For local businesses that handle digital marketing internally—or who work closely with an advertising partner to develop, launch and manage campaigns—Google’s Universal Analytics solution is likely a cornerstone of your advertising and marketing strategy.

Soon, though, that strategy will be forced to change: Google has announced plans to shut down Universal Analytics by July 2023, replacing it with an updated analytics solution known as Google Analytics 4.

This kind of transition can be a source of anxiety and frustration for businesses of any size—especially if you’re already satisfied with your experience using Universal Analytics. Google’s announced switch also raises logistical challenges of how small businesses will navigate this migration, preserving their digital campaigns and analytics while minimizing the disruption and resources involved in adopting GA4.

With that in mind, here’s an overview of Google’s planned transition to GA4, and what your business needs to know as you plan out your digital advertising future.

What is Google Analytics 4?

As Google’s own announcement suggests, Google Analytics 4 is billed as the “next generation” of analytics to support your advertising and marketing campaigns. It expands upon the capabilities of Universal Analytics, delivering the following upgrades:

  • Improved privacy settings and futures. As increased attention is paid to data privacy, Google Analytics 4 provides upgraded privacy capabilities and the ability to adapt to future privacy regulations and preferences. GA4 also does not rely exclusively on cookies, which is a welcome innovation as the digital advertising landscape prepares for a post-cookies future.
  • Machine learning to upgrade analytics performance. Intelligent analytics tools will deliver deeper insights to enhance and optimize your digital marketing campaigns—across all devices and platforms, and throughout the customer journey.
  • Improved integration with other applications and platforms within Google’s advertising suite. Better integrations improve data sharing and campaign optimization, delivering better ROI for your small business campaigns.

Why Does Google Analytics 4 Matter?

Beyond the disruption that comes with changing out analytics platforms, GA4 is notable for small businesses for a number of reasons. Understanding the significance of this upgrade—and the timing for your migration away from Universal Analytics—will be crucial to maximizing the value of this change, while minimizing its disruption.

Here are the key highlights you need to know:

  • Universal Analytics will stop collecting data by July 1, 2023. To continue collecting ad campaign data, you will need to migrate over to GA4 prior to this date. This gives your business a little more than a year to plan out your transition.
  • Your business will be able to track and target the customer journey across both online and offline touchpoints. This is a huge benefit to any business, particularly if you are attempting to track complex customer journeys through Universal Analytics. GA4 promises to make this easier and more accurate, eliminating gaps that can compromise your tracking and ability to optimize campaigns for better results.
  • You won’t be reliant on cookies to target consumers. With major tech brands like Google and Apple moving away from third-party cookie tracking, your business will benefit from getting ahead of the curve and embracing analytics that don’t depend on cookies to target an audience.
  • Google Analytics 4 promises to improve your audience targeting and campaign optimization. From cookieless targeting alternatives to intelligent analytics powered by machine learning, Google is incentivizing your migration from Universal Analytics by pointing toward the potential for better advertising and marketing ROI.

What Do Small Businesses Need to Do, and When?

If you’re stressed out about the unforeseen changes Google is about to force on your advertising strategy, don’t panic. While this transition will need to be dealt with eventually, you have plenty of runway to make sure this transition is executed properly, and with timing that best suits your business.

Ideally, your business should try to switch over from Universal Analytics to GA4 as soon as possible, if only because GA4 offers more powerful analytics tools that will improve your performance. An earlier switch also lets you start building up more historical data, strengthening insights faster by bolstering the data available to Google Analytics 4’s various tools.

If you work with a digital advertising partner, though—or if you’re interested in connecting with a digital advertising partner to improve your advertising and marketing strategy—it makes sense to consult with them first and develop a strategic plan for switching over to GA4.

Cox Media, for example, can help leverage all of your GA4 data to optimize digital video campaigns across our DV360 solution, delivering greater ROI potential by maximizing GA4 and its new-and-improved data-driven insights.

Make the most of your switch to Google Analytics 4—contact us today to see how we can help.