Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics - How They Compare

The Hand Holding A Smartphone With Google Analytics 4 On The Screen Is Depicted Against An Orange Background, Accompanied By The Text That Reads 'Google Analytics VS GA4'.

As the outgoing predecessor of Google Analytics 4 integration, Universal Analytics was launched in 2012 and set the standard for the collection and organization of user data. Offering tracking codes and other features that allow user behavior to be more accurately tracked, it's been widely used by businesses for more than a decade.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, as Google is now sunsetting the service. However, it's not all bad news, as it's simply being replaced by something newer and better - Google Analytics 4. So, the main question on everyone’s lips is how they differ. 

That's the main focus of this article, as we compare Google Analytics vs Universal Analytics, to give you a flavor of what you can expect when you make the necessary switch. We'll start by looking at what's staying the same.


Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics - What’s Changed?

As search marketing experts will tell you, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) features some major updates and changes. That said, there are many ways in which the two analytics programs remain the same, with data and reporting features numbering among them. 

Every one of the metrics that can be measured by Universal Analytics can also be tracked and reported on by GA4. However, while it might seem that GA4 offers more reporting features than UA, they're largely similar - if you know where to look. You see, with UA, many of the reporting features are hidden away under different tabs.


GA4 Is Free, Like UA

Another welcome similarity is the price. Universal Analytics was always completely free to use, and so is GA4. UA users will be familiar with GA4's interface, as the account is laid out in a very similar way. It's not identical, but it's still relatively easy with prior knowledge of UA.

Of course, this blog covers what's actually changed, so let's get into it and look at the new Google Analytics 4 integration features and resources offered in this new iteration.


What's Disappearing With Google Analytics 4?

Next, we look at what's not coming across when you switch from UA to GA4. The good news is that it’s nothing negative, as it's actually a limit that's been removed - monthly hit limits, to be precise. That means you no longer have worries about exceeding the limit and incurring additional costs.

Spam referrals are also disappearing, but that's because GA4 now addresses the issue of spam by introducing a measurement protocol that requires a unique key. Any spam coming your way will simply be filtered out before it's reached the platform.


Engaged Sessions Replace Bounce Rates

Also being removed from GA4 reports are bounce rates, and that's due to a change in the Google Analytics 4 integration approach. Now, the focus is on engagement rates and engaged sessions, to be exact. What's meant by that is sessions with a minimum duration of ten seconds and involve 2 page views or more. 

Now, the bounce rate you'll be working with on GA4 will be the ratio of sessions that don't meet the criteria listed above.


Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics - What’s New?

The Sample Of Traffic Acquisition In Google Analytics Four From Google Analytics Experts.

Obviously, when Google launches a new product like this, it's naturally going to offer a range of new features and benefits. They break down as follows.

  • Machine Learning - as with many other technologies these days, Google Analytics 4 integration benefits from the introduction of Artificial intelligence (a.k.a. Machine Learning). It's able to foresee the future actions of a customer, tracking metrics like purchase likelihood, predicted revenue and churn probability. 

  • Event-based Tracking - GA4's ability to measure and model data is one of its primary benefits, and they've fixed the issues UA had with regard to the information missed when tracking user interactions via page views. Other interactions, such as if a video is watched, aren't accounted for when only page views are measured. 

    With GA4, every interaction is seen as 'an event', which makes measurement and analysis that much easier and more flexible. Able to be toggled on/off as required, users can track these events separately from sessions. 

  • IP-less Tracking & Cookies - there's been a big focus on data privacy in recent years, and that’s evidenced in the latest Google Analytics edition. As such, Google Analytics experts can gather data on the GA4 platform without the need for IP addresses or 3rd-party cookies.

    GA4 cleverly gets around the problem by employing 1st-party cookies in parallel with machine learning to fill in any gaps in the data. This ensures that all GDPR and other relevant data laws are followed to the letter. 

  • Improved Product Integration - another great feature of Google Analytics 4 integration is the ability to integrate a selection of other products from the Google suite, such as Big Query, Google Ads, and Google Merchant Center. When integrating Google Ads, it makes it possible to identify and target high-value audiences using a paid ad approach. 

    Moreover, Big Query was formerly a feature that you could only use when signing up for a GA360 subscription, however, now it's available for nothing. The benefits? Well, how about a multi-cloud, serverless data resource that empowers businesses to change quickly when required? 

  • The GA4 Search Bar - UA's search function was relatively restricted, but with GA4, that’s all changed, with an intuitive engine that lets you find exactly what you're looking for. It gives users the option to type in questions rather than a single keyword term.

    For instance, you could ask something like, "What was last week's CTR?" and the results will appear quickly and conveniently in the search bar.


Leveraging a Range of New Features For Success

The Sample Of Path Exploration In Google Analytics Four From Digital Marketing Team..

So, as we can see, much has changed with the introduction of Google Analytics 4 integration. Universal Analytics has had its day and is now consigned to the online history books, but the changes made are all positive. A range of new features and the lifting of restrictive limits mean that Google offers more tools and resources than ever with which to get the business insight you need. 

A little adjustment will surely be needed by anyone making the switch to the new way of working, but once familiarity has been achieved, you'll see just how much more you have at your fingertips.

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