Web analytics has been the backbone behind a lot of digital marketing and advertising, giving site owners detailed info on who’s looking at their site and what they spend the most time and money on. By 2028, the industry is projected to be worth $550 billion, and the unyielding king of the market today is Google.
Google started their dive into the web analytics industry in 2005 by buying out Urchin, one of the biggest web analytics providers at the time. Using Urchin’s technology Google unveiled Google Analytics. Google Analytics represented the best analytic technology of the time, helping Google directly market across their site and offering detailed tag data, data which tracks users as an entity.
By 2012 Google Analytics only continued to grow by creating Universal Analytics. This would and has served as the new base behind Google Analytics since. Universal Analytics (UA) assigned specific user IDs to users that allowed site owners to track them across multiple devices and platforms.
This really opened the range of what Google Analytics could offer to its users. Even as recently as 2016 big changes like machine learning have been added to improve the system. Today over 28 million active sites are using UA as the backbone to their web analytics.
Recently though, this is all subject to change. In 2020, Google Analytics 4 or GA4 was introduced as the new backbone behind Google Analytics. Although UA is still offered, it will be shut down on July 1st, 2023. This means that within about a year GA4 will be the only option offered by Google.
This new system will offer a slew of benefits. It can track users across platforms but also apps, it offers far more detailed data and time tracking, it prioritizes the privacy of each site user more, and it can give predictive analyses such as a purchase probability.
New factors like these make it obvious why Google wants to promote their new system, although Google is unfortunately not offering any direct upgrade paths to current users of UA. This makes it a lot harder for current site owners to safely and cleanly make the transition.
Consequently, many site owners have opted to find an analytics partner to help them through that process. Any business that’s looking to upgrade themselves will need to familiarize themselves with GA4, recode existing tags, and redo their dashboarding. GA4 is the future of web analytics, but Google needs to make sure not to leave existing users in the dust in the process.