In March, Google announced that as of July 1, 2023 Universal Analytics accounts will cease processing data. That means everyone will have to transition to GA4 (Google Analytics 4) or a Google Analytics alternative by that date.
With that announcement, marketing departments the world over breathed a sigh of relief. After all, July 1, 2023 seems far removed. (Especially given Google’s history of sunsetting features or platforms with much less notice.) July 1st is approximately one year and three months away. That’s about 450 days! Plenty of time, right?
Not so fast. While you technically do have plenty of time to start transitioning to GA4, at St. Gregory, we believe that the initial steps should happen sooner rather than later. We aren’t saying that you have to ditch Universal Analytics today, but you also shouldn’t wait until 2023 to start setting up GA4. Here’s why.
GA4 Doesn’t Back Date or Carry Data Over.
When you set up a GA4 profile, you’re starting with a blank slate. Google Analytics 4 does not back date nor does it carry over data from your Universal Analytics account. That means, on day one, your profile is essentially empty. Data will be collected going forward, but that’s it.
For proper analysis and optimization, you want to have historical data at your fingertips. And ideally, that data will be apple-to-apples (vs. trying to compare data in your GA4 profile to your Universal Analytics profile). Start establishing baselines by collecting data now. That way, when July 1st rolls around, you’ll already have an extensive amount of data to refer to.
Note: The default setting for data retention in GA4 is only two months. If you’d like to have additional (older) data to use in your analysis, be sure to change the default when setting up your profile. The max data retention period is 14 months.
You Want Time to Setup and Troubleshoot.
Having confidence in your data is important—otherwise, why even bother collecting it? By setting up your GA4 profile now, rather than waiting, you’ll have extra time to QA all of the different settings, custom events, and conversions as well as troubleshoot the data that is coming in. If you do uncover a critical issue, you can still fall back on Universal Analytics data between now and July 1, 2023.
If you wait too long, you could find yourself in a bad position, with error ridden data, with no alternative data source.
Give Yourself (and Your Team) Time to Adjust.
Google Analytics 4 is quite different from Universal Analytics. For example, in GA4, there’s a feature called engagement rate and bounce rate is nowhere to be found. In addition to new features and the retirement of existing features, the interface is entirely different.
All of this change can be jarring. In fact, your initial reaction may be to dash for the back button and retreat safely to Universal Analytics. Setting up your GA4 profile now will give you ample time to get comfortable with the changes before you must use GA4 for reporting and data analysis.
Furthermore, if some of the metrics you currently use in reporting are going away, setting up a GA4 profile now will give you time to rethink your reporting and make the necessary updates.
Since you can run GA4 and Universal Analytics in parallel, there’s no reason not to get your Google Analytics 4 profile set up right now. If you need help navigating the transition, St. Gregory can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.