UA vs GA4: A Complete Tour of Google Analytics 4

The time has come. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is right here and prepared for motion. Actually, GA4 is right here and prepared for takeover.

ga4 meme

As you could have heard, the present Google Analytics platform, Universal Analytics (UA), will now not acquire information as of July 2023. At that point, your solely choice shall be to make the swap to GA4.

But why? Why is that this essential? And how will it have an effect on your online business? Read on to study the historical past of Google Analytics, the variations between UA and GA4, plus lots of execs and cons, ideas and tips that can assist you navigate this alteration.

Table of contents

History of Google Analytics

For the search engine marketing nerds on the market, right here’s the timeline from Urchin in 2005 to Google Analytics 4 in 2020.

2005: Google acquires a platform known as Urchin. Urchin was used to “beautify” log recordsdata and make them extra palatable at a time when log recordsdata have been our solely supply of information.

screenshot of old google analytics - urchin

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2006: Google redesigns the platform and types it as Google Analytics.

2012: Google Analytics is discontinued and replaced by Universal Analytics. Universal Analytics permits customers to trace cross-platform, device-specific monitoring, and create customized dimensions and metrics. This was essential as apps and cell shopping have been turning into more and more standard and types wanted a technique to optimize for it.

universal analytics announcement

2018: Europe rolls out information privateness and safety legal guidelines known as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These legal guidelines defend residents of Europe not solely in Europe but additionally on any web site they browse regardless of the nation the positioning is hosted in.

(I wish to make a disclaimer that I’m not a privateness professional and that every one companies ought to seek the advice of a privateness professional and lawyer to make sure they’re in compliance with relevant legal guidelines)

The information requirements set in GDPR really result in Google Analytics being deemed illegal in France and put thousands and thousands of companies in danger of being fined for utilizing the platform. Not lengthy after, New Zealand, Japan, Brazil, California, and lots of different nations/territories roll out their very own privateness legal guidelines. With extra laws passing, Google has to make a change in the way it collects, shops, and strikes its information.

October 2020: Due to the rising considerations round privateness and safety, Google rolls out Google Analytics 4. GA4 has many baked-in options and instruments to permit extra management over your information. Google has gone so far as to say that GA4 was built for privacy.

screenshot of google analytics 4 announcement headline

March 2022: Google announces that as of July 1, 2023 Universal Analytics will cease accumulating new information—which means you’ll have to swap to GA4.

NOTE: Even although this swap isn’t occurring for one more 12 months, it’s necessary to notice that your information is not going to migrate over from UA to GA4. So if you wish to have a 12 months’s price of historic information, your finest guess is to change to GA4 now

To study extra, verify our weblog put up masking the announcement.

So what are the variations between GA4 and UA? There are many. Let’s take a look at them piece-by-piece.

UA vs GA4: Data assortment & privateness

First and foremost, listed here are the variations between UA and GA4 with regard to consumer information and information sources.


  • No IP addresses. The most notable change in GA4 is that IP addresses are no longer collected or stored. In Universal Analytics, you have been in a position to see IP addresses except you bodily went in and anonymized them. This is the primary of many adjustments made to guard consumer information.
  • Easier data deletion which permits admins to delete information on the request of any consumer(s).
  • Data retention options permit you to select how lengthy GA4 can retailer user-specific information. By default, the time interval is 2 months, nevertheless, you lengthen it to 14 months if desired. (It needs to be famous that this doesn’t imply you’ll solely have entry to information for 14 months, it simply means you lose user-specific information after 14 months.)
  • Options to show off location-specific information and advert personalization information by nation.

ga4 granular location setting

Data Streams for the brand new omnichannel panorama

The information assortment variations aren’t solely helpful for information privateness and safety causes, however they’re additionally useful for higher understanding the total consumer journey.

Universal was rolled out in 2012. At this time 45% of individuals had smartphones, there have been 540,000 apps within the App Store, and there was $225.5 billion spent on e-commerce. We have been additionally nonetheless educating a standard advertising and marketing funnel of consciousness, curiosity, want, and motion. This funnel targeted solely on the acquisition of new clients and didn’t actually deal with retention in any respect.

In comparability, in the beginning of 2021, 85% of individuals had smartphones, there have been 4.5 million apps within the App Store and $578.50 billion was spent on e-commerce in 2019. Oh, and there are only a few “mobile websites” left as Google had already rolled out mobile-first indexing.

