Have you been getting messages about a Google Analytics deadline and wondering what that is all about?
The "old" Google Analytics tool, Universal Analytics (UA), will stop collecting data on July 1, 2023. To continue to use Google Analytics to track user data on your website or app, you'll have to switch to Google Analytics 4, if you don't already have it.
What does that mean?
Google is replacing Universal Analytics (also known as Google Analytics 3) with a "new" tool called Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Everybody that uses Google Analytics needs to switch to GA4 by the deadline because Universal Analytics will not track users on your website or app after that.
You will have a data gap if you are collecting data in Universal Analytics and not collecting data in GA4 yet.
So if you use Google Analytics and don't have GA4, yep, you need to worry about it.
Exceptions: If you use Google Analytics 360, the deadline is July 1, 2024.
How do I know which version I have?
If you started using Google Analytics on your website after October 2020, you might have GA4 already. After that date, Google Analytics 4 was the default setting for new Google Analytics properties.
However, some platforms (like Shopify) didn't roll out the ability to add GA4 without an app or coding until the last couple of months.
So if you're still in the camp of needing to change - or not knowing - you've got a lot of company.
And keep reading for how to check which version you have.
What does the July 1 deadline mean? Do I need to switch now?
Google recommends using UA and GA4 in parallel before the deadline to ensure you see the same numbers with both systems. GA4 collects data differently than UA, so your configuration may need some tweaks to get comparable data from the new system.
Using both systems and comparing their data can help you ensure that GA4 is set up and working correctly before UA stops tracking users on July 1.
However, since we are roughly two weeks and closing fast, you won't have much time to collect data from both systems. I still recommend collecting data using both systems for as much time as you have left. Also, I'll give you some recommendations for making sure GA4 is collecting data properly at the end of this post.
A little background
A lot of us use Google Analytics to monitor our websites. The kinds of data most people track include:
- number of visitors in a given time frame, likely monthly
- number of page views for various pages on the website
- number of sales and sales value (for e-commerce)
- number of new visitors vs. returning visitors
- which page people visit first
- how long people spend on each page
- traffic source (where visitors arrived from, like social media, Google search, or email marketing campaigns)
And much more. This data helps us ensure we serve our visitors with our websites.
Universal Analytics has been around for years and has some privacy concerns. Also, it tracks users based on sessions and page views when someone clicks on a website - rather than focusing on users and their behavior.
Google Analytics 4 is the next version of the software. It collects data based on events and allows a deeper understanding of user behavior. And it is more privacy-focused.
What's the difference between the two?
GA4 collects data differently, which means the data it collects is a bit different than UA data. GA4 allows you to track individuals as they use your site, but it keeps that data anonymous to better protect users' privacy.
So what is the TL;DR?
- If you're using Google Analytics, check to see which version you have.
- If you are still using Univeral Analytics, you must switch to GA4 before July 1 to make sure you will continue collecting data.
- The recommended switch date is the soonest you can manage so that you can collect data with both systems for the time left before the deadline. This way, you can compare the numbers to make sure you have GA4 configured to measure the data you are looking for.
- If Google set up a GA4 property for you, you'll need to complete the setup. (A property is a collection of data for a website or app. If you're using UA, you have a Universal Analytics property. To switch to GA4, you need a GA4 property).
- If Google did not set up a GA4 property for you, you'll need to set up your own GA4 property and edit the tags on your website.
Transition Guides for GA4
*Follow my steps (below)
It's only suitable for very low-level use and setup of GA4 - no advanced topics are addressed.
Also, if you purchase a subscription to Your Website Buddy™ or a YWB Accountability session during the month of June 2023, you can get access to the how-to video for free.
The video is not for advanced users and does not include advanced topics like Google Tag Manager.**
Basic Guide to Migrating to GA4
Step 1: Which version do you have?
Log in to your Google Analytics account.
Here's my version:
Google Analytics 4
Do you see a giant countdown timer or a Complete Setup message in red at the top?
If not, check your property ID next (it's highlighted in yellow in the graphic below).
