Google Analytics 4 to Replace Universal Analytics in 2023

Keith Marshall, Digital Marketing Strategist, Partner

Key takeaways:

  • Your current website data software (Universal Analytics) will stop working on June 30, 2023 
  • Google Analytics 4 is designed to track your customers or clients in a “cookieless”, multi-device world
  • A customized GA4 setup will enable better marketing decisions
  • Ally Marketing offers a multi-point, customized GA4 installation for all kinds of organizations

Estimated read time: 4 mins

The time has come to setup Google Analytics 4 (GA4) for your business. GA4 is the next-generation analytics platform that Google is promoting to replace its old Universal Analytics platform, which has been in use since 2012. Google has said that Universal Analytics will stop recording on July 1, 2023. It’s highly likely that your business is currently using Universal Analytics since the software has an estimated 85% market share in the U.S., especially its free version.

Can’t Google Do It Automatically?

Google has emailed current Universal Analytics users saying it will automatically create a new GA4 property sometime in March 2023, but it will resemble a basic setup that doesn’t fulfill your business’ specific measurement needs. 

We strongly recommend that you have a professional customize the setup for your business. GA4 setup customization will enable your business to track specific user actions on your website and measure the success of marketing campaigns. Without customization, your business may end up with incomplete or irrelevant data that provides no meaningful insights.

In this article, we briefly explain why Universal Analytics is going away, how GA4 is different, and the setup customizations we can implement on your business’ behalf.

Why is Universal Analytics being replaced?

Google is replacing Universal Analytics with Google Analytics 4 to meet the evolving needs of businesses and address new challenges in data analysis. One of the main vulnerabilities of Universal Analytics is that it relies on cookies for measurement. “Cookies” are small files stored on a user’s device when they visit a website, and they allow us (as marketers and business owners) to track customer on-site behavior, such as visits, pageviews, and conversions.

Since Universal Analytics launched, cookies have become less reliable due to changing user privacy preferences and regulations (e.g. Apple iOS 14 release). With more users “opting out” of tracking, cookies provide businesses with reduced insights to make informed marketing decisions. Additionally, the use of cookies has been phased out by major web browsers, such as Safari (since 2013), Firefox (since 2013), and Google Chrome (sometime in 2023).

Another shortcoming of cookie-based tracking is due to the high number of internet-connected devices used by consumers today (vs. 2012). Today, the average U.S. household has 22 connected devices. Put another way, most consumers effortlessly switch between their smartphone, tablet, and laptop when visiting websites. This “cross device” behavior isn’t trackable by Universal Analytics.

In summary, GA4 offers website measurement for a “cookieless” world.

How is Google Analytics 4 different?

Google Analytics 4 uses a new way to track website visitors compared to Universal Analytics. Most importantly, it provides cross-device measurement for improved conversion tracking (e.g. lead generation, online sales, etc.). Unlike Universal Analytics, GA4 can track someone who clicks your promotional email on their smartphone on Day 1, then clicks your Google Ad using their tablet on Day 2, and then returns to your website and submits an inquiry form using their laptop on Day 3.

Another difference is that it can measure customer engagement across multiple marketing tactics (such as the email and Google Ad in the prior example), and between your business’ website and mobile app. GA4 also introduces machine learning-powered predictions for more advanced insights.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of GA4 versus Universal Analytics:

Scroll left to right on you mobile device to view table.

Software Universal Analytics Google Analytics 4
Measurement Uses “cookies” to measure a user’s visit on a single device Uses Google account info, customer sign-in ID, and other signals to measure user on-site behavior across multiple devices
Reporting Limited cross-device and cross-platform (company website or app) reporting Full cross-device and cross-platform reporting
Automation Limited automation of any kind Machine learning automatically identifies insights for marketing action

Overall, GA4 provides a more comprehensive and flexible approach to data analytics, catering to the needs of modern businesses.

How Ally Marketing can help

Our certified experts can help your organization maximize GA4’s full capabilities and customize its setup to provide more meaningful insights and improved decision-making. 

Our Google Analytics 4 installation includes:

  1. Conversion tracking setup of any website behavior important to your business (e.g. lead form submission, email sign up, etc.)
  2. Activation of GA4’s enhanced measurement tracking (e.g. tracking of file downloads, scrolling, video plays, site searches and more) 
  3. Activation of Google signal tracking (e.g. reveals visitor demographics and interests)
  4. Connection of GA4 to your Google Ad and Google Search Console accounts
  5. Cross domain tracking (if you wish to track customers across multiple websites)
  6. Exclusion of “internal” (e.g. employee) website traffic, which can skew reports
  7. Setup of “custom events” (tracking for specific on-site activities)
  8. Creation of “remarketing audiences” (that will target visitors for repeated exposure and lead generation)
  9. Ecommerce tracking setup (for website sales and revenue measurement)
  10. Creation of custom filters or segments for greater insights (ex: reports show only U.S. visitors or visitors with other specific attributes only)
  11. Setup of website “sales funnels” (e.g. shows clickstream data for checkout insights)
  12. Creation of a GA4 “test property” to protect the integrity of your main property’s data

We can also help your organization save its data stored in Universal Analytics. This can be done by migrating data to Big Query or Google Sheets. Whatever you need, we’re here to help.