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Google Announces Deprecation of Universal Analytics

Google announced today that Universal Analytics (UA) will be deprecated in 2023. More specifically, this means that UA will stop processing hits on October 1, 2023 (for Google Analytics 360 properties) or on July 1, 2023 (for Google Analytics “standard” properties). We know this might raise a variety of questions for organizations still using UA today, but worry not — we’ve got all the details and recommendations for next steps below.

What exactly does Universal Analytics “deprecation” mean?

It’s important to be crystal clear on this point. This is more than an announcement that Google will simply stop supporting Universal Analytics. In this context, deprecation means that UA will stop processing hits entirely on the dates listed above. In other words, if you’re still collecting data with UA when the deprecation date arrives, your UA deployment will simply cease to function.

What do I need to do to get ready for Universal Analytics deprecation?

Google’s new flagship analytics product is Google Analytics 4 (GA4), also known as New Google Analytics. Organizations that haven’t already implemented GA4 should begin planning their migration from UA to GA4 as soon as practical. While GA4 and UA share some similarities, it’s important to note that GA4 is not an incremental iteration of UA. GA4 is a from-the-ground-up rebuild of Google Analytics, so be sure to allow yourself time to familiarize yourself with the key changes to plan an orderly migration and build familiarity with the new platform.

Organizations who have already implemented GA4 should work to ensure that any use cases for which they are still relying on UA have a plan for transitioning to GA4. For example, ensure that any custom events or other data being passed to UA but not GA4 are also implemented in GA4.

Is GA4 ready for “prime time?”

Google has made significant strides with GA4, even in just the past few weeks. For example, the integration between GA4 and Google Optimize is now live, as is the integration between GA4 and Display & Video 360. Other, similar integrations are due to launch in the future, as are key enterprise features currently only available in Universal Analytics.

While every organization’s requirements vary, there’s no doubt that GA4 is increasingly full-featured. We expect that even global enterprises will find very few capability gaps between GA4 and UA by mid-2022, which means that a UA deprecation date of July/October 1, 2023 gives organizations plenty of runway.

What happens to my historical data in UA?

After UA stops processing hits, your UA properties will become “read-only.” You’ll still be able to access historical data for analysis, benchmarking, and so on. However, we also recommend that you export UA data to a data warehouse such as BigQuery so that it can more easily be joined and harmonized with GA4 data, along with other datasets.

I’m a Universal Analytics 360 customer. What happens when I sign a GA4 360 contract?

After you sign a GA4 360 contract, your UA properties will retain “360” features for at least 6 months. At some point after 6 months, UA 360 properties will be downgraded to UA “standard” properties. This has a few implications.

  • 360 features, such as the ability to download unsampled reports, will no longer be available in UA properties.
  • UA properties will be limited to 10MM hits per month (until the UA deprecation date).
  • UA properties being downgraded from 360 to standard will not lose any historical data; they will simply lose the ability to use 360 features against any data in a UA property.

Why is Universal Analytics being deprecated?

UA has been Google’s flagship analytics product since it launched in 2012. Since that time, UA has had a wealth of new features and capabilities added to it. At the same time, the way that brands and consumers interact in the digital world has changed substantially — and in ways that create challenges when it comes to measurement and analytics.

  • Brands often no longer simply have a presence on a website; they have apps and potentially other connected platforms.
  • Paths to purchase or conversion are now more multi-screen than ever.
  • Consumers are more privacy-aware than ever, and data modeling is sometimes needed to “fill in” for data that can no longer be collected.

Google decided that tackling these issues required a fresh approach to the Google Analytics product, rather than further incremental improvements to UA. The result is GA4, which is the first “brand new” Google Analytics product in a decade, and is purpose-built to help marketers solve the complex challenges outlined above.

Summary

  • Universal Analytics will stop collecting hits on October 1, 2023 (for 360 properties) or July 1, 2023 (for standard properties).
  • Organizations that haven’t started implementing GA4, Google’s new flagship analytics product, should begin the research and planning process for migrating to GA4.
  • Historical data will be retained in UA, but it’s a good idea to plan to export it all to a data warehouse like BigQuery
  • GA4 is Google’s first new analytics product in a decade, and is intentionally designed to solve measurement challenges that UA was never meant to handle.

This post was originally shared on Merkle | Cardinal Path's blog.

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