Google Analytics is changing how it tracks data, and your legacy data is soon to be lost
Incase you didn't know, Google is changing their analytics tracking system. Google Analytics has been the industry standard for tracking who visits your site and what they do when they are there, plus a whole ton of other info. It has been a standard in website design for decades because it is free, powerful, largely easy to use, and hugely beneficial.
But a lot of that is about to change...
The new version, GA4 will be based on a totally new way to track information. Instead of just keeping track of who is visiting what page etc. now tracking will be based upon "events"... which you have to set up. Here it is directly from google:
In [Universal Analytics] properties, Analytics groups data into sessions, and these sessions are the foundation of all reporting. A session is a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame.
During a session, Analytics collects and stores user interactions, such as pageviews, events, and eCommerce transactions, as hits. A single session can contain multiple hits, depending on how a user interacts with your website.
In GA4 properties, you can still see session data, but Analytics collects and stores user interactions with your website or app as events. Events provide insight on what’s happening in your website or app, such as pageviews, button clicks, user actions, or system events.
Events can collect and send pieces of information that more fully specify the action the user took or add further context to the event or user. This information could include things like the value of purchase, the title of the page a user visited, or the geographic location of the user.
Clear as mud, right? Well to geeks it makes sense, but ultimately as a business owner, you just want your data in a way that you can easily digest and take action with. Unfortunately google is a bunch of geeks that don't think like you do.
Now for the bad news.
The difference they are explaining above means that all the data you have collected with your old Universal Analytics system is about to go away. Yup, the new way of collecting data and the old way are not compatible. Google is giving you about a year to save what data from Universal Analytics you want before they shut it down completely. So, good news/bad news there... good news is that you can download your data. Bad news is that you can only download it as csv's or something similar to import into spreadsheets. That's a ton of data to try to make heads or tails out of in a spreadsheet.
To help with the transition, google suggests to get your GA4 account set up and working as soon as possible so you will have some data to compare when Universal is shut down. That is not a great solution in our humble opinion. At the very least they should keep access to the data available for the foreseeable future. But because it is SAAS, our (and your) opinion doesn't matter and they can basically do what they want.
What if there was a better way? One that allowed you to keep your data in a format that makes it usable and still track the data you need in the future when Universal Analytics goes away. At Your-Web-Guys, we have been working on such a solution for our clients for a while now.
Why the change?
They have updated it several times over the years with the most recent change called Google Universal Analytics. They do it to keep up with the changing landscape of the internet and to track data better (though this is a bit more nefarious than it sounds... keep reading). It was a headache when they made the switch from the previous version to Universal, but essentially it was a good change even though it was a difficult process to go though. All of our clients were updated and the change was fairly painless for them because... that's what we do, make things painless for our clients.
However, if you were not one of our clients and went through that process then you probably know what a pain it was. Well, get ready because the switch to GA4 (which is the new version of analytics that Universal is being moved to) is going to be a living nightmare.
What you can do about it
If you want to keep using Google's properties then you have to go through the migration process. Its a pain and its time consuming, but here are the instructions if you need them. However, there may be a better solution. We have rolled out a new product called Self Owned Analytics Tracking and for the first time ever, we are doing it for folks who do not host and maintain their sites with Your-Web-Guys. Use the link below to schedule a free assessment of your website to see if Self Owned Tracking is right for you