Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will replace Universal Analytics (UA), which is reaching its last year of support before being discontinued in July 2023. Since October 14, 2020, GA4 has been the default choice for new Google Analytics properties; moreover, site designers and marketers have yet to make a hasty transition from UA to GA4 as their default reporting option due to a strong competition between GA4 vs universal analytics.
One potential explanation is that Google Analytics 4 functions considerably different from its predecessor. Although it adds many useful new features, it has also faced criticism for what some perceive as problems and for not including several cherished UA functionalities.
In this post, we will examine seven significant distinctions between the two platforms and discuss why it may be time to become enthusiastic about the fresh opportunities presented by GA4.
When is Universal Analytics going to be phased out?
Google said on March 16, 2022, that it would discontinue processing hits for Universal Analytics on July 1, 2023, for typical UA properties and October 1, 2023, for UA 360 properties. Many marketers were caught off guard by the brief window between the announcement and the sunset date, which led to a slight panic in the sector. Google Analytics 4 was released from beta in October 2020; adoption was still only moderately high. In order to expedite matters, Google’s decision to introduce a sunset date for Universal Analytics undoubtedly had an impact due to the release of GA4.
Adding a new tracking script to a website for more than a year may seem like enough time, but it’s essential to keep in mind how crucial Google Analytics is for most firms when it comes to tracking performance. It’s vital to comprehend how different Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics is before you begin using it. The list of significant differences is provided below.
There are seven main distinctions between GA4 and Universal Analytics.
Tracking via apps
One of the most eagerly awaited features of GA4 is its ability to track data from websites and app within the same property.
All interactions are recorded as events in GA4 using the exact measurement mechanism as Google Analytics Firebase (used for mobile apps). Considerably it is simpler to merge data between a mobile app and a website thanks to the new and uniform data structure.
Google analytics 4 vs universal analytics, the interactions recording manner is significantly different from one another. In UA, interactions are recorded as a variety of hit types which includes purchases, website views and social interactions. Every interaction in GA4 vs universal analytics, is recorded as an event. In Universal analytics events had a category, action, and label in as well.
However, in GA4, these classifications are absent. Event parameters are used in GA4, which consists of details about the user’s event or action. Additional event parameters can be supplied; you can log up to 25 event parameters with each event. Some event parameters, such as page titles, are transmitted automatically.
The data types of Universal Analytics and GA4 are fundamentally different, owing to which Ghe Google suggests that a new logic is built to make sense in this new context instead of plainly copy-pasting that event logic from NA to GA4.
GA4 session calculations versus global analytics
When you start comparing data between the two systems, you may also find that the session values between GA4 vs GA3 differ. A session on your site in UA refers to the time a user actively uses it. Following a visit to your website, the following events cause a session in UA to expire (Or according to your session timeout settings) 30 minutes of inactivity. As the clock approaches midnight, a new session begins. If you employ UTM parameters for internal links on your website, for example, new campaign parameters are encountered; as a result, Google does not advise doing this.
In contrast, the GA4 session start event creates a session ID connected to all subsequent events that occur during the session. A session now has the option to last until midnight. It is unaffected by coming across new campaign parameters, similar to how sessions in UA expire after 30 minutes of inactivity (or according to your session timeout settings). There may be differences in the Session data you see for Google analytics 4 vs universal analytics if your site has a worldwide audience.
BigQuery exports with Google Analytics are free:
BigQuery exports are now available to all properties with GA4 (they were only available to Analytics 360 properties with UA). This implies that Bigquery unprocessed events can be submitted, which means the queries can be run on SQL later. The function is free on itself as long as the usage stays inside the sandbox parameters of the BigQuery. The sandbox environment does not support streaming data, which is important to note.
Engagement and bounce rates
The measurements relating to bounces are among GA4’s more conspicuous exclusions. Instead, Google has adopted a more “positive” stance and reported on engagement rate statistics. The formula for engagement rate is simply engaged sessions, and it is a ratio indicator that is expressed as a percentage. You may wonder what engaged sessions are. These are sessions with a minimum duration of ten seconds, at least one conversion, and two page or screen visits. So, does GA4 not account for the bounce rate? It does exist. However, GA4 calculates it a little bit differently. The percentage of sessions that were not engaged is known as the bounce rate in Google Analytics 4. In other words, the bounce rate is the opposite of the engagement rate, calculated as the proportion of engagement sessions to all sessions during a given period. The percentage of visitors to your website who only viewed one page in UA is known as the bounce rate.
The significance of Google Tag Manager has increased
You could utilise GA Universal without Google Tag Manager if you only used its more elementary features. Google Analytics, for instance, enables you to construct page conversions of the destination. This is not now possible with GA4. Understanding Google Tag Manager is more essential than ever, as every object is event-based. This is highly imperative if you work in digital marketing or e-commerce. Advanced data collecting benefits from working with and understanding Tag Manager (or GTM). You will require it to build custom events and custom dimensions.
Three components make up the account structure in GA Universal: View – Account – Property. The only elements in GA4 are account and property. This indicates that there are no views on a Google Analytics 4 property. Additionally, Google unveiled a completely novel idea in GA4: data streams. A data stream represents data movement from your website or app to Analytics.
GA4 uses a unique data stream ID to gather data at the stream level instead of Universal, which tracks data at the property level. A maximum of 50 data streams and 30 app data streams are allowed for each GA4 property.
Since the switch of Google Analytics from a session-based data model to an event-based approach, more changes will be observed since GA4 is formally still in beta. On 11th July 2022, Google declared new parameters and measures for GA4. Bounce rate and conversion rate are two new metrics for which marketing experts have been waiting. It is now up to us to begin studying and exploring.