How to Upgrade to GA4 & Prepare for the End of Universal Analytics

On Wednesday, March 16th, 2022, Google announced in a blog post that their Universal Analytics (UA) will begin its sunset in the summer of 2023. After the sunset, UA will no longer be tracking website traffic data for all Google Analytics (UA) accounts.

Google Analytics is extremely important for tracking the success of a website and digital marketing campaigns. Google Analytics gives website owners the ability to view the traffic that they are receiving and analyze it in order to be more successful in their web marketing efforts. Google has already sent account holders an email that explains that the sunset of universal analytics is coming in 2023.

How To Prepare for Google Analytics Sunset Update To G4

Why is Google Sunsetting Universal Analytics (UA)?

All software has its sunrise and its sunset.” – Steve Jobs

Google is ending Universal Analytics as the software was initially built for the generation of online measurement anchoring in desktop web, independent session, and observable data from cookies. The quickly evolving world of technology, digital marketing, and digital use has shown that this methodology is becoming increasingly obsolete. It needs new software to deliver cross-platform insights that can track with the next generation measurements.

The end of the Universal Analytics era means businesses can set up more specific metrics over multiple platforms to increase their insights and tracking data. In addition, Universal Analytics had some privacy concerns that were brought to light and will be adjusted in the Google Analytics update. GA4 will no longer store IP addresses that can be misused as personal identification information and an invasion of privacy.

To sum it up, Universal Analytics was an excellent software solution launched in 2005, and it has provided crucial information to help web businesses succeed. We are now in a period of advancements and online strategies that need a new software solution. Making the switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 before July 1st, 2023 is imperative for all web businesses.

When is Google Universal Analytics (UA) Going Away?

What is happening to Google?

Yes, it is assumed that once something is on the internet, the information will exist forever. However, your Universal Analytics will disappear and not be able to be accessed once the Universal Analytics sunsets.

Plan Your Timeline:

For standard customers, all properties will stop processing new hits immediately on the 1st of July 2023. After the official retirement date, you will have access to your previously processed data through Universal Analytics for six months. Marketing teams are given ample time to find alternatives for website analytics. However, making the Google Analytics 4 update now will cause less stress when July of 2023 rolls around.

If you are a Google Analytics 360 customer, you will only have an additional three months to switch to GA4, which will be October 1st, 2023.

How Long Will Universal Analytics (UA) Last?

All Universal Analytics properties will be permanently deleted in the future (6 months after July 1st, 2023). We currently recommend exporting your historical data and updating it to Google Analytics 4.

Google has made it clear that they will not retain your Universal Analytics data forever; therefore, exporting any important history is crucial. One simple solution to storing your historical data is in a Google Sheet, then connect it to Google Data Studio so you can visualize and analyze the data. Ironistic would be happy to export your data and set up Google Analytics 4 tracking for your web business, so you need not stress over the monumental transition.

Google Universal Analytics Example

What Will Replace Universal Analytics (UA)?

The Only Option: Google Analytics 4

Universal Analytics will be replaced with Google Analytics 4 as the default for digital analytics measures in Google Analytics. The question may pop up, what are people doing now? Many of us are scrambling to learn a whole new online implementation and tracking environment. The upcoming switch has brought an opportunity for more profound knowledge and learning. Although the Google Analytics 4 update is intimidating, we have researched and continue to understand more daily.

You have made it halfway through, so keep reading to get into the criteria and explanation for your next steps towards GA4. Because Google analytics is so important for website management, it is crucial to upgrade your website as soon as possible.

How to Prepare for The Sunset of Universal Analytics (UA)

Take the transition in stages:

  1. Get GA4 set up now and start sending data to that account immediately
    • The moment you get GA4 set up for your digital properties, you are starting from scratch, and any previous analytics data will not be shown, but new data will begin collecting. Start with the default setup and do minimal tagging. The approach of immediate action gives your account the GA4 activation while the flow of new data begins in parallel with your existing Universal Analytics property. Now you have a basis that is recording each activity on your web properties until the expiration date.
  2. Communicate so everyone is on the same page… and do your homework
    • The new Google Analytics will impact how everyone in your company and current/future clients tracks their data. The key to success here, as much as you may hate to hear it, is communication and research. Yes, we are all in this one together, starting from scratch and figuring it out as we go. Set up team meetings, learning time, and client calls to ensure everyone understands how the Google Analytics 4 update will function for your data reporting. Furthermore, if you are unsure of the answer, do your homework. There are plentiful resources available. Just ask Google 🙂
  3. Develop a complete GA4 implementation plan
    • A sense of urgency should be brought to your organization as you plan implementation to include migrating or safeguarding your historical Universal Analytics data. Previously stated, a Google Spreadsheet attached to your Data Studio Report is an ideal solution. Completing this implementation strategy and developing a full Google Analytics 4 update could take considerable resources, so start now with prioritizing the execution and communicating with leadership.
  4. Contact Ironistic to help with the transition
    • We are always looking to provide the most modern web services to our clientele and we know how time consuming this Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 upgrade can be. If you are interested in sparing the time and energy in the Google Analytics 4 transition, contact us and we will provide for you the best work in the most timely manner.

