When managing your business online, one of the first things you must master is optimizing your website and generating more targeted traffic.
Google has always provided webmasters with a universal analytics system to measure their website traffic. It’s typically with demographic and strategic data you could use to tweak and better harness your target audience.
But in July of 2023, this system is going away and being replaced by a new system called Google Analytics 4, or GA4. You, as a site owner, need to know what this change means and how to migrate your site so that you continue gathering essential data.
You want to learn how to save all the historical data your domain has accumulated up to this point. This type of growth is vital to know; if you are not timely with your efforts, you’ll lose it all.
How Google’s Analytical Data Can Help Your Business
Analytical data is critical to help your domain achieve high rankings in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Without understanding who your audience is and how they find you, you won’t be able to improve your efforts and beat the sites you’re competing with.
You can use it to see how visitors respond to your content if they’re bouncing or sticking around, and how they navigate your pages. If you’re running a campaign, you can track its progress and see if you have achieved your goals.
Using this data type, you can see patterns emerging. You’ll see particular content styles that perform better for you than others – or specific topics that your visitors flock to more.
Your visitors’ behavior will help you with future content creation and campaigns to ensure they get optimized for performance. Previously, you were signed up as a Google Analytics user and installed some code on your site.
Whenever people visit your site, the browser collects the information. Google harvests that data to present in a format where you can see the visible results in graphs and tables.
You might notice certain pages where people bounce at a high rate. Or you might see that your specific tweaks have resulted in a more extended “On-Site” average session on your site.
You have also been able to track information for keywords, which sites have backlinks referring people to you, and more. You can even learn how many pages a person averages when visiting your domain, determining its stickiness.
Analytics has helped many industries because it gathers so much information and is a free service. It’s also effortless when used, so even beginner web admins have no problem using this data to their advantage.
The End of Universal Analytics and the Beginning of GA4
Google’s Analytics 4 was launched officially in October 2020, and many already use it. But many are still stuck on the old version of universal analytics, which can soon pose a problem for them.
On July 1, 2023, Google will shut down Universal Analytics, and hopefully, you’ve migrated to the GA4 system before then. To understand more, here are some differences between the two.
GA4 uses more artificial intelligence tools to gather and deliver its information to webmasters. It works better with Google Ads and focuses on lifecycle data regarding your visitors.
They have also updated it to align better with data management guidelines and regulations. You’re collecting information without overstepping boundaries, using privacy controls like cookieless measurement.
The new version accurately gathers data from both websites and apps. While analytics previously collected data based on each session, now it can base its data on each event instead.
There are ways this analytics system can present you with behavioral modeling and conversion modeling. As a result, you can improve your online content campaigns for better performance.
Plus, they now have more integrations to different media platforms allowing more control of the actions on your site or app.
So the new system has more functionality and better data delivery for each decision maker and site owner to rely on and use to their advantage.
Loss of Historical Data from Google Analytics
Many web admins have seen and are currently using the new system. But many have not taken the steps needed to switch to GA4, forcing Google to put a time crunch and eminent deadline on them.
On July 1, 2023, you will no longer be able to see new information processed using the old version of Google Analytics. Until then, the system will continue collecting and presenting data to you.
Google will give you a six-month window of opportunity (possibly longer, but this is the minimum) to export the information during that timeframe. After the deadline, the system will no longer process new hits to your site. You can still access your historical site data – but only temporarily.
If you want to export your data, the process is relatively easy. You can export it in an Excel spreadsheet, PDF, or other formats that are easy to read. Use the Google Analytics Reporting API when you’re ready to export the information.
Migrating Your Site to GA4 Going Forward
It would be best to start your GA4 migration as soon as possible to avoid the deadline when it arrives. Google has a Setup Assistant to help you create a Google Analytics 4 account.
You’ll still have the basic information, like goals and conversions, but there will be some things you can opt out of as you go through the setup process. It’s best to check to see which version you’re using.
Google said anything created after October 14, 2020, is probably the new GA4 system. But if you started it before then, you’ll likely be on the old Universal Analytics system and need to migrate over.
How you migrate over will depend on what you currently have happening. Look at the property ID for your analytics site. If it’s numerical only, you’re already up to date! If it starts with UA, followed by numbers, you’re on the old system.
If you are brand new to Analytics, you’ll create a new account, configure the settings for all data sharing, and add the first property to your account. You’ll choose your industry, accept the terms and add your data streams before adding the Google tag to your web pages.
There is also an option for adding Google Analytics 4 to a site with the old Universal Analytics installed. The two will run side by side. The Setup Assistant will copy the information over for you. You can add Google Analytics 4 to a content management system or a website builder (like Spotify, WordPress, WooCommerce, etc.). Never wait until the last minute to make the switch because you need this information to help you excel with your content efforts as a dominant industry leader.