Difference between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics

Google Analytics 4 known as GA4 is the new, soon-to-be default version of GA that has been launched in October 2020. Google is planning on removing completely Universal Analytics, meaning Universal Analytics will stop processing data from July 2023. So they made it clear that there is no other option but to migrate to Google Analytics 4. The sooner you start to learn how to use the new platform and start to collect data, the better.

Universal and GA4 – Different tools, different datasets

Google has built GA4 from the ground up and it has a completely different data collection model compared to the previous Universal Analytics. It also has a very different user interface. Many old default reports and features have been made redundant and replaced with new ones. It now measures customer journeys from start to finish rather than simple individual metrics like page views, segments, and devices.

Event-based GA4

Google Analytics 4 is based on a completely different data model than Universal, which was based on page views (Page views) and visits (Sessions), while the new GA4 is entirely based on different interactions and events (Events), of which page view is only one. GA4 initially provides a broader data model that is adaptable so with some more complex implementations you don’t have to invent different names for your events to cover all the needs. GA4 still provides insights into conversions, visits and page views.

GA4 Conversion Modelling

Based on conversions, you can see what works and what doesn’t – which ultimately results in better business results and saves the budget (giving a better return on investment). Within GA4, conversions are actually events that we label as goals. We can divide them into macro conversions (e-commerce shopping, newsletter subscription, completed contact form, user registration, etc) and micro conversions (PDF downloads, adding products to the cart, clicking on the phone number, etc). It is not possible to turn off conversion modelling in GA4 (the conversions are already modelled).

When users don’t give privacy consent for tracking, Google Algorithm will try to fill in missing data as much as possible, but only if there’s a high level of confidence. What exactly high confidence means, and what kind of data will be shown, it’s not very clear to anyone. This is one of the grey areas of GA4 that is raising a lot of questions among many GA4 users.

GA4 Reports

There are no longer hundreds of different ready-made reports within the interface, but you have the option to adapt each report to your needs and habits, even for multiple accounts at the same time or to create hundreds of customized reports. The largest difference between the reports is how GA4 replaced the Customization option (along with the Dashboards, Custom Reports, Saved Reports, and Custom Alerts) with Analysis. Analysis has four options: Analysis Hub, Exploration, Segment Overlap, Funnel Analysis, Path Analysis, User Explorer, and Cohort Analysis.

Privacy mode in GA4

Google Analytics 4 is also quite compliant with the new data privacy regulations. There are major changes in GA4 regarding the privacy of users. GA4 no longer even collects users’ IP addresses, and the use of third-party cookies is also reduced. They will only utilize cookies for specified purposes when consent has been given by the user. This means when consent for analytics is denied, the associated Google tags deployed via Google Tag Manager will adjust their behaviour accordingly.

Conclusion

The Google deadline for switching from the old UA to the new GA4 is July 2023, so it is recommended to set up GA4 measurement as soon as possible to gain a better understanding of the new platform. Keep in mind, that this is not a finished version of GA4 but the good thing is that GA4 is now developing a lot faster now than in previous months. Even now GA4 offers a whole lot more but still needs to be used correctly to offer you the best reports and insights, on which you can depend to make key decisions.

Do you need help with Google Analytics? Feel free to contact our team today at 0800 237 665!