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Google Analytics – time is running out…

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Have you updated your Google Analytics set up yet?  For anyone using the legacy Universal Analytics (UA) code you have until the end of the month (June 30th 2023) to switch to the new Google Analytics v4 (GAv4) method. 

Not sure if this affects you? Read on to see if you need to take action to change your Google Analytics set up, where to do it and how.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics (GA) is a free service set up by Google to allow site owners to identify trends and patterns in how people use their website.  GA handles both the data acquisition and analysis and visualization making it a powerful tool for any website owner keen to know how their visitors find and interact with their site.

You may have installed it on the site when you first built it, or your web designer may have done this for you.

How do I know if I’m using Universal Analytics?

If the GA code used on your site uses either analytics.js, ga.js or urchin.js then your site is using UA and you will need to switch to GAv4.  Similarly, if the tracking code in your script looks like UA-XXXXXXXX, then you still have UA active.

However, if your Google Analytics code uses gtag.js and the tracking code begins G-XXXXXXX then you are already on GAv4 and needn’t take any further action.

You can check this by looking at the source code for a page in your website. You should find the tracking code in the <head> of the document, relatively close to the top.

What’s the difference between UA and GAv4?

UA dates to the early 2000’s when Google acquired Urchin Analytics.  By 2013 this had been rebranded as Universal Analytics and quickly became the most widely used tracking mechanism available.  Traffic visible on a website and on an App were treated differently and appeared in discrete Views in the GA Dashboard.  In 2013 this wasn’t so much of an issue but by 2022 Google recognised that it was non-sensical to have traffic for the same organisation in two different locations.  As a result, GAv4 was developed and the decision to sunset UA made.  GAv4 also simplifies the number of reports available (UA having tens if not hundreds of different reports, some of limited value) and streamlines how activity is recorded.  Please note, this is a very simplified view of a much more complex situation.  For more in depth information see Google’s own Introduction to Google Analytics 4.

What do I need to do?

In your Google Analytics Dashboard, set up a new GAv4 property.  It is likely that Google will have done some of this for you already, but you will still need to confirm some of the settings.

Universal Analytics is going away is a useful article from Google on understanding the differences between UA and GAv4, as well as the steps needed to create / set up your new code.

You will then need to include the tracking code in your website.  This will be identical to the method you are already using for UA just the script or tag will look a little different.

What happens if I don’t set up and use a GAv4 code?

After 1st July 2023, the old UA code will cease to track visits and activity on your website.  That immensely useful stream of data on your visitors and their activity will disappear.  Your ability to track conversions, see popular pages and gauge the length of time each visitor stayed on the site will go.

The data tracked by the UA code should (according to Google) still be available for 6 months after July 1st, 2023.  Data can be exported during this time to preserve it since historical information is vital for comparing ongoing site performance.  After the 6 months have elapsed it is likely that your historical data will no longer be accessible.

Need help?

We can guide you through the process, watch over your shoulder (virtually) whilst you set up the new tag or, with your permission, set up and install a new GAv4 tag for you.

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