If you are turning between UA vs. GA4, let us tell you that it is quite a common choice paralysis. However, you no longer need to weigh the pros and cons between the two. As you may have heard, as of July 2023, data collection for the existing Google Analytics platform, Universal Analytics (UA), will cease to exist. Your only choice at that point will be to convert to Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
Yet why is this happening and how will it influence your company? Continue reading to discover about the origins of Google Analytics, the changes between UA vs. GA4, as well as many advantages and disadvantages, advice, and strategies to assist you deal with this shift.
But let us understand what UA vs. GA4 is and what are the main differences.
UA vs. GA4: What Are The Main Differences?
Since Google initially purchased Google Analytics in 2005, the software has seen significant development. The traditional version of Google Analytics was created after Google acquired a programme named “Urchin Analytics” in April of that year (from which UTM parameters or Urchin Tracking Modules derive).
The launch of the Universal Analytics (UA) platform in 2013 marked the beginning of the tracking standard. But now that Google has confirmed that GA4 will be released on March 16, 2022, we are aware that UA will be phased off starting in July 2023.
Let’s look at the differences between the two a little more closely
There are two user metrics in Universal Analytics: Total Users and New Users. Total Users, Active Users, and New Users are the three user metrics available in Google Analytics 4.
In most reports, Universal Analytics emphasises Total Users (represented as Users), whereas GA4 concentrates on Active Users (also shown as Users). Therefore, even though the word “Users” appears to be the same, UA and GA4 calculate this measure differently since UA uses Total Users whereas GA4 calculates it using Active Users.
The Total Visitors measure in UA and the Active Users metric in GA4 may be somewhat comparable, depending on how frequently your users visit your website. Your digital marketing agency will be able to give you a clear picture of the total users of your website if you are unable to differentiate between UA vs. GA4.
Since the Google tag activates on every page and creates a pageview, pageviews should normally be within a few percentage points between UA and GA4. However, the distinctions may alter depending on whatever filters you may have configured in Google Analytics 4 or Universal Analytics.
Unlike GA4, which aggregates both online and app data in a single property, Universal Analytics monitors screen views in distinct mobile-specific properties. When comparing pageview stats across your GA4 property’s tracking of web and app data, make careful to account for the additional app traffic.
Additional filtering options offered by Universal Analytics may have an influence on the data in the view you are comparing to. Your pageview counts between UA vs. GA4 can differ considerably, for instance, if you use a filter to exclude specific geographic areas.
While data in Universal Analytics reporting may be subject to view filters that omit data, Google Analytics 4 properties do not presently allow filters. For instance, internal IP traffic and undesirable referrals can be filtered out using both UA and GA4, although UA could apply extra filters. Make sure that both attributes have the same filters applied when you compare.
Simply put, a session is the period of time a user actively engages with a website or an app.
Businesses’ differences in session counts between UA and GA4 rely on a number of variables, including:
Geography: Think about the timezones of your users and how probable it is that they will restart a session after midnight. This is especially important if your consumer base is international.
Use of UTMs on owned websites or applications: Employing UTM tagging on your own website is not advised since it would cause Universal Analytics to reset the session. If you employ UTMs on your own website, you could see that UA has a significantly greater session count than GA4.
Filters: View filters that exclude data may be applied to the data in UA reporting. Filters that control which information from a source property appears in a sub property may be applied to the data in GA4 reporting for Google Analytics 360 clients. However, if you exclude the session start event from a subproperty, Google Analytics still creates a session ID.
Estimation: Unlike Universal Analytics properties, Google Analytics 4 properties employ a statistical estimate of the number of sessions that took place on your website or app by calculating the number of unique session IDs. Google Analytics 4 properties count sessions more precisely and with a lower error rate using estimations.
Purchase events are atomic and essential for businesses, therefore even though Google never anticipates flawless event collection across all events, it sees close agreement between event counts throughout UA or GA4.
When comparing data, the transaction_id option might provide observable discrepancies if it is not used consistently and correctly. Please make sure that this data is gathered consistently in accordance with the instructions for purposes of comparison and data quality.
You guarantee that ecommerce data is accurately collected, and be sure to utilise all of the necessary settings for GA4 ecommerce implementation (as well as for UA). Based on view filters, your UA reports could be ignoring some data. Because GA4 is still analysing data, you could notice discrepancies when comparing recent reports.
Sounds complicated? Ask your SEO agency to do it for you! It is quite common to take the help of professionals, especially if the business is new to the idea of digital marketing.
Bounce rate is one of the key enterprise SEO metrics that you need to consistently keep in check.
