GA4 Vs Universal Analytics – What are the differences

Google Analytics 4 – What is it?

On March 16th Google announced the official phasing out of Universal Analytics, asking users to move their accounts across to Google Analytics 4. The new platform combines web and app analytics which was introduced along with Google beta. Users will need to set up a GA4 account by July 2023 to continue collecting relevant website data.

The new version of analytics offers more in-depth insights into Google Ads as well as, cross device measurement capabilities, granular data controls & predictive data insights.

What happens to my Universal Analytics data?

You might be thinking, “but what happens to my historic data?”. Not to worry, when setting up Google Analytics 4, you will still be able to view your old data for a period of time after July 2023 by accessing Universal Analytics on your property. In short, GA4 will be collecting new data and the old data can be found on Universal Analytics. However, it is strongly advised for users to export their historic data to prevent deletion.

 

What are the differences between GA4 & Universal Analytics

There are four main differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics:

  • Measuring Models
  • Monthly Hit Limit Removal
  • A Free Connection to Big Query
  • Increased Cookie and Data Analysis

Let’s have a look at each difference in a bit more detail.

Measuring Models 

If you are familiar with Universal Analytics you will know that there are default measurements called “hits” that your analytics account will track. These include page views, sessions, session duration etc. GA4 will still measure for these factors, however they will now be presented as an “event” on the account. 

Events originally were used to track everything from link clicks, phone calls, contact form submissions, video plays etc, however, page views & sessions have now joined the line up.

Unlike in Universal Analytics, Events in GA4 no longer require a category, action or label to be inputted. As well as this, GA4 offers four different types of event tracking supplying alternate data insights. 

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Default Events 

Similar to the default “hits” present on Universal Analytics, Google Analytics 4 automatically tracks specific events when the new analytics code is implemented to the site or tag manager. Events include page views, session start times, first visit etc.

Recommended Events 

Similar to the recommendations on Google Ads, GA4 will recommend specific events that can benefit your analytics goals. The recommendations vary depending on industry types and offer a broad scope of data collection.

Enhanced Measurement Events 

Enhanced measurement events are automatically applied to your GA4 account upon setup, however they can be disabled in the settings if need be. Events include video engagement, scrolling, outbound clicks, and using a site search function. 

Custom Events 

Custom events are types of events that you implement & name yourself. Differing slightly for the traditional customer events on universal analytics, when creating a custom event on GA4 you will no longer need to add a category, admin or label. Instead, new custom events will need parameters added. Click here to read more about custom event parameters 

Hit Limits 

Another key difference between Universal analytics and GA4 is the removal of hit limits. Previously, UA allowed for 10m hits per month to be recorded. This has now been removed and instead replaced with a limit of 500 events per analytics account. 

Increases Cookie & Data Analysis 

As third-party cookies are slowly phased out, collecting data will become a more difficult process. GA4 is designed to bridge the gap where data is incomplete. Google’s machine learning will give an enhanced insight into online and offline conversions across multiple devices. 

Google has developed a new analysis hub tool which allows you to analyse individual users, compare segments, conduct conversion path analysis and create custom conversion funnels, bespoke for different business types. 

 

For Existing Clients…

As a note for our existing clients, we will be in touch about the shift between analytics systems. For any other web based queries please feel free to get in touch with a member of our friendly team