What’s the Difference?
Google Analytics is a popular and effective tool for measuring website performance and user behavior. Google, on the other hand, has recently released a new version of its analytics platform, called Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which will replace the current Universal Analytics (UA). GA4 is not just an update, but completely a new way of collecting and analyzing data across websites and apps. We will compare the main differences between UA and GA4 in this blog post.
One of the fundamental differences between UA and GA4 is how they track data. UA uses a tracking pattern based on sessions and pageviews, while GA4 measures event-based data.
UA collects and measures various user interactions with your website as sessions or ‘hits’ over a given time period. UA primarily tracks page views across all of your properties. While a session in UA can include multiple additional events.
GA4 is built to capture what’s happening on your website and app as ‘events’. An event is any user action or occurrence that you want to measure, such as page views, button clicks, downloads, purchases, etc. GA4 automatically tracks some common events without any additional configuration, such as page view, scroll, first visit, session start, etc.
The advantage of event-based tracking is that it gives you more flexibility and granularity in measuring user behavior and engagement. You can also use events as conversion goals in GA4, which was not possible in UA.
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Data setup organization:
Another difference between UA and GA4 is how they organize data setups. In UA, you need to create separate properties for your website and app. In GA4, you can use a single property to measure both web and app data.
This means that you can have a unified view of your users across different platforms and devices. You can also compare and analyze web and app data side by side, without having to switch between properties or use third-party tools.
However, this also means that you need to be careful about how you configure your GA4 property and how you interpret your reports. For example, you need to make sure that you use consistent naming conventions for your events across the web and app. You also need to understand that some metrics and dimensions may have different meanings or values depending on the platform.
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Another difference between UA and GA4 is their ability to track users across different devices. UA has limited cross-device tracking capabilities, whereas GA4 has improved cross-device tracking capabilities.
UA relies on cookies to track users across different devices. However, cookies are not shared across different browsers or devices. This means that if a user visits your website from multiple devices or browsers, they will be counted as separate users in UA. This can lead to inaccurate user counts and attribution.
GA4 relies on User ID to track users across different devices. User ID is a unique identifier you assign to each user visiting your website or app. The user ID can be shared across different browsers or devices using methods such as sign-in or email links. This means that users who visit your website or app from multiple devices or browsers using the same User ID will be counted as the same user in GA4. This can lead to more accurate user counts and attribution.
However, the User ID is not automatically generated by GA4. You need to implement it yourself using code or Google Tag Manager. You also need to obtain consent from your users and comply with privacy regulations before using a User ID.
Another difference between UA and GA4 is the metrics they use to measure user behavior and engagement. Some metrics are similar between the two versions, such as Pageviews, Users, Sessions, Bounce Rate, etc., but some are different or new in GA4.
- UA uses Total Users (shown as Users) as the primary user metric in most reports, whereas GA4 uses Active Users (also shown as Users) as the primary user metric in most reports.
- UA uses Session Duration as a measure of how long users spend on your website within a session, whereas GA4 uses Engagement Time as a measure of how long users are actively interacting with your website within an engaged session.
- UA uses Goal Completions as a measure of how many times users complete a predefined action on your website, whereas GA4 uses Conversions as a measure of how many times users complete any event that you mark as a conversion.
- GA4 introduces some new metrics that are not available in UA, such as Engagement Rate, which measures the percentage of sessions that are longer than 10 seconds; Revenue per User, which measures the average revenue generated by each user; Retention Rate, which measures the percentage of users who return to your website or app after their first visit; etc.
You need to be aware of these differences when comparing metrics between UA and GA4, and when setting up your reports and dashboards in GA4.
As you can see, there are many differences between UA and GA4. They are not just different versions of the same tool, but different tools with different purposes. UA is designed to measure web traffic using sessions and pageviews, while GA4 is designed to measure user behavior across the web and app using events.
If you are still using UA, you should consider switching to GA4 soon, as UA will stop processing new hits in July 2023. However, before you make the switch, you should understand the differences between them, and how they will affect your data collection, analysis, reporting, and optimization.
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