Why you should add Google Analytics 4 now before your current view disappears forever

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If you’re as nerdy as I am, no doubt you’re terrified – and excited – by the news that Google is ‘sunsetting’ its existing Universal Analytics to speed THE adoption of Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

Terrified, because ‘sunsetting’ really means ‘disappearing forever.’  It’s the digital equivalent of shooting someone in the head and burying the evidence in a bottomless pit.

For those of us in PR and marketing who rely on analytics to understand what is happening on our clients’ websites – and use these insights to inform future strategy – the loss of historical data is, yes, terrifying.

But also: exciting. A new* analytics platform means the potential for new ways of gathering and interpreting information about customer habits.

For now, though, it’s mostly terrifying.

The dangers of not adding Google Analytics 4

To explain why this matters, as simply as possible…

What we generally refer to as Google Analytics is, technically, called Universal Analytics. It’s been around in its current format for around 10 years.

Google made its next-generation analytics platform – GA4 – available a few years ago.  Users have been slow to adopt, so in March Google confirmed that Universal Analytics will disappear from July 1st, 2023, essentially to force people to upgrade.

In other words, if you want to keep using Google for analytics purposes, you have 15 months to make the change.

Yet it’s worse than that.

In 15 months, all of the data you’ve collected with Universal Analytics will disappear, too.  You can archive, export, or save it somewhere else, of course, but you’ll lose the ability to quickly and easily compare historical periods with the present day.

We’re hardly starved for drama in 2022, but Google seems intent on playing the role of the dastardly villain, twirling its moustache while the imperiled Universal Analytics inches closer to extinction.

Are you ready for GA4?

The asterisk in the previous paragraph reflects the fact that GA4 isn’t new at all. As I’ve said, it’s been around for a few years, and early adopters are already familiarising themselves with its features.

However, from a practical viewpoint, GA4 is new.  I know I’m not alone in only really noticing it because of the death threat to its predecessor.  Not all marketers are fully conversant with every dotted ‘i’ and crossed ‘t’ at Alphabet.  Most use Google Analytics, purely and simply, because it’s really, really useful.

Anecdotally, I’ve spoken to several marketers and none of them was aware of the situation.  Even for experienced professionals, the impending data disaster has been hidden in plain sight.

The good news: you can add GA4 today

The important thing is not to delay. Google Analytics 4 will begin gathering data the day it is set up. Do this today, you’ll have 15 months of data by July 1st, 2023.  If you leave it until then, you won’t have any.

The good news is that you can have both versions of Analytics running in parallel.  So, should you desire, you can continue to use Universal Analytics until the bitter end – or at least until you’ve got the hang of its replacement.

Please, please set up GA4 – right now – so you can maximise the volume of data being captured.  If you still need convincing, here’s a blog explaining the significance of the changes to Google Analytics and the importance of having the new one set up as soon as possible.

How to add Google Analytics 4

The set-up process, although rather laborious, is quite simple to understand.

Google’s instructions are exemplary. Follow this process, and you’ll have GA4 up and running in no time.

Once you’ve done this, the *next* challenge will be to set up any data filters.  Most organisations have data they wish to exclude, as this can skew the results.  The most obvious example is internal traffic.  What’s the point in reporting 1,000 visitors a day if 900 of them are your own employees?

Again, the process is reasonably straightforward, and everything you need to create, and test, filters is on this helpful link.

The journey to Google Analytics 4 begins here

You should now be safely set up with Google Analytics 4 and can breathe easy. Come July 2023, you will have 15 months of data. Others, slower to realise the importance of Google’s decision, won’t be so lucky.

How you interpret that data, is a question for another blog. Like you, we’ll need some time to fully understand Google Analytics 4.  But at least it’s no longer terrifying. Now, it gets exciting.

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