What are the primary differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics?
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Universal Analytics (UA) are different versions of Google's web analytics service that enable users to track and analyze their web traffic. However, they operate in fundamentally different ways and offer different capabilities. The introduction of GA4 in late 2020 represented a significant departure from UA. Here are the primary differences:
- Data Modeling: UA uses session-based data modeling, while GA4 uses an event-based model. In UA, sessions are a series of interactions or hits recorded for a user within a given time period. GA4, however, treats all interactions as events. This allows for more nuanced analysis and a more detailed understanding of how users interact with your website or app.
- User Interface and Reports: GA4 introduces a new, more user-friendly interface. While UA reports are based on sessions, GA4's event-based approach allows for a deeper understanding of the customer journey, including cross-platform and device tracking, and lifecycle reporting.
- Cross-Platform Tracking: GA4 is designed for both app and web tracking from the ground up, offering cross-platform analysis in one property. It can track users across different devices and platforms, providing a more complete picture of the customer journey. UA, on the other hand, was primarily designed for web tracking.
- Code Implementation: In GA4, all interactions are tracked as events. Customization can be done via the interface itself, often without needing to change the code on the website or app. UA relies more heavily on manually coded event tracking.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Predictive Metrics: GA4 uses Google's advanced machine learning models to automatically alert users to significant trends in their data and offers predictive metrics, like potential revenue from a group of customers. This is not a feature in UA.
- Privacy and Data Controls: GA4 was designed with a future without cookies in mind. It provides more robust privacy controls in response to increasing global regulations. For example, GA4 allows you to adjust how your data is used for ads personalization. UA has less control over privacy settings.
- BigQuery Integration: GA4 offers a more comprehensive integration with Google BigQuery, Google's data warehouse. This integration is free for all GA4 properties, allowing users to run fast, SQL-like queries against their analytics data. In UA, BigQuery integration is only available for Google Analytics 360 users, which is a paid product.
- Free Conversion Modeling: With UA, marketers can see how different marketing efforts contribute to conversions with Multi-Channel Funnels and Attribution modeling, but for a more advanced modeling, a paid account is required. GA4, however, offers conversion modeling capabilities for free.
- Lifetime Value Reporting: GA4 offers lifetime value reporting, which helps to understand the long-term revenue that can be attributed to different user segments. This feature was not available in UA.
While GA4 has many advanced features, it represents a significant shift from UA and can require a learning curve. As of my knowledge cut-off in September 2021, Google still supports UA, and many businesses may choose to run UA and GA4 concurrently while they adjust to the new interface and features.
Google Analytics is a free, web analytics tool that is hosted by Google. Google Analytics shows you how visitors actually find and use your site, so you will be able to
- make informed site design and content decisions
- improve your site to convert more visitors into customers
- track the performance of your keywords, banner ads, and other marketing campaigns.
- and track metrics such as revenue, average order value, and ecommerce conversion rates.