Love ‘em or hate ‘em, but Google Analytics are a part of our website universe. At least if we’re interested in knowing if anyone actually visits our websites.
So it might be time to haul out the heart medication when Google announces the end of Universal Analytics. I mean, there’s a learning curve and you know how to find the info you need about site visitors in there. And run the reports you need to see how things are going over time.
And now they’re telling us it’s going to be gone. Soon.
Okay, we had a hunch this was coming. It’s been some time since Google introduced Google Analytics 4 (insert fanfare here).
But it seemed they were the only ones truly excited. Because frankly, reporting in GA4 has been, well, not helpful. Lacking. (okay, retract fanfare).
Current best practice for analytics
So the best practice for the last year or so has been to make sure you have both the old UA and the new GA4 active and connected to your website. Think of it as the best of both worlds.
Because it’s cool to see who’s visiting your website right now, or yesterday or even last week. But what we really need is to be able to compare current with a bigger past, like year-over-year. For that we need history. The longer the better.
Google analytics of any flavor only collects history for a website once installed. There’s no magic button for when I’ve just installed analytics and now I want to see how things were a year ago. Or even last week. Analytics start building history only after up-and-running. That’s true for UA and for GA4 as well.
Plus, you need to be aware that there’s no upgrade path. No way to take all that glorious history from years of using UA and dropping it into GA4. Nope. None whatsoever.
Installing GA4 is starting fresh.
Which is why you need to install both. Today. So GA4 will have history collected for your website when we finally start relying on it for the entire analytics picture and reports.
Given that reporting in GA4 hasn’t been great so far, we’re pretty much just letting it collect data at this point.
That in turn hasn’t created any particular urgency to install GA4 on your site. After all, there’s always tomorrow. It’s about to become a big deal.
Why the future of Google analytics starts today
Google has now announced that as of July 1, 2023, the old UA will no longer collect new data. You’ll still be able to access the old data for another 6 months or so. But no new data.
That means as of July 1, 2023 we’re relying 100% on GA4 for the analytics data for our websites.
Okay, you say, that’s well over a year into the future. So what’s the panic today?
Simply this: No history transfer from UA to GA4.
So if comparing current data with historical data is important for your website and business, now is the time to make sure GA4 is installed and working on your website.
That way come July next year, you’ll have a solid year plus of history to compare to. And getting that year-over-year picture in live reporting will be at your fingertips.
We can’t make up for past years of missing analytics data in GA4. But we can make certain to collect it starting today and going forward.
There will be more information coming over the next year about how to make the most of GA4 and get the reporting you need. But again, none of that will matter much if the historical data isn’t being collected. And that needs to start today.
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