UA vs GA4 - the differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4, GA4, 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. In the beginning of 2022, Google announced that it will begin phasing out Universal Analytics, UA, 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. If you have a 360-license, UA will stop collecting data on July 1st, 2024.

Here we describe the differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 and the advantages of GA4.

What's new in Google Analytics 4?

In GA4, it is possible to gather data from various platforms in order to gain better insights into the customer journey. By using event-based data instead of session-based data, GA4 increases the flexibility of tracking. Additionally, GA4 uses machine learning to create predictive features. In GA4, there is greater flexibility to make customizations that fit the specific needs of the business.

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

The biggest difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 is how data is collected. UA divides user interactions into sessions, pageviews, and events. UA's event tracking is limited to four parameters: Category, Action, Label, and Value.

With GA4, this changes significantly as all data collection is based on events, where sessions are also initiated by an event. In addition, up to 25 parameters can be logged on each event, making GA4 more flexible and scalable.

Another major difference is the calculation of sessions. In UA, a session ends after 30 minutes of inactivity (depending on settings), when the clock passes midnight, or when new campaign parameters (UTM tagging) are encountered. In GA, a session ends, like UA, after 30 minutes of inactivity but is not affected by a new day or new campaign parameters. Additionally, GA4 introduces engaged sessions which show how many users remain on the page.

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.

Tracking across multiple devices

When a property is created for GA4, it is possible to collect data from multiple websites and apps by setting up different data streams. This makes it easier to track users across multiple devices and provides an increased understanding of the customer journey.

Improved user tracking

GA4 expands the possibilities of tracking users to better function in a world without cookies and identification data by combining different ways of tracking a user. In addition to device, GA4 adds Google Signals and User-ID to identify a user

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.

Automatic tracking within the user interface

When creating a data stream, it is possible to automatically track certain events without first having to go through, for example, Google Tag Manager. This includes scroll, site search, form interaction, file downloads, and more.

Why do you need to switch to GA4?

After July 1, 2023, regular Universal Analytics will stop collecting data. If you have not already implemented GA4, it is of great importance to do so as soon as possible.

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.If you have already implemented GA4 but have not started using it, we offer GA4 courses. Contact us using the form below to find out more.

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