Reporting Needs for the Sunsetting of Google Universal Analytics

In March 2022, Google announced that it was sunsetting its standard (free version, non-premium) Universal Analytics (UA or GA3) service effective July 1, 2022. ⁽¹⁾ In addition, Google announced that Google Analytics 360 service (GA360) was being phased out and upgraded using Google Analytics 4 (GA4) as its foundation. Google initially stated GA360 was sunsetting Oct 1, 2023, and later extended it to July 1, 2024, to allow enterprise customers additional time for the transition. ⁽²⁾

Since most of TribalVison’s clients utilized Google’s UA, we have helped our clients upgrade their website analytics platform from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 in the last half of 2022 as corporate initiatives.


Why Universal Analytics is Being Phased Out

Google is phasing out its Universal Analytics platform as it is “quickly becoming obsolete.” Google launched Universal Analytics in 2012, the same year as the iPhone 5. In 2012, users primarily accessed the Internet using desktop devices. Today, mobile browsers and apps are often crucial for many B2C and B2B customer journeys, serving as critical touch points in raising brand awareness and discovery.

Furthermore, Google Universal Analytics relied on first and third-party cookies to track users and for marketing purposes. With the advent of regulations and laws, our views of privacy changed significantly, and the industry matured.

Europe introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) became effective in January 2020. Later in 2020, Brazil and France also revised and introduced their data protection laws. In April 2021, Apple released its App Tracking Transparency feature that required iPhone users to “opt-in” to being tracked by apps.

While first-party cookies will remain in place for basic analytics (e.g., device, geographic identity, pages visited) and facilitating a good user experience (e.g., remembering passwords), third-party cookies will be phased out in the future. A third-party cookie is a tracking code placed by another company on the device (mobile phone, laptop, tablet) in the customer journey. Advertisers often utilize third-party cookies in retargeting the user on an unrelated website by triggering a third-party cookie.

To comply with GDPR, LGPD, CCPA, and CNIL, brands are now employing consent pop-up windows prompting users to accept or decline cookies. While cookie consent windows are helpful, in the future, brand marketers will need to focus on leveraging first-party data and utilizing CRM and marketing automation platforms such as HubSpot and Salesforce for optimal engagement.

With the phasing out of third-party cookies, Google is relying increasingly on technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence for predictive models, metrics, and analytics and has integrated this technology into GA4. ⁽³⁾


MoM, QoQ, YoY, and Seasonal Data Analysis

While the GA4 website upgrade has resolved new data collection issues for client brands starting on July 1, 2023, TribalVision is planning for potential data analysis that some brands may need later in 2023, 2024, and beyond.

Many clients perform month-over-month, quarter-over-quarter, year-over-year, and seasonal analysis and rely on website analytics like Universal Analytics and now Google Analytics 4 for channel and source/medium data analysis.

With the sunsetting of Universal Analytics, Google also stated the following:

“After July 1, 2023, you’ll be able to access your previously processed data in your Universal Analytics property for 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.” ⁽⁴⁾

Google’s statement contains two big “uh-ohs” for marketing and business analysts. Let’s provide a few examples to illustrate potential reporting challenges.


Uh-oh 1: Google UA will no longer collect data after June 2023.

This grid reveals that brands will not be able to compare Q3 or Q4 between 2022 and 2023. Within those quarters, brands often compare and contrast months as well.

For example, if you sell Halloween costumes, your brand will want to compare October 2023 to October 2022.

If your brand is retail and Christmas is your top-selling season, your business will want to compare the period of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, through December 31st.

Unfortunately, Universal Analytics will not report on these critical business data. If your brand experienced growth, you will not be able to note that using Universal Analytics. If your brand experiences a decrease in traffic and revenue, again Universal Analytics will not report that information. Of course, for some marketers, that may be a good thing.


Uh-oh 2: Accessing and the need to export historical data

Google says you can access your UA data for at least six months, yet the company has not announced when it will terminate access. Instead, Google advises brands to export “your historical reports” in this interim period.

Let’s revisit our grid to see how this is important to many brands.

Suppose your brand implemented GA4 on January 1, 2023, while maintaining UA. Using GA4 and UA simultaneously is a best practice. This allows your brand to compare and contrast the two data sources until UA stops collecting data at the end of June 2023.

Let’s further suppose it is now February 1, 2024, and Google announces that it will terminate access to Universal Analytics at the end of the month. The good news is that 2024 is a leap year, so you get 29 days to gather all your data for future needs.

We don’t know when Google will terminate access to Universal Analytics. As of January 2023. Google is strongly encouraging us to export historical reports.

Therefore, now is the time for your brand to start thinking about and gathering historical data for your future needs, especially from non-advertising channels like organic search, direct, social media, and referral.

Many brands evaluate annual data for trending purposes. For example, how did our organic search perform compared to previous years? What was our conversion rate from Google organic in the earlier years?

What percentage of our organic traffic originated from mobile versus desktop? What are the top landing pages by year? Businesses with regional or national offices may want to download data on local SEO traffic to each office for historical benchmarking.

If your brand relies heavily on organic social media, consider traffic and device data from posts on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. How many leads did the website generate from organic social media?

Referrals often generate high-quality leads, often from B2B partners. If your business relies on referrals, consider downloading data from 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Some brands may need historical data for auditing purposes. For example, if your brand sells advertising (newspapers, magazines, membership sites), it likely needs an audit trail to document data such as traffic, channels, source/medium, devices, and countries.


Next Steps for your Brand

Brands need to plan today for what data they may need in 2023, 2024, and perhaps 2025 from Google Universal Analytics. Once brands determine what data they need, the next step is to decide which format the data should be stored in for future data analysis and reporting (spreadsheets, cloud, database).

As we are discussing website analytics with TribalVision client brands, it turns out that all brands are different. Brands usually have unique internal business requirements for website analytics data and audit trails for other needs.

If your company needs the forward-thinking that TribalVision delivers to its client brands, learn more about how an outsourced marketing agency can help. We’ve assisted brands with digital marketing services that achieve business objectives, such as developing leads and increasing brand awareness in competitive markets.



(1) Google Marketing Platform

(2) Google Marketing Platform

(3) Google Analytics

(4) Google Analytics