Google announces double product sunset in 2023

By Simon Clark • 14 February 2023 • 4 minutes reading time

Google has now announced not one, but two product sunsets within one year! Read on to find out what they are, how they affect you and how we can help if you’re stuck.

Sunset 1 – Universal Analytics/GA3

Unless you have been living under a Google-sized rock for the last year, you will have heard that Google is to sunset Universal Analytics or GA3, with all standard Universal Analytics properties stopping the processing of hits on July 1, 2023.

Our resident Analytics expert, Dale Higginbottom shared all of the information and timelines in his blog post when the news first dropped last year – Why you need to act fast following Google’s Analytics announcement – which is definitely still worth a read.

With time running out for those who’ve not made the switch yet, nothing has been released to say this deadline will change, so if you are still using a Universal Analytics/GA3 property, you really need to migrate over as soon as you can to a) get as much data flowing into GA4 as you can now and b) so you are prepared for a seamless transfer of tracking come July.

Despite Google’s recent attempts to ease the migration pain, these properties are very different, which can often mean some time and effort are required to ensure you are correctly tracking meaningful business metrics.

Below are some of the key points that Google has mentioned GA4 will ship with:

  •       Collects both website and app data to better understand the customer journey.
  •       Uses event-based data instead of session-based.
  •       Includes privacy controls such as cookie-less measurement, and behavioural and conversion modelling.
  •       Predictive capabilities offer guidance without complex models.
  •       Direct integrations to media platforms help drive actions on your website or app.

If you are wondering whether you are set up for GA4 or if your tracking is sufficient, or if you need training on the new tracking & reporting methods, we can support you.

As echoed in Dale’s article above, this overhaul is a good opportunity to press the reset button on your tracking and data collection. Do you need that Goal? Is E-commerce tracking setup and showing us helpful insight? Do those Events need to be tracked anymore? Lots of questions and this is where a measurement plan comes in essential.

“That measurement plan should include a comprehensive list of everything that you’re tracking in your current analytics setup as well as anything else that could be beneficial to your business. Use this change as a great opportunity to really understand what you need from your analytics tool, what metrics are relevant and key to the strategy and success for your business and how you can simplify what data you are collecting to make it easier for users of your analytics property.”

Our analytics and insights team can help to better understand your business and customers, and what you’re trying to achieve, and create a measurement plan that gets the key insights you need to make decisive improvements.

Sunset 2 – Google Optimize

At the end of January 2023, Google announced that its completely free A/B testing solution, Google Optimize, will no longer be available after September 30, 2023.

Google states that Optimize, “does not have many of the features and services that our customers request and need for experimentation testing. We, therefore, have decided to invest in solutions that will be more effective for our customers”. Interesting comments that I am sure will be interpreted in many ways across the globe.

I take this as an admission that Google knew GO was an essential (completely free) tool, used by many to start experimentation, or for agencies like us, to be an integral part of our testing roadmaps, but that it couldn’t keep up with features demands or compete with the larger, more established tools in the market.

Also, with resources surely being pulled into the GA4 project, I would take a stab that this has taken Google’s full focus as it can generate a lot more money from its Analytics platform.

What does this mean?

If like us at Evolved, you use Google Optimize to power your (in-house or agency) experiments and A/B testing, you may feel some sadness and maybe a bit of panic. Sadness because nobody likes change and what this potentially brings – training, hours of implementation and more. Panic since losing anything that you use on a daily basis seems like a big loss. Not to mention the cost-saving, let’s be totally honest.

But, after a few days of watching the story unfold on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Slack channels, we started to see that this could be a great chance to take a step back and use this as an opportunity to begin to understand what alternatives are out there, that might actually give us better capabilities and make us more efficient.

Way before this news was announced, we had already begun to create timelines for GA4 rollouts and what this meant for our A/B testing dashboards, so we were already deliberating what changes would need to be made. This news has given us some clarity on the situation and a vision of what direction we want to take next. This is genuinely exciting and we do believe we will be able to take our testing & reporting to a new level for our clients.

What’s the timeline?

Google has said that Optimize will stop working after September 30, 2023, but will continue to work up until that point, so get testing! They are encouraging all users to download any historical data from within the Optimize account if they want to keep a record of any past tests.

In terms of the future, Google recently updated their announcements page and shared several collaborations with AB Tasty, Optimizely and VWO who will create integrations with GA4. These will have early access to APIs and will allow them to get a head start on creating integrated solutions within their platforms.

Fear not, however, if you are not using one of these three tools.  Google say they will make their APIs publicly available so anyone can integrate with Google Analytics 4. Not to mention that most of these tools have solid reporting functionality built in.

Finally, should you be worried?

Not in our opinion. There are, however, changes afoot for every business that utilises one or both of these platforms.

GA4 will become your new analytics tool, just as Universal Analytics did all those years ago, or you’ll switch to a different one (Adobe Analytics, Matomo, Snowplow etc) and continue to collect behavioural data on your onsite users and understand channel performance.

Yes, there will be new implementation requirements and a shift in how you track and collect your data, but this can be completed swiftly (by us at Evolved if needed) and added to over time. The GA4 in February 2023 will be completely different to the GA4 in February 2024 we are sure, but for the better in the long run.

The biggest change we will all have to get used to in GA4 is their reporting and dashboards. You don’t get much out of the box in GA4, and you won’t be able to open the plethora of pre-made reports anymore, but, you may have only used 5-10 of these anyway. This is where you may need the most support, but again with any new tool or update, there will be a learning curve.

This is nothing new. As mentioned previously, we have already completed migrations of all shapes and sizes to date and are preparing for more over the course of the next few months leading up to July’s cut-off point.

In regards to Optimize, yes, this free tool is disappearing, but there are many other platforms out there and we are already in the process of finding a solution that works for us as an agency and for our clients. We have used many tools over the years and they all have the same output – spitting out the experimentation code, splitting traffic and reporting on outcomes.

The big difference is that we/you will have to pay for the privilege. As an agency, we can offer the best tool for our clients and absorb some of the costs, so that you don’t have to shell out for Enterprise-level, expert tools. We also ensure that these tools are utilised in the most effective way to get the best results, as you’d expect!

If you would like us to audit your current GA4 setup, chat with us about getting it implemented on your site before the July 2023 sunset or find out what other A/B testing platforms there are, get in touch.

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