Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics – Core Differences

Differences Between GA4 & Universal Analytics

You might have heard about the news that Universal Analytics will stop processing hits from July 1st, 2023. This means that you need to switch to the latest version of Google Analytics i.e. Google Analytics 4. However, before switching to the updated platform, many users are still confused about GA 4. Thus, we have listed some of the key differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics that you might need to look at.

Before jumping to the differences between their metrics, let us first have an overview of both these platforms.

What are UA and GA4 in Google Analytics?

Introduced by Google in 2005, Google Analytics is an analytics tool that is used to track website traffic. It is also useful for mobile app traffic & events. Google introduced this platform after acquiring Urchin.

In the last 18 years, it has become the most widely used web analytics service in the world of the internet. During this long period, the parent company released many updates, and the analytics tool is now in its 4th iteration — GA4.

Key Differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics

  • GA4 tracks events, instead of sessions or page views
  • GA4 offers cross-device and cross-platform reporting
  • GA4 enables automation and AI to provide predictive analytics
  • GA4 can be both easy and complicated as per user needs

Both tracking systems look similar, but there are a lot of differences. Before that, the similarities between them are in the main purpose they are supposed to serve, which is to allow people to measure the performance of a business website.

A lot of people who have been working with Google as a creator partner are used to the interface of Universal Analytics, or GA3, but the new metric system does not change any functionality of the webpage.

The tracking system has been around for very long but it only gets better with time, which is why many people believe GA4 to be very advanced in comparison.

Differences Between GA4 and Universal Analytics

Universal AnalyticsGoogle Analytics 4
User MetricsUniversal Analytics offers two User metrics, including Total Users, and New Users.Google Analytics 4 has three User metrics, including Total Users, Active Users, and New Users.
New UsersIt denotes the users who visited your website for the very first time.It denotes the users who visited your website or launched your app for the very first time.
Page ViewsTotal number of viewed pages. In this count, repeated views of a single page are counted.It denotes the number of app screens and/or web pages viewed by the users. Plus, it includes repeated views of a page or single screen.
SessionIt denotes the amount of time any user is engaged with your website.It will be counted as a new session if the user comes back after a session timeout. In GA4, a session ends when there is more than a 30-minute period of inactivity.
PurchasesPurchase events in GA3 are dismissed within the Enhanced E-commerce model.Purchase events in GA4 collect data in the same way as Universal Analytics, but it does not provide any additional JavaScript for array collection.
Acquisition MetricsThis metric is available in the Acquisition section as a number of reports, such as the Source/Medium report.In GA4, you will find the traffic acquisition metrics in the Traffic Acquisition report.

Differences in Tracking Activities of GA4 and UA

With Universal Analytics, any interaction of the user with the website was classified as “hits”. These “hits” could be viewing the page, clicking on an event, social interaction on any of the web pages, or monetary transactions. This was limited, and not all of the activities done on the website were tracked by it. Hence, the major difference between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics is that it is ideal for retargeting campaigns as it includes,

  • Purchase Probability
  • Churn Probability
  • Revenue Prediction

GA4 lets you track more things that are arguably equally important, such as clicking on a link, starting the download of a file, submitting, purchasing, and the number of users who watched a video.

It is obvious how these things make the process of keeping track of your business easier, and as a creator, using these tools can give you a good analysis of your audience.

Reporting Options between GA4 and UA

Google Analytics 4 has a number of standard reports, but one of the most important ones missing is the Source/Medium report, and this is not the only one that disappeared. GA4 only has User Acquisition, Acquisition Overview, and Traffic Acquisition.

Whereas, Universal Analytics was better in this sector since there are a total of 30 Standard Reports variations available in the UA. The procedure of creating reports is also slightly different between these two.

Metrics Differences in Universal Analytics and GA4

This is probably the most important thing that contributes to people preferring GA4 over UA. A session on a website is considered an “engaged session” when a conversion event takes place, but that’s not all. Viewing a particular page for more than 10 seconds also counts as “engagement”.

GA4 has an array of new metrics and these are,

  • Engaged Sessions
  • Engagement Rate
  • Engagement Time

The amount of time a user spends on a website is also tracked as “user engagement duration,” which only increases when the user moves the cursor over the page or scrolls down. If the total sessions are 5000 and the sessions that qualify as “engagement sessions” are 1000, the engagement rate is 20%, which is commendable. This is also one of the key differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics.

When will Universal Analytics Discontinue?

Many marketers around the world have been using UA so far, but in July 2023, all the features and properties of Universal Analytics will be removed from the Google Analytics website.

Since UA is officially being discontinued, there will be no way to not get used to GA4. The source/medium report is something that existed in UA but GA4 is going to come up with some alternative, sooner or later. Google Analytics 4 mainly focuses on revealing intelligent business insights and giving out data that would prove to be more effective for taking actions for both a creator and a business. This comes as the key differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics that can help you decide the better analytics platform among them.

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