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7 Important Differences: Universal Analytics vs Google Analytics 4

By Jordan Brunelle, Digital Marketing Manager

 

On July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics is officially going away, to be replaced by Google Analytics 4. Let’s walk through the seven major differences between the two iterations of Google Analytics so you know how to begin taking advantage of this new platform.

1. Track individual users when they switch devices.

To kick things off, let’s talk about User IDs. If your site allows users to sign in, Google Analytics 4 can take advantage of User IDs to track an individual user across various devices and browsers to create a more holistic view of the customer journey. This data shows up in GA4’s native reporting and analysis. User IDs may not be new in Google Analytics, but the way GA4 presents the data makes this feature all the more useful.

2. Create more audiences.

With Universal Analytics, you can publish 20 audiences per property. With GA4, the limit is 100. This is good news for advertisers, as we now have the ability to experiment with further audience segmentation, slicing our traffic up in even more ways, importing these audiences into Google Ads for even more targeting options.

3. “Goals” are now “conversion events”.

Along with the change in nomenclature, GA4 allows users to create up to 30 conversion events per property (updated from Universal Analytics’ 20). With GA4, conversions are rooted in events. When a user clicks a button, fills out a form, etc., an event is tracked. Using Google Tag Manager, marketers can ensure the right events are tracked, and using GA4, we can toggle events on and turn them into a conversion event. This is a different way of thinking about conversions when compared to Universal Analytics and goal tracking.

4. “Views” are out, “data streams” are in.

In Universal Analytics, the structure of an account was: Account>Property>View
In GA4, we have: Account>Property>Data Stream

In GA4, views no longer exist. Now we have customizable reports that live directly in GA4. A data stream is a data source (e.g. your website, iOS app, or Android app).

5. Bot filtering is automatic.

With Universal Analytics, we could turn on a setting that filtered out bots. With GA4, this setting is automatically checked and unconfigurable.

6. Insights (and customizable reports) are prioritized.

Using the EXPLORE tab (formerly Analysis), GA4 makes it easy to uncover new insights through custom charts, funnels, paths, and customer journeys. This is all customizable, and we are able to filter this data to present data differently.

7. Conversion modeling will increase attribution.

GA4 uses machine learning to attribute conversions when online conversions can’t be observed directly (e.g., due to user privacy, technical limitations, or when users move between devices). With conversion modeling, conversions that went unattributed in Universal Analytics have a chance to be attributed in GA4.

 

For digital marketers, Google Analytics 4 might feel like a completely new platform to learn–and in a sense, it is – but it’s important to make the switch now rather than punting to when it’s forced. As of this post’s publish date, we still have access to Universal Analytics, which means there’s an opportunity to get your feet wet before jumping into the deep end with no experience.

Have you transitioned to Google Analytics 4 yet? Need help with digital marketing? Let’s talk.

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