 2023 and replaced with Google Analytics 4 (GA4), leaving marketers with the task of familiarising themselves with the new platform.

While change can be a daunting prospect, there are lots of positives about the newest version of the tool. Ronil Mutha, analytics executive at Axonn, said: “GA4 is a start towards building a complete picture and gaining more accuracy about user behaviour with cross platform and cookieless tracking abilities.”

An empty cookie jar

The writing has been on the wall for cookies for a while now, with users and legislation more mindful of online privacy for individuals. As they’re phased out, marketers are looking for ways to leverage the data they do have access to and the new generation of Google Analytics fulfils that niche.

As third-party cookies have been integral to creating targeted audiences for Google Ads, GA4 has been developed to utilise machine learning instead. The Insights feature automatically flags irregularities in the available data to better understand your audience’s behaviour.

Balancing privacy against anonymity

So, if the reason the internet’s going cookieless is a need for greater privacy, how can marketers continue to track user behaviour? The answer is to do so while preserving anonymity. Instead of cookies, the actions taken by visitors to your site are tracked through their User ID.

GA4 then allows you to build accurate audiences, grouped together by similar behaviours, to target on Google Ads. This is more nuanced than the features that were available in Universal Analytics and should therefore offer better results.

Venturing into the unknown

Earlier this year, a GA4 property was automatically created for any marketer who hadn’t proactively opted out of getting one this way. That should help to ease the transition from Universal Analytics to GA4, as many of the existing site tags will be transferred across.

Google said: “If you use Universal Analytics data in your Google Ads account, make sure you migrate your Universal Analytics property’s Google Ads links to your Google Analytics 4 property.”

All is not lost

While Universal Analytics has stopped processing hits, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost all the data you’ve collected previously. Marketers will still be able to access this information up until July 2024, so there’s time to make the most of it if you haven’t been proactive in formulating a plan.

By then, you should have transferred to GA4 and hopefully be confident in using the new platform. Need help with the switch to GA4? Axonn’s dedicated data and analytics team can show you around the tool and ensure you’re making the most of it to meet your marketing goals.