With all of these adjustments, we noticed the introduction of the marketing flywheel. This flywheel places extra emphasis on retention and turning clients into promoters (extra on this in our put up on development advertising and marketing).

funnel vs flywheel

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One of the primary methods GA4 addresses the brand new consumer journey is thru the use of Data Streams.

Data Streams are the supply that gathers info and sends it to your Google Analytics property. In GA4, you possibly can have a number of information streams per property. This means you probably have two web sites, or you probably have an internet site and an app, you possibly can see how your customers work together together with your properties multi functional place.

UA vs GA4: Data & reviews

When you evaluate the knowledge accessible in Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4, not an excessive amount of has actually modified. It might appear like GA4 has extra info on customers, however UA has the identical info, it’s simply tucked underneath the “Audience” tab.

The largest distinction right here is in language round “engagement” and “monetization” in addition to the addition of “retention.”

  • Engagement has changed habits, however covers many of the identical issues with added reviews on conversions (beforehand often known as “goals”).
  • Monetization, however, is a brand new beast that we are going to deal with in a while on this article.

Now, like we touched on earlier, there was a rise in curiosity to hold clients and switch them into advocates over the past 10 years. Google has put retention reviews blatantly within the Life Cycle report back to mirror its significance. Though this part of GA4 is at the moment sparse, I can think about we are going to see updates within the coming years.

ga4 vs universal analytics menus

Users vs visitors

As it’s possible you’ll know, a consumer is an individual that involves your web site. If they arrive by means of their telephone one time and their laptop thrice, they’re nonetheless the identical consumer. Traffic, however, refers to classes.

In GA4, consumer acquisition and visitors acquisition has been cut up into two completely different reviews.

ua vs ga4 acquisition tabs

This has resulted in separate acquisition dimensions for each customers and classes, so make sure you bear in mind of which one you choose when creating reviews.

Behavior vs engagement metrics

In Universal Analytics, habits metrics have been included in virtually each report. These metrics included bounce price, pages/session, and common session length.


Google Analytics 4 changed these metrics with new “engagement” metrics. These new metrics are primarily based on “engaged sessions,” which Google has so kindly outlined as: Sessions that lasted longer than 10 seconds, or had a conversion occasion, or had two or extra display or pageviews.

The metrics embody:

  • Engaged classes
  • Engagement price
  • Engaged classes per consumer
  • Average engagement time

That’s proper… No extra bounce price!

>> July replace: Bounce rate has been added back in, together with conversion price and UTM parameters!

ga4 engagement panel


Monetization reviews have taken over the previous residence of “conversions” reviews. The large factor to notice right here is that monetization in 2021 appeared far completely different than monetization in 2012.

ga4 engagement panel

Traditionally talking, monetization was restricted to ecommerce in a method or one other. Today although, monetization might embody advert income, in-app gross sales, or ecommerce. In GA4, monetization reviews take all streams of income under consideration.

On the draw back, when you don’t observe something of direct financial worth in your web site, this complete part of GA4 is ineffective.

google analytics 4 monetization view

This is a bummer as a result of in UA, conversion reviews weren’t solely targeted on cash. They additionally thought of the non-monetary conversions and the attribution behind these conversions.

Session-based information vs event-based information

Universal Analytics collected session-based information. Each session was made up of completely different “hit types.” These hit sorts included web page hits, ecommerce hits, social interplay hits, and many others. In distinction, GA4 is an event-based platform, which means all the things is taken into account an occasion. First go to? Event. Pageview? Event. The checklist goes on.

ga4 vs universal analytics hit types

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Now this alteration is nice as a result of it offers us extra info on how individuals use our properties. The draw back is that it additionally signifies that the 2 datasets (UA & GA4) don’t play effectively collectively…

And that’s why you begin from zero when switching from UA to GA4.

universal analytics vs google analytics 4 - data models

Event & conversion creation

Not solely are occasions handled in another way, however they’re additionally handed by means of to GA in another way as effectively. As you possibly can see within the diagram above, gone are the times of motion, class, and label. In GA4, we have now parameters, enhanced measurement, and in-platform occasion creation.

