UA vs GA4 - the differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4
Google Analytics 4 was released on 14 October 2020, and it was believed for a long time that the old version would live on for a long time. Earlier this year, (2022), Google announced that it will begin phasing out Universal Analytics from 1 July 1 2023, which means that everyone needs to have GA4 installed no later than that date. After that, it will only be possible to access previously collected data for another six months.
Here we describe the differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 and the advantages of GA4.
What's new in Google Analytics 4?
GA4 focuses more on understanding the consumer's life cycle and being customisable for users, including information about acquisition, engagement, monetisation and retention. In short, it means a completely new way of looking at things, and greater scope for customising reports according to users’ needs.
What is the difference between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics?
The main difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 is how information is structured. In the current UA system, information is based on sessions, and Analytics uses this data to record events and goals according to the manual setting of the analytical properties.
With GA4, this has changed significantly, as data collection is based on the events themselves. Primarily, this means that there is more focus on user interaction than on sessions. It also means that the system is more reliable for tracking user engagement on a web page. UA's tracking of every single little event, from button clicks to navigation, was cumbersome and quickly became unwieldy for all but small and simple websites. Because events and goals are set manually in UA, most developers and marketers chose to track only the most central goals for the website, such as registrations and sales.
By shifting to GA4 and an event-based model, it will be easier to sift through interaction data than previously, when event data was collected within sessions. In theory, it will also be easier for Google to predict user behaviour, because all user interaction is tracked automatically and not manually. There will therefore be many more data points for Google to use to predict user behaviour.
GA4 is more focused on understanding the consumer lifecycle and being customisable for users.
Advantages of GA4
GA4 has a new underlying data structure that enables integration with machine learning, and with the aid of modelling it can draw conclusions from existing data and make assumptions about visitors and user behaviour on a website. The new insight functions supported by AI/ML are designed to generate useful information for marketers automatically.
GREATER UNDERSTANDING OF THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
GA4 gives you a better understanding of the customer's journey across different devices, and the tool is more focused on measuring the entire customer journey rather than just single metrics on different devices/pages/segments.
GA4 is designed to be futureproof and work in a world without cookies and identifying data.
Every data source in Google Analytics 4 can be configured for how data is sent to the property. For example, instead of a website and an app sending to the same property ID, as they do in Universal Analytics, they would have their own data stream ID to GA4, where they can be managed individually.
ACCOUNT AND PROPERTY LEVELS
GA4 has no views and therefore no settings at such a level. Universal Analytics has three levels, (account, property and view), while GA4 only has account and property level.
FINE-TUNE EVENTS WITHIN THE USER INTERFACE
Universal Analytics requires Analytics code or gtag.js script for all event tracking. With Google Analytics 4, you can edit, track and fine-tune some events within the user interface, including interactions such as clicking, scrolling and more.
Why do you need to switch to GA4?
From 1 July 2023, Universal Analytics will stop collecting data, and therefore it is essential that you have GA4 set up. It is a good idea to set up a GA4 property that runs parallel with Universal Analytics as soon as possible. Even if you do not plan to use GA4 right away, your future digital analytics will be more meaningful if you collect data and improve your models for machine learning.
Do you need help?
Beet recommends a well-planned and structured implementation of GA4, where your starting point is your company’s goals and flows. Our specialists have cutting-edge expertise in digital analysis and can help you to implement GA4. Contact us using the form below to find out more.
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