The average position metric. True exact match type. Expanded text ads. Those are just a few of the things Google has sunsetted (their term for ‘phased out’) in the past few years. And soon, Google Universal Analytics will be the latest addition to that list.
Google announced plans to sunset Google Universal Analytics a year from now, in July of 2023. This news follows the launch of their newest, latest version of analytics: Google Analytics 4 (better known as GA4 – this being the fourth iteration of the platform, hence the name).
And while it feels like you might have a lot of time to get GA4 up and running, now is not the time to procrastinate. This isn’t like Google’s Expanded Text Ads that, even though they have been sunset, will continue to run until you pause them. It’s very important to get GA4 importing data right now because come next July, you won’t be able to review year-over-year (YoY) numbers. Universal Analytics will no longer process new data at that time, AND after six months or so, you won’t even be able to see your old data (you’ll have to download it to make sure you have it).
So making sure that you have GA4 up and running as soon as possible is crucial if those metrics are important to you. That way, when it’s time to make the transition to GA4 full-time, YoY data is readily available to you. If you need help setting up GA4, you can learn how to do so here.
One of the new features of GA4 is that you can now track both app and web traffic under a single property, whereas on Universal Analytics, you had to view them under separate properties.
Another major change (and the most important) is in line with another big happening in the tech industry based around cookies and the shift away from them due to privacy issues (read more about cookies and Google and “The Cookiepocolypse”). Universal Analytics has been around for 17 years after Google acquired Urchin Software and was built based on user sessions and used cookies to track a site’s data. Now, with the shift away from cookies due to privacy issues, GA4 is an event-based platform that uses first-party data to measure activity.
With that said, let’s talk about GA4. The early reviews for GA4 are not great out of the gate. The learning curve is steep. Navigation is an issue, and as is the case with a lot of Google’s recent new products, it’s more and more automation and less and less information. But since GA4 is a fairly new product, I think it’s safe to assume (read: hope) that some of these issues will be ironed out by the time Universal Analytics is sunset and GA4 stands alone.
So what do advertisers need to do to prepare for this upcoming shift? Well, as of right now, it seems all that you have to do is to set up your GA4 account, add the tracking code (don’t forget the separate ecom tracking to get revenue data), and run it side by side with your current Universal Analytics account. Start using it to familiarize yourself. Play with it now to figure out how it works so that when the deadline comes around, you aren’t left floundering.
There’s no telling what Google will be moving away from next, but given the coming Cookiepocalypse and Google’s shift towards more automation and less information, it’s safe to say that the PPC advertising universe might look a lot different than it does today.