4th August 2022
Last week Google announced it was pushing back the deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome by a further year, until the second half of 2024. This is the latest announcement on Google’s journey towards a cookieless world as it has also announced that its website analytics solution, Universal Analytics, will be shuttered in 2023 and replaced by Google Analytics 4 (GA4) – a solution launched in 2020 and designed to be more privacy orientated, with cookieless measurement built in.
Talking about its decision to shutter Universal Analytics the company said: “We will begin sunsetting Universal Analytics next year. All standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits on July 1, 2023. Given the new Analytics 360 experience was recently introduced, Universal Analytics 360 properties will receive an additional three months of new hit processing, ending on October 1, 2023.
The current Universal Analytics is the third version of this solution – UA has been active since 2012 and is by far the most widely used solution in the world for tracking traffic to websites. However, online media is moving at lightning speed. UA was built for a world of sessions tracked through cookies, most of them happening on computers (rather than mobile handheld devices). In short it has become obsolete. In contrast, GA4 is event-based, started as an app-first solution and makes full use of cloud automation and ML features, including flexibility to future technological changes, and has data privacy as a building principle - GA4 will not store IP addresses.
All tracking by UA will stop after October 1st 2023. Data already collected by then will be available to download for six months after that date.
While GA4 is still in beta mode (expected to be released as a stable version at the end of 2022), it is ready to be used, and recently introduced three new metrices to the platform: Bounce rate, UTM term and UTM ad content and Conversion rate.
For those that will need to transition to GA4 it will be important to start preparing and the only way to have detailed benchmark data ready before UA expires, is by starting to implement and collect new traffic data as soon as possible. Implementation and daily use of GA4 through its interface is significantly different from UA, and hence training is required for those not yet familiar.
Google’s said its decision last week to delay cookie deprecation on Chrome was taken due to the consistent feedback it received about the need for more time to evaluate and test the new Privacy Sandbox technologies. The company is also expanding the testing for the Privacy Sandbox API. Privacy Sandbox trials will expand to millions of users globally in August as Google gradually increases the trial population throughout the rest of the year and into 2023.
For those moving to GA4 it will be important for site owners, administrators and analytics leaders to have put in place a transition plan for GA4 as soon as possible to be able to track traffic sources and measure journeys after that date. Google’s postponement of the deprecation of cookies gives it more time to develop new technologies for the market and gives the industry more time to adapt to a cookieless future.