The percentage of sessions in Google Analytics 4 that were not engaged sessions is known as the bounce rate. Bounce rate is therefore the opposite of engagement rate. Bounce rate in Universal Analytics is the proportion of all user sessions on your site during which they only saw one page and sent one request to the analytics server.
Always remember to keep your bounce rate to a minimum.
Although bounce rate, as it is determined in Universal Analytics, is a decent indicator of site engagement, as websites and applications have evolved, its value has diminished. Users may see a single-page application (SPA), for instance, and depart without causing an event; this is referred to as a bounce.
Furthermore, Bounce rate, as computed in Google Analytics 4, offers a more practical approach to gauge how often customers interact with your website or app. If you run a blog, for instance, you might not care if visitors come to read a post on your site and then go. You probably give more thought to the amount of visitors to your website who rapidly depart after not finding what they were searching for.
Cookie-Based To Event-Based Data Model
Universal Analytics receives data from “cookie-based” tracking. A website that uses UA sends a cookie to the user’s browser, enabling the platform to track and record online behaviour on the concerned site during the user’s visit. A session-based data model is used for the measuring methodology.
Google Analytics 4 enables “companies to measure across platforms and devices using numerous forms of identity,” according to Google. First party information and “Google signals” from users who have chosen to have their advertising personalised are included in this. Additionally, Google Analytics 4 will continue to employ cookies for tracking wherever they are available. The data model in GA4 is event-based rather than session-based.
Will this change the mechanism of ads such as targeted ads and PPC? Ask your Google ads agency how this change will impact the outcome of your advertising campaigns.
Analytics organises data into sessions in UA properties, and these sessions serve as the basis for all reporting. A session is a collection of user interactions with your website that happen over the course of a specific period of time.
Pageviews, events, and eCommerce transactions are just a few examples of the user interactions that Analytics records and keeps as hits during a session. Depending on how a person uses your website, a single session may include several hits.
Even though Analytics gathers and preserves user interactions with your website or app as events, you may still view session data in GA4 properties. Events, including pageviews, button clicks, user actions, or system events, provide you information about what’s occurring on your website or in your app.
Events have the ability to gather and communicate data that better explains the action the user did or provides further context for the event or user. This data may contain particulars like the cost of the transaction, the URL of the page the user viewed, or their precise location. As a result, you can improve your Google ads remarketing campaign by deploying GA4.
It’s reasonable to assume that such cookies may become less and less common in a world where privacy is becoming more and more crucial. Although this may be a net benefit to mankind, it now appears to be a major drawback for digital marketers.
Event Tracking in UA Vs. GA4
We are aware that Universal Analytics uses pageviews to track data whether you use SEO for an ecommerce website, social media or any other purpose. As a result, GA may record a pageview when a URL loads. Users’ actions on the monitored site that do not cause a new page to load will not be recorded. This covers actions like clicking on videos, clicking on pages inside the domain, and clicking on pages outside the domain. Google Tag Manager is required by Universal Analytics in order to measure “events” like link click tracking or link click tracking.
For marketers taking on this for the first time, it can be time-consuming and difficult. Setting up variables, triggers, and tags (like the tag setup below) to track particular occurrences that Google Analytics will record as data entails.
On the Root and Branch website, this Universal Analytics event tag will monitor each link click. The “event parameters” are pre-designated with names like category, action, and label are the largest differences between UA va. GA4. These “parameters” transmit extra data with our event that we may use to interpret the data.
As opposed to GA4, which is engineered to handle certain event tracking out of the box, GA4 is not dependent on pageview tracking. As we’ve already demonstrated, although some of those events (automatically gathered events and improved measurement events) are monitored by default, suggested events and custom events must be explicitly set with Tag Manager.
By default, these events log a few “event parameters.” The list of event parameters that are supplied along with each event is provided here.
- Page location
- Page referrer
- Page title
- Screen resolution
Both suggested events and bespoke events can include additional event parameters. There is a further action to do when this occurs. These event parameters need to be added as a custom dimension in GA4. This is a new step in the process, and before I got used to it, I found it to be quite perplexing. If it doesn’t make sense to you either, you might want to read this helpful guide to comprehending event parameters.
The fact is, we are just now beginning to fully comprehend GA4. And it undergoes daily updates, just like every other Google product! In GA4, there is still so much to learn and discover, and everyone’s experience will be unique. We strongly advise you to get outside and experiment with GA4. Although it could be unpleasant, it is a lot more similar to UA than you might realise.
All the best!