What is (G4) Google Analytics?

In October 2020, Google introduced Google Analytics 4 to keep up with the changes in dynamics of modern web usage such as smartphones and apps. GA4 is an event-based measurement platform with deeper integration with Google Ads. The new GA4 does not use cookies, has cross-device measurement capabilities, and does not hold IP addresses.

Let’s review a short summary of a Google Analytics Property.

A GA property is where your company’s online data goes to get processed by Google Analytics. The property sits within the Google Analytics account, where the manager organizes the data tracked using multiple properties. The data processed takes place at the property levels. What is changing here with Google Analytics 4 properties? Traditionally, Universal Analytics would have a single account for two distinct properties – one for the app and one for the website. Now, Google Analytics 4 will have a single property containing data for both the app and web.

Google Analytics 4 Measuring Users.

How will data be tracked if GA4 does not use cookies? Google Analytics 4 allows businesses to measure platforms and devices using multiple forms of identity. The identity includes first-party data and Google signals from users who have opted into ad personalization. Here is the catch, Google Analytics 4 will still use cookies where they are available for tracking, but as privacy is becoming increasingly important, it is assumed cookies may become less prevalent.

To conclude this section, Google Analytics 4 provides a deeper analysis of your consumer and app/website build. The next section further breaks down Google Analytics 4 and how it differentiates itself from Universal Analytics.

Google Analytics 4 Upgrade Example

Google Analytics 4 (G4) vs. Universal Analytics (UA)

Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics are not the same. Universal Analytics highlights total users in most reports, whereas Google Analytics 4 focuses on active users. The calculation for the metric of users is different between UA (shows total users) and GA4 (shows active users). Therefore, Google Analytics 4 provides more accurate results based on user’s activity in real-time, but how does the activity get tracked, and what is the difference?

Session-Based Data Model

In Universal Analytics properties, the data is grouped into a session, which is the foundation of all reporting. A session is a group of user interactions with your website that are taken within a given time frame. During that session, analytics collects and stores the user interactions as pageviews, events, and eCommerce transactions, as hits. A single session can contain multiple hits depending on how the user interacts with your app/website.

Event Based Data Models

In Google Analytics 4 properties, the data can still be seen as a session but analytics now collects and stores user interactions as events. The event-based data models records user interactions with your website or app as events which promote insight on what is happening on the interface (pageviews, button clicks, user action, etc.) The idea behind event-based analytics is that the information will be fully specific to the user’s action while giving further context to the event/user. For example, value of purchase, title of the page a user visited, or the geographic location of the user.

The Difference

In Universal Analytics, it is possible to measure events like button clicks, scroll depth, and downloads but there require the help of implementing a Google Tag Manager. In Google Analytics 4, there are certain events (“recommended events” and “custom events”) that do not need Google Tag Manager to create tracking. They are basically making life easier on you for having a default tracking set up.

Events in GA4 to Track Data

Category 1 & 2

Automatically Collected & Enhanced Measurement Events

  • Language
  • Page Location
  • Page Referrer
  • Page Title
  • Screen Resolution
  • Page Views
  • Scroll Tracking
  • Outbound Clicks
  • Site Search
  • Video Engagement
  • File Downloads

Category 3

Recommended Events

  • Predefined names & parameters that are recommended based on business
  • Custom code changes required
  • Can be implemented with Google Tag Manager

Category 4

Custom Events

  • Custom code changes required
  • Can be implemented with Google Tag Manager
  • No direction on how to name events, user decision

The Benefits of Google Analytics 4

  • Can measure data across websites and apps.
  • Improved Customer Journey Tracking.
  • Improved user engagement analysis.
  • More powerful audiences for your ad campaigns.
  • More intelligent user privacy and tracking features.
  • Simplified Goals and Events Setup.
  • Enhanced visualizations and reporting.
  • Available in real time.
  • A plethora of parameters.
The Benefits of Google Analytics 4

Do I Have To Switch to Google Analytics 4 (G4)?

Although you don’t have to switch to Google Analytics 4 right now, it is highly recommended that you make the switch as soon as possible so that you can maintain historical data. The upgrade to google analytics 4 can sometimes be difficult or confusing, but the fact is that if you want to track any data after July 2023 you will have to switch to G4 at some point so you might as well do it now.

