GA4 has arrived and is in the process of taking over!
Since its launch in 2005, Google Analytics has seen significant development. Over the years, users have liked the familiar interface and straightforward layout of earlier editions. However, up until recently, GA’s shortcomings have grown increasingly apparent.
Products and functionalities offered by Google are constantly evolving. Our experts at MindRind have thoroughly studied GA’s “What’s New” website, and it is astonishing to reveal many changes that have been made in the last 12 months. Hence a comparison of GA4 vs. Universal Analytics is well-intentioned and worth it.
The fourth version of the Google Analytics platform, GA4, was launched by Google in the early fall of 2020. The previous default for digital analytics measurement in GA was Universal Analytics (UA); however, GA4 has now replaced it.
As surprising as it may sound, by 2022, Google has declared that GA4 would be the only GA option as of July 1, 2023.
Although Google Analytics 4 has been around for some time, many users seem confused about its differences from Universal Analytics. This blog answers frequently asked questions about the evolution from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4.
Let’s read on to find more.
Difference between GA4 vs. Universal Analytics
If you are unfamiliar with the difference between GA4 vs. Universal Analytics, let us help you with the learning process;
What is Universal Analytics?
Regarding user data collection and organization, Google Analytics’ iteration, Universal Analytics, has raised the bar significantly. Briefly, Universal Analytics, released in 2012, provides website tracking codes and enhanced functionality for more precise user activity monitoring.
What is Google Analytics 4?
In the new measurement data paradigm of GA4, events and parameters play a central role. One kind of event is the viewing of a web page. Measurements like how much time is spent watching a movie or reading a page might be considered a parameter.
Without any work on your part, Google Analytics 4 compiled a vast array of events and parameters.
The most recommended configuration for monitoring your home’s data is Google Analytics version 4 (GA4). Beta testers knew GA4 as App+Web Property when it was first released.
With GA4, instead of needing to set up two distinct Google Analytics accounts, one can monitor traffic from both mobile apps and desktop browsers in a single GA account.
This App+Web Property was renamed and relaunched as Google Analytics 4 in 2020.
|Did you know? Is GA4 replacing Universal Analytics? On July 1, 2023, Google will formally retire Universal Analytics and cease processing new hits. By then, marketing departments will have had time to explore viable alternatives to traditional website analytics. There are options besides Google Analytics, but the company makes it easy to stick with them. So, YES! Google Analytics 4 is officially replacing Universal Analytics in 2023. You may still retrieve your processed data via UA for at least six months after the official retirement date.|
What is the most significant change from GA4 vs. Universal Analytics
Before we jump on to that question, let us remind you that Universal Analytics and Google Analytics use completely different model systems.
Sessions and pageviews form the backbone of Universal Analytics’ data model. The GA4 data model, on the other hand, relies on both events and parameters. Therefore, the same data may be collected, processed, and reported in various ways by both Universal Analytics and GA4.
It would help if you didn’t let it deter you from contrasting the numbers in Universal Analytics and GA4.
Our MindRind experts highly recommend using the comparison method because it is a good practice to know the pros and cons of migration from UA to GA4.
Some key gains from contrasting GA4 vs. Universal Analytics data include:
- Anomalies in data can spot rapidly.
- It teaches you a lot about how GA4 works.
- The ability to explain data discrepancies between UA and GA4 to a customer or superior is a huge plus.
GA4 vs. Universal Analytics
Now that you have understood the importance of comparing GA4 vs. Universal Analytics, are you ready to proceed with your learning process in more depth?
Well then, the next big question is the main key distinction between UA and GA4. We’ll show you the differences easily so that you can easily monitor, analyze and learn new changes in Google Analytics.
Here, we are starting with different measuring models;
Other Measuring Models
The measuring approach used is the primary distinction between Universal Analytics and GA4. UA employs a session and page view-based measurement strategy to quantify results.
A session is a collection of hits to a website spread over a certain amount of time. Multiple pageviews, events, and eCommerce transactions may occur during the same session.
Google Analytics 4, on the other hand, employs a measuring methodology based on events and parameters. The idea is to record any contact as an actual occurrence.
In GA4, all hit kinds from Universal Analytics will show up as events.
In Universal Analytics and all prior versions of GA, each event has its hit type with its category, action, and label, which might be confusing.
No such things as categories, activities, or tags exist in GA4. Every successful attack generates an event, which may or may not include additional information, such as parameters.
The page view event in GA4 has the parameters page location (the page’s URL), page referrer (the preceding page’s URL), and page title.
