Differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics

(updated)

1 June 2023

Until now, Universal Analytics (UA) allowed us to measure users, interactions, conversions and much more data from a website or an application.

This will change on July 1, 2023, when UA will stop processing data and will be replaced by the latest generation of Google’s data analysis platform: Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

GA4 aims to respond to an even more digitized world and the new needs of businesses by introducing enhanced capabilities and a different approach to tracking and analyzing data. This implies a number of differences with UA that are important to consider in order to be able to use the new version of the tool.

In this post, we share the main differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics.

Data model

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) uses an event-centric data model instead of a session-based model like Universal Analytics (UA). This means that GA4 collects and organizes data based on individual events, providing a more detailed view of user behavior.

Events

Universal Analytics allows the tracking of events, which are the interactions of users with a website. Once configured, these events record various actions performed within a website. Examples of events include button clicks, form submissions, video plays, and file downloads, among others. Events provide valuable insights into user engagement and help measure specific actions taken on the website.

Similar to Universal Analytics, Analytics 4 focuses on tracking events to capture user interactions. However, events take on a more prominent role. GA4 goes a step further by providing a Enhanced Event Measurement.

This feature automatically tracks and reports common user interactions as they happen, such as page views, scrolls, outbound clicks, site searches and video interaction, without the need for additional configuration. This streamlines the data collection process, making it easier to obtain valuable insights without extensive setup.

Events in GA4 have a set of parameters, which are similar to custom dimensions in UA.

Key events in GA4

Automatically logged events: These are events that are logged without any configuration in the GA4 platform, unless indicated otherwise or specified not to be logged.

Examples:

  • first_visit
  • screen_view
  • user_engagement
  • session_start
  • file_download
  • scroll (web)

Enhanced Measurement Events: These events are similar to automatically logged events but apply only to web data streams, not applications. To log these events, they need to be enabled from the data stream settings. Some examples include:

Examples:

  • view_search_results
  • video_start
  • video_progress
  • video_complete
  • file_download
  • page_view
  • scroll
  • click (outbond)

Recommended events: These events are directly recommended by GA4. To use them, they need to be configured as they are not automatically logged.

Examples:

  • search
  • select_content
  • share
  • sign_up
  • login
  • purchase
  • refund

Custom events: These events need to be separately configured.

They could be:

  • Contact Form (form_contact)
  • Newsletter Subscription (newsletter_subscription)
  • View Images in Homepage Carousel (carousel_home)

Structure

The structure of the account changes from UA to GA4. The three levels of administration – account, property, and view – are no longer present in GA4. Only account and property levels exist, and the view one is removed.

Google Analytics Screen

The View was used to show more filtered information of all the traffic that the property receives. Therefore, with no View, it is necessary to start using more custom reports to filter the information.

Data flow

In GA4, a new concept called “Data Streams” appears within the property, which allows differentiating between web and mobile app data. For example, you can register three different data streams within the same property, such as a website, an iOS app, and an Android app.

Google Analytics Screen

The collected information won’t be sent to the property in general, but to each of the streams separately, as each will have its own stream ID.

Machine-learning

Google Analytics 4 incorporates machine learning capabilities, allowing you to gain valuable insights and predictions from the data. It offers built-in analysis techniques such as automated insights, anomaly detection, and predictive metrics, such as the probability of a user leaving a page. These advanced features help uncover hidden patterns and trends, providing a competitive advantage for data-driven decision-making.

Focus on ecommerce events

GA4 brings improvements in tracking actions within an ecommerce environment. Considering that the focus is now on events, if you have correctly set up goals for each event or interaction on the site previously, migrating to the new version of Analytics will be straightforward, and you will be able to retain those goals.

However, it is important to be aware of the events that GA4 recommends for online stores:

  • Product Impressions

o view_item_list
o view_item
o select_item

  • Promotion Impressions

o view_promotion
o select_promotion

  • Pre-purchase Interactions

o add_to_cart
o remove_from_cart
o add_to_wishlist

  • Purchases, Checkout, and Refunds

o begin_checkout
o add_payment_info
o add_shipping_info
o purchase
o refund

Other changes

  • It is important to note that in GA4, the “Bounce Rate” metric disappears, but a new metric called “Engagement Rate” is introduced. This means that the number of sessions lasting more than 10 seconds or having at least 1 conversion event, or 2 or more page or screen views, will be measured.
  • Additionally, while UA only had “Total Users” and “New Users,” GA4 integrates “Active Users” along with those two metrics. This allows us to know how many users have been active during a 28-day period.
  • GA4 focuses on audience creation and management. It allows the creation of audience segments based on user events and characteristics for better targeting and campaign personalization.
  • GA4 offers enhanced tracking and analysis for mobile applications compared to UA. It provides more detailed information about user interactions with mobile apps.
  • GA4 is more integrated with Google Ads, enabling better synching between the two platforms and more accurate tracking of ad conversions.
  • GA4 aligns more with current privacy regulations such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It provides improved consent options and tools for user data control.
  • Lastly, the terminology we know and have used so far changes, so the sooner you migrate to GA4, the more familiar you will become with all the new terms.

Conclusion

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, web analytics tools are essential for understanding user behavior, optimizing marketing strategies, and driving business growth.

While Universal Analytics has been a reliable industry standard, Google Analytics 4 introduces a new era of analysis, offering enhanced measurement, user-centric tracking, and advanced machine learning capabilities.

Google Analytics 4 vs. Universal Analytics FAQ2023-06-01T14:11:30+00:00

What is the main difference between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4?

The main difference between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 is the data model. Universal Analytics uses a session-based model, while GA4 uses an event-centric model, providing more detailed insights into user behavior.

How are events tracked in GA4 compared to UA?

Both UA and GA4 track events, but GA4 gives events a more prominent role. It introduces an Enhanced Event Measurement feature that automatically tracks common user interactions, simplifying data collection.

How does the account structure differ between UA and GA4?

UA had three levels of administration (account, property, view), while GA4 has only two levels (account, property). The “view” level is removed in GA4.

Does GA4 include machine learning capabilities?

Yes, GA4 incorporates machine learning features. It offers automated insights, anomaly detection, and predictive metrics, enabling you to uncover patterns and make data-driven decisions.

How does GA4 focus on ecommerce events?

GA4 improves tracking of actions within ecommerce environments. It recommends events for product impressions, promotions, pre-purchase interactions, purchases, checkout, and refunds.

Are there any other notable changes in GA4 compared to UA?

Yes, GA4 introduces a new metric called “Engagement Rate” to replace “Bounce Rate.” It also provides “Active Users” in addition to “Total Users” and “New Users.” GA4 aligns with privacy regulations and offers better integration with Google Ads.

2023-09-27T16:25:56+00:00
Go to Top