When you arrange your Data Stream you should have the choice to activate enhanced measurement which collects web page views, downloads, outbound clicks, video engagement, and scrolls. If you retain enhanced measurement on, all of these occasions shall be collected robotically! No further work essential.

ga4 enhanced measurement

If there may be an occasion that you simply’d like collected however doesn’t fall underneath enhanced measurement, you might be able to set it up proper within the GA4 platform utilizing situations and parameters. Parameters are items of info despatched alongside occasions that present context on the consumer or consumer motion.

Once you’re accumulating an occasion, you’ve got the choice to mark it as a conversion by merely clicking a toggle button—no extra “Goal” setup!

google analytics 4 new event creation

Increased performance in Google Analytics 4

During your preliminary setup, you’ll want to make sure you deal with all of the choices accessible to you within the “property” settings. We’ve already coated many of them, however I extremely suggest checking all of them out.

Product Links

One of the final choices underneath property settings is Product Linking. It’s doubtless you’ve used Product Linking with Google merchandise earlier than, possibly by means of Search Console or Google Ads. Basically all it does is hyperlink information between completely different Google Products, there isn’t any actual distinction with Product Linking in GA4 aside from the platforms accessible.

In GA4 you now have the choice to hyperlink to Google Merchant Center, Google Optimize, and BigQuery natively and at no cost!

google analytics 4 link integrations

Available customizations

Perhaps essentially the most underrated characteristic of Google Analytics 4 is the flexibility to customise the platform to satisfy your wants.

Not solely can you create customized reviews in GA4 like you possibly can in UA, however you possibly can really add these reviews proper to your navigation. That’s proper, no extra having to navigate to a separate half of the platform! In GA4, if you wish to create a brand new report, you possibly can put it wherever within the Reports navigation.

ga4 page screens report

Other customization choices embody altering the title of collections and subjects within the secondary navigation utilizing the Library.


You can create dashboard-esque reviews utilizing the Explorations in GA4. I prefer to say that Exporations is the love-child of customized dashboards from Universal and consumer interface of Data Studio.

ga4 explore tab

Machine studying capabilities

We began to see the roll out of machine studying instruments with Universal Analytics. Insights have been rolled out in 2018 to assist individuals discover traits and outliers of their information. As time went on, the machine studying acquired extra refined and allowed customers to “ask questions” within the search bar as a approach of shortly discovering info.

When GA4 was launched, insights have been baked into the platform greater than ever. Not solely are insights accessible and highlighted all through the platform, however new machine studying instruments have been additionally launched!

Anomaly detection

Anomaly detection, which was beforehand reserved for insights, is now accessible on most line charts. This software is extraordinarily useful for figuring out statistical variations in your information at a look. In order for anomaly detection to work, Google should have adequate historic information to construct predictive fashions. Which results in the subsequent new software—predictive analytics!

Predictive analytics

Previously, if somebody wished to entry predictive analytics, they must pay for one more software or create them themselves. But, no extra! GA4 launched predictive analytics for LTV, churn likelihood, doubtless churners, doubtless high spenders, doubtless purchases, buy likelihood and extra.


For the previous few years, Google has been engaged on its instruments. With the rollout of Universal Analytics, it rolled out its multi-channel funnel instruments. Then, in December of 2019, it rolled out its Attribution Project software which allowed customers to entry a gaggle of instruments surrounding attribution and conversion.

Now in GA4, we see a piece within the main navigation known as “Advertising,” Upon clicking into this part of GA4, we are going to discover all of the identical instruments from the Attribution Projects. This contains conversion paths, time to conversion, the mannequin comparability software, and touchpoints to conversion.

But the instruments aren’t the one attributions you’ll see in GA4. In the previous few months, Google introduced that every one customers have been having access to Google’s data-driven attribution mannequin. Once that rolled out, all GA4 properties have been modified to utilizing that mannequin as their default conversion mannequin, whereas UA nonetheless depends on last-click.

google analytics 4 conversion panel

Lots to study

Here is the factor: We are simply beginning to actually perceive GA4. And very similar to each different Google product, it adjustments day by day! There remains to be a lot to study and uncover in GA4, and this course of will look completely different for everybody.

I extremely encourage you to get on the market and mess around in GA4. It could also be uncomfortable, however I guarantee you it’s rather more like UA than you suppose it’s, only a bit extra refined. And who could possibly be mad about that?