Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4: A Comparison

Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4: A Comparison
Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Universal Analytics (UA) is an earlier version of analytics and supports web measurement. It is built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions, and more easily observable data from cookies.

UA is a web analytics platform that is powered by Google’s marketing products that can better give you a detailed understanding of your website traffic, which is vital to improving your digital marketing efforts and website performance. 

In a nutshell, GA collects data about website visitors, their locations, how they found your website, what actions they performed, and a lot more! The data is then presented using reports and dashboards, which should give you a look at what’s going on on your website.

Analytics is moving forward, aiming for better data collection, better data insights, and better data activation. We are now pushing for more enhanced user experience, improved digital marketing efforts, and a better understanding of website performance.

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google Analytics. It collects event-based data both from websites and apps to better understand the customer journey. GA4 is an upgrade of UA. It revamps event tracking, unifies app data, and revolutionizes custom reporting. It is a major shift in how web and app properties are being collected and tracked. GA4 has a more user-centric approach, providing a better understanding of user behavior and engagement across devices and platforms. It has direct integrations to media platforms to help drive actions on your website and app. It also provides greater value and analysis.

A Few Differences Between UA and GA4

Data Model

UA is session-based, while GA4 has an event-based data model. An event-driven data model rather than being session-based in GA4 will fundamentally change how your data is collected and manipulated. Any event executed by your users/visitors will be tracked as interactions that occur on your digital platform, may it be through the web or app. This means that if your business operates both through a website and mobile app, you will be able to capture all events in one place to deliver user-centric measurements.

Custom Dimension/Metrics

Universal AnalyticsGoogle Analytics 4
Hit-scopedEvent-scoped Custom Dimensions
User-scopedUser-scoped Custom Dimensions
Session-scopedNo GA4 property equivalent
Product-scopedE-commerce parameters

Conversions

Universal AnalyticsGoogle Analytics 4
UA counts only one conversion per session for each goal.GA4 counts every instance of the conversion event, even if the same conversion event is recorded multiple times during the same session.
A goal is configured to indicate that a particular user action is to be considered a conversion.A conversion event is specified for each action that you want to count as a conversion.

GA4 Benefits

User-Centric | Cross-Device Tracking | Privacy-Centric

GA4 focuses on individual users rather than sessions to provide a more complete picture of user behavior. GA4 allows you to have a user-centered view of business data and manipulate that information to drive valuable insights and data-driven solutions for your customers. GA4’s user-centered data model steps up the game in uncovering user behavior to generate marketing strategies.

GA4 is built with updated privacy features to keep up with the changing ecosystem in data privacy. GA4 functionalities are designed to help users comply easily with data privacy laws.

Unified Data – GA4 offers much more data collection, insights, and marketing strategies.

Custom Reporting – GA4 will bring reporting to a new level by offering a simplified reporting interface, making it easier to find the information you need. It brings a new approach to collecting and reporting your business data.

Better Machine Learning – GA4 incorporates machine learning to provide more accurate insights and predictions about user behavior. GA4 boasts its upgrade regarding machine learning. It supports predictive metrics that can help your business identify users and their behaviors on your platform that will likely lead to a conversion. This tool allows you to analyze users based on how they are likely to behave in the future, not just by only relying on their past actions. This will potentially enhance effectiveness in audience targeting.

Better Privacy in GA4 

Overall, GA4 provides a more modern and flexible approach to analytics, with a greater focus on individual user behavior and machine learning. It offers a wide range of advantages, from easier data collection, new metrics, machine learning-powered analytics, and efficient reporting to more privacy controls. GA4 is designed to unify web and app analytics which will help your business understand the complex and cross-platform journeys your customers take. 

Transitioning to GA4 is a giant leap, especially for e-commerce brands to revolutionize and re-evaluate data marketing and analytics strategies. Migration to this powerful platform will give businesses the opportunity to reassess how and what they want to gain from their users’ data. 

Built with privacy in mind, GA4 is future-proof and ensures durability. Valuable new levels of data collection, smarter customizations, and revamped features are GA4’s promising offers that will take your business to the next level.

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Originally Published: October 18, 2023

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October 18, 2023

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