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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Burroughs

Google Analytics 4 vs. Universal Analytics: Top 5 Differences

Google first announced Google Analytics 4 (GA4) on October 14, 2020. The intention was to make the transition from Universal Analytics to GA4 a gradual evolution rather than an immediate switch. Google finally announced that Universal Analytics would be phased out completely in July of 2023.

User pointing at laptop screen displaying Google Analytics 4 Reports

Google's transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 represents a strategic evolution in the realm of web analytics. The shift underscores Google's commitment to providing more advanced and user-centric analytics solutions. Google Analytics 4 introduces a host of innovative features, including improved machine learning capabilities, enhanced user-centric measurement models, and a focus on user-centric data tracking across multiple platforms and devices. This move allows businesses to gain deeper insights into user behavior, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the customer journey. By embracing a more holistic approach to data analytics, Google aims to empower businesses with the tools necessary to adapt to the evolving digital landscape, enabling more effective decision-making and personalized user experiences. As organizations navigate the digital space, Google Analytics 4 stands as a pivotal tool to help them stay ahead in an increasingly data-driven world.

There are key differences in Google Analytics 4 from Universal Analytics. See some of the key differences below:

1. Event-Centric Model:

  • Universal Analytics: UA primarily uses a session-based model, focusing on pageviews as the core metric. Events were tracked separately and required additional configuration.

  • Google Analytics 4: GA4 adopts an event-centric model. Events are the central unit of measurement, providing a more flexible and comprehensive tracking approach. Pageviews are just one event tracked.

2. Cross-Platform Tracking:

  • Universal Analytics: Cross-platform tracking was not easy and required a lot of additional setup.

  • Google Analytics 4: GA4 is designed with cross-platform tracking in mind. From the original setup of your GA4 property, it is viewed through a cross-platform lens.

3. Audiences and Segmentation:

  • Universal Analytics: Audience creation and segmentation are available, but limited.

  • Google Analytics 4: GA4 enhances audience creation to make it easy. You can easily create audiences using a range of conditions and filters. It is also easy to view these audiences to compare in any report.

4. Data Retention and Privacy:

  • Universal Analytics: UA has some data retention policies, but they may not align as closely with evolving privacy regulations.

  • Google Analytics 4: GA4 is designed with enhanced privacy features. You can set a lot of different settings for privacy including how long data is retained. There are easy solutions to comply with laws like GDPR.

5. Reporting Interface:

  • Universal Analytics: UA has its reporting interface with specific reports and dashboards. You cannot change the reports shown.

  • Google Analytics 4: GA4 introduces a more streamlined and user-friendly reporting interface. You can customize your reporting dashboard easily to match your reporting needs. There is also an 'Explore' section that allows you to delve deeper into every metric.

Google Analytics 4 represents a major shift in how business owners measure website success. It is no longer about getting page views but how users interact with your website.

If you are still struggling with Google Analytics 4 or need help getting it set up please reach out to me and I can help you.

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