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Universal Analytics given notice by Google

The original ‘Universal’ version of Google Analytics has now been given notice by Google with a set date when it will be discontinued, as Google Analytics 4 (GA4) becomes the future version of this tracking tool. We featured a series of articles about the new GA4 setup and reports over the past 18 months, and recommended that website owners track through both versions in tandem. As we now have a set end date for Universal, this becomes a more definite point of focus to move to GA4.

Google Analytics 4 is Google’s next-generation measurement tool, and although it’s not seen as user-friendly as the established Universal Analytics version, it will become the only way to track website and app activity online. Since GA4 was widely launched in October 2020, there has been uncertainty about how long the transition period would be between the old and new versions of Analytics, but Google has now provided this clarity.

On July 1, 2023, the standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing data. So for the next year or so users can still use and collect new data in a Universal Analytics property, but after this date users will only be able to access the data “for at least six months”. This is likely to be contentious for companies with years of historical Analytics data about their business, and although Google “strongly encourages” users to export these historical reports during this time, the process won’t be that easy.

Google says there are currently several ways to export data from a Universal Analytics property, but these are the standard download options, such as CSV, Excel (XLSX), Google Sheets or PDF, and these will provide static reports without the ability to easily compare data sets. Google intends to offer more guidance on data export nearer to the date when Universal Analytics is no longer available, but this is likely to be an unpopular move and it’s possible that Google may allow access to the old reports for a longer period after 2023.

Google says that in the coming months, they’ll provide a future date for when existing Universal Analytics properties will no longer be available and after this future date, users will no longer be able to see their Universal Analytics reports in the Analytics interface or access the Universal Analytics data via an API.

As we have recommended in the past, it’s best to make the switch to Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible and to build the necessary historical data and usage in the new experience, in preparation for the time when Universal Analytics is no longer available. This may require changes to your current Analytics code, and you may not want to use the new reports yet, but when the time comes that you transition, you will have built up the data for several years of activity.

GA4 has received a lot of negative feedback since it was introduced as it becomes harder for many users to access the data and produce reports, so it’s possible that Google will add more tools and help with this new version of Analytics as existing users grapple with the change in setup, tracking and reporting options. In the meantime, you should ensure that both versions are tracking data on your website and that you start to become more familiar with how GA4 will help you gain the business insights you need in the future.

If you want to know more about GA4 and the transition for your website, please contact us for help or read more about our Analytics services. Alternatively you can read the articles below which we have published over the past 18 months.