Google Analytics has represented the number one analytics service for years. Starting from the buyout of the biggest analytics provider in 2005, Google Analytics has grown to host over 28 million active websites. This means giving feedback on who’s visiting a site, when, what they buy, and determining things like the value of a customer.
Since 2012 this has been done on the backbone of Universal Analytics, the current system behind Google Analytics. This system allows the tracking of users across platforms by assigning specific user ID’s. And as recently as 2016 there have been changes like the addition of machine learning to improve the system.
Recently though Google has opted to instead reveal a new system, in late 2020 Google Analytics 4, or GA4, was introduced. This new system focuses on analyzing data from computer platforms as well as mobile apps, it also takes in more data, and has a large new set of features.
This is overall going to be good for the analytics of sites, although does represent an annoyance to existing site owners. Google is shutting down Universal Analytics on July 1st, 2023. This means every site has to transfer to GA4, and on top of that, Google provided no direct upgrade path to do so.
Site owners must take the opportunity now to do some spring cleaning. On top of learning about GA4 and the transfer process, conducting a data governance audit, future-proofing physical hardware, and shifting to more privacy centered tracking that may soon become mandatory are all practical things sites can do in the switch.
GA4, although a potential annoyance to some, represents the future of data analytics. Sites should prepare for this switch as the final days of Universal Analytics start to wind down.