Do This Before Google Sunsets Universal Analytics


Take these two steps to prepare for Google Analytics 4

There’s not much time before Google Analytics 4 (GA4) supplants Universal Analytics (UA) as the web’s leading traffic measurement and reporting tool.

As a quick reminder, Google is sunsetting UA on July 1, 2023. After that date, UA will stop collecting your data (unless you have a paid property, which stops collecting after October 1, 2023).

With the deadline looming, you’re probably asking: What do I absolutely need to do before Google retires UA?  

There are two critical actions to take: 1) back up and 2) set up.

If you’re feeling the pressure of the Universal Analytics sunsetting deadline, contact us to learn about our GA4 migration services.

How to approach your UA data backup

You should be concerned about losing your historical UA data. That’s because Google said it will eventually announce a date when you’ll no longer be able to access your UA property. Find more information on that, here.

Unfortunately, UA to GA4 is a major shift. You can’t simply merge your old UA data into GA4 because the measurement model has completely changed. Comparing Google Analytics data and reports between the two systems takes time and requires a solid understanding of the variations.

So, if you want to revisit your data in the future—comparing historical trends to current traffic patterns and user behavior—you’ll need to back it up.

Where do you start? Create a three-part plan where you determine:

  1. What data and reports to back up (we recommend pulling a full year of data to account for seasonality and sales cycles)

  2. Your preferred export option (e.g., .CSV, Excel files, Google Sheets, or BigQuery data warehouse for Google Analytics 360)

  3. Your data visualization tool (Looker Studio, PowerPoint, etc.)

Knowing what to preserve isn’t easy. We recommend a pragmatic approach to any backup plan. In other words, think about the data and reports you actually use. Export those.

Below is a list of few essentials to help you get started and why they matter.

Channel data

Shows where your website traffic has come from over time. This report type enables you to see sources such as organic vs. paid, and direct vs. social.

You can find this channel information under the Acquisition tab in UA.

User counts

See the distribution of recurring users and new users over time. Exporting this data allows you to measure changes in site traffic. Look under Audience to find this data.

General engagement metrics

Session times, average session durations, bounce rates, and pageviews all fall under this category. Saving this information will help you establish a baseline to measure the health of your site in the future.

Fundamental webpages

Pull specific performance data for the webpages that are critical to your site, the ones that will remain active in the future. Most of this data can pulled under the Behavior tab in UA.

Again, backup efforts can be time intensive. But adopting the right approach can save you hours and give you the confidence that you’ll have what you need for future analyzation.

Set up GA4: Tips to for early success

If you haven’t created a GA4 property, now is the time. First, check your account settings to see if Google’s Setup Assistant has done this automatically.

From there, look at the essential early migration considerations below. Note: These points are not comprehensive, they’re intended to work in conjunction with a full implementation strategy.

How do you want to view your data?

GA4’s interface changes how you see data, including the “Views” many grew accustomed to in UA. With some skill, you may be able to mimic your old Views by using GA4’s filtering and segmenting reports. But it won’t be easy.

We recommend pinpointing what you found useful in UA Views. Then apply that knowledge to align with GA4’s new reporting structure.

If your organization has multiple subdomains, consider how data should flow (or not flow) from your main domain across any—or all—subdomains.

You could choose to capture data across all subdomains for complete visibility into your users’ journeys. Or, for a more focused analysis, limit data collection to a single subdomain.

For example, you could have one view showing only your main site and subdomain. Alternatively, you could have two views—one for your main site and one for the subdomain.

How do you deploy tracking code on your site?

Some organizations deploy tracking scripts directly to their site.

For Refactored clients, we encourage Google Tag Manager (GTM) because it centralizes tracking codes, making them easier to manage and deploy without a developer’s help.

The tracking code for GA4 is different than UA. You'll need to update your code from what you had in UA.

To ensure a smooth transition, determine how your organization currently deploys tracking scripts.

How do you want to track conversions?

Conversions are critical website performance indicators. To track conversions in GA4, you should understand how your previous UA goals correlate to this system.

Events are the label GA4 uses to track conversions. GA4 has default events, but you will likely need to customize and add more, depending on what you're looking to track.

Do you have significant internal traffic that could pollute your data?

Get a list of all your internal IP addresses and ranges to filter. This helps keep your data clean, so you’re collecting customer data only.

Change your data retention settings

Data retention is one automatic setting we recommend changing during GA4 configuration (this can be done under "Data Streams" in the system). Google sets this to 2 months by default, but if you adjust this to 14 months you can see data over a longer span.

Hopefully, the points mentioned above will help you as you develop a more informed and comprehensive GA4 migration strategy.

Read more on migration by visiting Google Analytics Help

Refactored can help you migrate to GA4

With the Universal Analytics deadline swiftly approaching, it’s a smart move to have our experts help. Reach out to us about our migration service and we can:

  • Audit and document your existing UA property

  • Create a GA4 property with custom settings, features, and reports

  • Ensure your new property is setup properly, with documentation

  • Explore GA4 optimization opportunities

  • Provide ongoing analytics consulting

If you need a reminder on why Google released this update, read this blog.

For a more detailed comparison of how Google Analytics 4 changes your data and reporting, click here.