How To Know if You Are Using Google Analytics 4 (G4) or Universal Analytics (UA)

If you are already on the ball and set up your GA4 property, great job! Now the confusing part of deciphering between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 until Universal Analytics retires. However, distinguishing between the two is pretty simple and there are multiple ways to check.

Option 1:

  1. Log into your Google Analytics property
  2. Look to the left sidebar of the interface
  3. If you see parameters like “Explore” or “Configure” – you’re using Google Analytics 4
  4. If you see parameters like “Audience”, “Acquisition”, “Behavior”, or “Conversions” – you’re using Universal Analytics

Option 2:

  1. Check the tracking code/source code of the website
  2. Code: gtag – Google Analytics 4
  3. Code: analytics.js – Universal Analytics

Option 3:

  1. Check Google Tag Manager for Google Analytics (GA4) tags
    • EX: “GA4 Configuration” or “GA4 Event”

How To Upgrade Google Universal Analytics (UA) to G4 and Add It to Your Website

Because Google Analytics 4 is event based, the best and most modern method of installing G4 on your website is to take a Google Tag Manger first approach. Google tag manager allows you to create Tags and Triggers that will track key events on your website such as button clicks, form submissions, and page views.

Google Tag Manager First Implementation

Standard Implementation:

  • Install Google Tag Manager
  • Link Google Universal Analytics to Google Tag manager
  • Link Google Analytics 4 to Google Tag manger

Advanced Implementation:

  • Install Google Tag Manager
  • Link Google Universal Analytics to Google Tag Manger
    • Set up Google Universal Analytics Views
  • Link Google Analytics 4 to Google Tag Manager
    • Link G4 to Data Studio
    • Create Custom Data Studio Report
  • Install Google Search Console
  • Link Google Ads to Google Tag Manager
  • Install or Update Tags and Triggers

An Overview of New Google Analytics

The time has come to switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4. When you are ready to complete the GA4 upgrade, the majority of the transition will be done from the Google Analytics admin platform. When launching the setup there is an upgrade assistant to help walk you through the steps, but like a car or house, not everything is as cut and dry. Multiple factors will come into play depending on if you are creating a new GA4 property or connecting with an existing GA4 property. The unforeseen steps that may have to be taken while setting up GA4 will require time, research, and resources; therefore, the sooner you complete your setup the better it will be for your company.

How We Can Help You

When you partner with Ironistic to set up your GA4 property, we are listening to your request while keeping a few key pieces of information in mind. First, your new GA4 property won’t have historical data, so during the transition the exportation of any historical data you request will be performed. The most basic settings will be copied over to your new GA4 property, and the expectation of what you previously had set up in Universal Analytics will have to be customized based on your wants/needs. Default and customized tracking codes will be enable to your website to shift from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4. Once all the tags are created and confirmed as firing correctly, the published changes will be made in Google Tag Manager, and your new GA4 tags will be live on your website tracking the flow of data.

The Difference Once You Switch

In the admin area of Google Analytics, when you transition to GA4, you will only have a two column view, “ Account” and “Property”. When you finish upgrading to GA4, your existing reports will be the same in your Universal Analytics property because the upgrade process creates a new property. You will have Universal Analytics and a GA4 property running in parallel, so on July 1st, 2023 when the UA property disappears the GA4 account will continue tracking with a smooth transition.

Get Started Updating Your Google Analytics Today!

Give Us a Call at (703) 829-0809 or Send Us a Message

Email From Google Analytics (with G4 account already set up):

Title: “We will begin to sunset Universal Analytics in 2023

Google Analytics 4 is our next-generation measurement solution, and is replacing Universal Analytics. On July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits. If you still rely on Universal Analytics, we recommend that you complete your move to Google Analytics 4.


You’ve already created a Google Analytics 4 property. Now’s the time to ensure that your setup is complete. If you haven’t started collecting data in your Google Analytics 4 property, you should do so now. This will allow you to gather the historical insights you need to measure your results over time when Universal Analytics stops processing hits. If you are already collecting the data you need in Google Analytics 4, you should ensure your remaining setup is complete.

You can continue to use and collect new data in your Universal Analytics properties until July 1, 2023. After that, you will be able to access your previously processed data in Universal Analytics for a period of at least six months. We know your data is important to you and we strongly encourage you to export your historical reports during this time.

In the coming months, we will provide a future date for when we will fully sunset Universal Analytics. On this sunset date, you will no longer be able to see your Universal Analytics reports in the Analytics interface or access your Universal Analytics data via the API.

If you have questions on successfully making the switch to Google Analytics 4, check out our Help Center resources. For questions on how moving to Google Analytics 4 could affect your Google Ads campaigns, contact Google Ads Support.

Improve Your Analytics

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