Events in GA4 have four categories;
a. Automatically collected event
After installing the GA4 core code, it can automatically record the events. A few examples include a page view, a new visitor, and the beginning of a session.
b. Enhanced Measurement events
Also gathered automatically with the core code, but you may choose to activate or disable them as needed for your website’s features. Actions like scrolling, clicking away from the site, searching inside the site, and watching a video are all included.
c. Recommended Events
Google suggests events by sector. The Google-recommended events, except those related to online stores, seem to be general suggestions where exact names aren’t necessary.
d. Custom Events
These are custom-made occurrences and controls that can implement into your site to meet its needs better. There is a cap of 500 unique events; however, this may change in the future.
After learning about different measuring models, we are going forward with data collection and privacy discrepancies
GA4 vs. Universal Analytics: Data Collection & Privacy
Here are the primary distinctions between UA and GA4 regarding user information and information sourcing.
- The elimination of IP address collection and storage is the most radical improvement in GA4. Except when explicitly anonymized, IP addresses were viewable in Universal Analytics. The introduction of these safeguards is only the beginning.
- Data deletion is simplified, and administrators may now erase any user’s information at their request (s).
- Using the data retention settings, you may configure how long GA4 keeps user data. The default time is two months, but you may make it as long as fourteen months if you want. It’s important to understand that this doesn’t mean you won’t have access to data once the 14 months are up; it merely means that any information that can tie back to a single user will delete it.
- Disabling geolocation and ad personalization is an option.
Reporting is an exciting feature of google analytics. We get an idea about our target audience, engagement, and retention through reporting quality. Now, we will look at the differences between GA 4 vs. Universal Analytic’s reporting;
GA4 vs. Universal Analytics: Data & Reports
Universal Analytics is an all-inclusive report library. GA4 works best for bespoke reports or data exporting since it contains far fewer standard reports.
Let’s look at the differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics in acquisition reporting, one of the most crucial metrics to track in GA.
The data provided by acquisition reports allow us to analyze the effectiveness of different website traffic channels. Acquisition reporting is necessary if we are to evaluate the relative efficacy of various marketing channels, such as organic search, email, and social media, in generating conversions.
It gives valuable information for making budgetary choices and understanding the overall company and channel performance. The acquisitions section of GA4 reports is similar to UA reports.
Not much has changed compared the data offered by GA4 vs. Universal Analytics. In contrast, GA4 seems to have more user data, and UA stores the same data hidden under the “Audience” tab.
The terms “engagement” and “monetization” use differently, and there is an addition of the word “retention.”
The term “engagement” has replaced “behavior,” while it still covers much of the same ground.
Over the last decade, there has been a growing focus on retaining existing consumers and converting them into raving fans.
To emphasize the significance of retention data, Google has included it prominently in the Life Cycle report.
Now, we will discuss Universal Analytics and Google Analytics’4 Segments below;
GA4 vs. Universal Analytics: Segments
Segments let you examine a specific part of your Google Analytics data, allowing you to get a deeper insight into your users and the overall performance of your website or app.
GA4’s use of segments is similar to Universal Analytics.
Four segments may be analyzed simultaneously in GA4 and two in UA. Although there is some similarity between the segments, several key distinctions exist.
In GA4, we have the option of creating User segments, Session segments, and Event segments.
User segments and Session segments are the only two kinds of segments available in Universal Analytics.
The procedure for making segments is where GA4 and UA diverge significantly. To generate individualized reports, GA4 has a similar “Explorations” section.
Removal of Monthly Hit Limits
Eliminating monthly hit restrictions is another significant change between Universal Analytics and GA4. You could only get 10 million monthly visits with Universal Analytics’ free tier.
A few of our customers struggled to gather all the necessary information while remaining within this constraint.
Conversely, GA4 restricts the number of occurrences and can record up to 500. At the time of writing, there seems to be no upper limit on the number of hits that can accumulate. Because of this, many businesses are starting their analytics using GA4.
Free Connection to BigQuery
GA4 has a free API integration with BigQuery. One of the main distinctions between the free and paid versions of GA is the addition of this capability, which was previously exclusive to GA360 clients.
BigQuery is a tool that allows for the rapid querying of massive, complicated data sets.
If you’ve ever attempted to analyze data using GA and encountered difficulties due to sampling, you know how difficult it can be to generate complicated segments.
Big Query removes the need for sampling by extracting the data from GA and allowing for its further querying.
Final Words from MindRind
There are substantial distinctions between GA4 vs. Universal Analytics. The data analysts could not make headway with UA due to ineffective cross-device measurement, offline conversion tracking, and attribution. Future-proofing GA4 is an intriguing prospect, even if adjusting to the changes will take some time.
Our experts at MindRind, usually advise creating a new property to operate in tandem with Universal Analytics, so you can make sure you have a firm grasp on everything before making the transfer.
You need not switch over to GA4 right now for all of your website reporting needs.
Learn your way around the system and the new reporting and GA4 terminology that comes with it. It may seem tricky; nonetheless, you need not worry and go with the flow!