Make sure that you have a property ID that does NOT have "UA-" in front properly.
If you have only one property and it has an ID without "UA-," you have GA4 and no need to switch versions. You're done! Skip steps 2, 3, and 4. You can use the resources for using GA4 in step 6 if that's useful to you.
Here's a graphic showing what it looks like to have a GA4 property.
You can check out the resources for using GA4 at the bottom of the post if you'd like to use your data more.
You have Universal Analytics if you see any of these indicators:
1. A giant timer in the center of the screen that says, "This property will stop processing data starting July 1, 2023."
2. A message in red at the top of the screen that says, "This property will stop processing data starting July 1, 2023."
3. A property ID with "UA-" at the beginning, like the yellow highlighted ID in the graphic below.
Go to Step 2 if you have any of the three indicators that you have Universal Analytics.
Step 2: Did Google create a GA4 property for you?
If the countdown timer or red top message also says - "we have created a GA4 property for you" - then Google may have created a GA4 property for you.
Another indicator that Google created a GA4 property for you is if you have two properties for your website, one WITH a "UA-" ID and one without, as shown in the graphic below.
Go to Step 4 to finish setting up your GA4 property.
If the message at the top of the screen says "Begin Migration" then Google may not have created a GA4 property for your site.
Also, if you have only one property for your site and it has a "UA-" ID, you do not have a GA4 property yet. Go to step 3 to create your GA4 property.
Step 3: Create a GA4 property if needed
There are several buttons you can click to get started with migrating your site to GA4.
-"Go to Setup Assistant" on the countdown timer
-"Begin migration" in red at the top
-"Get started" if you have a message about Google Signals at the top of your analytics page
You can also go to your admin settings, then click GA4 Setup Assistant under the Property Menu.
You can link your new GA4 property to your Universal Analytics property - at least for the next couple of weeks. You can also select to reuse your analytics tags, which means you *might* not have to connect your website.
Step 4: Connect your website (if needed)
If you set up your own GA4 property in step 4 or using another tutorial, you might need to connect your website for the data to start flowing.
*For WordPress users, you have lots of options for plugins or code snippets. Here's an article from WPBeginner that might help.
*For Shopify users, here's a link to a tutorial for basic GA4 connection.
*For Wix users, here's a link to a tutorial.
*For Squarespace users, here's a link to a help article.
*For Weebly users, here's a link to their help page.
*For other platforms, your platform help should offer a tutorial for adding the GA4 property ID to your site. Google also offers a help article for CMS-hosted websites.
Step 5: Set up your new GA4 property
If there is a button that says "Go to GA4 Setup Assistant" on the timer, or a red button at the top that says "Complete Setup" - click either one to finish setting up your Google Analytics 4 property.
On the setup page, look for the data streaming section. If it says "data flowing" - you are collecting data in your GA4 property. That's a critical question.
Once the data is flowing, you can follow a tutorial like this one from Painless Blog Analytics to help you complete the GA4 setup.
*Note that by default, GA4 only retains data for 2 months. Change the setting to 14 months - in Admin settings, Data settings, Data retention - if you'd like to keep your data longer.
Step 6: After GA4 is working
*I recommend you monitor both systems as long as UA is collecting data. You can get the freebie template I'm working on if you like, just enter your email in the form below.
*Here are some resources to learn more about GA4:
->Porter Metrics offers a tutorial for migrating to GA4, but it involves Google Tag Manager, which is an advanced topic for Google Analytics.
->Analytics Mania has a helpful YouTube channel, although again, the topics can get more advanced.
->Measureschool.com has some resources as well
*Your UA data will be stored in the Google Analytics system until July 1, 2024 - so make a plan to export or extract the data that you need to keep before then.
*Finally, if you are fed up with Google Analytics, there are alternatives. Check out my resources page for a link to Fathom Analytics, a privacy-focused alternative. (I'm an affiliate.)
Looking for more DIY website help? Check out Your Website Buddy™, my 12 month subscription to turn your website into an effective marketing tool.