Google Analytics 4 (GA4) VS Universal Analytics (GA3)

Written on 05 June, 2022 by Melissa Toh
Categories Marketing

Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the most recent version of the Google Analytics platform, was first launched in 2020, updating Google’s measurement and analytics system, Universal Analytics (UA).


Difference between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics

  1. Will GA4 replace Google Analytics?
  2. How is Google Analytics 4 different compared to Universal Analytics?
  3. Why GA4 is better than Universal Analytics?
  4. Can I use both GA4 and UA?


So what should you know about GA3 vs GA4? And what are the main differences between Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Universal Analytics (UA)?


Will GA4 replace Google Analytics?

GA4 has been around for almost two years, and on March 16, 2022, Google announced that from July 1, 2023, it will be the only option available.

So now is the time to familiarise oneself with this new system and prepare for the change. It is possible to operate both types of Google Analytics until this date. It makes sense to continue with current measuring and reporting regimes while preparing to shift those endeavours to the GA4 platform.


How is Google Analytics 4 different compared to Universal Analytics

How is Google Analytics 4 different compared to Universal Analytics?


More comprehensive view with GA4:

The new Google Analytics platform provides you with a comprehensive view of how customers interact with your business. Google suggests it is more customer-centric because it no longer only measures customers’ actions by individual devices or platforms. Instead, it assesses that behaviour by how the customer interacts with your business.


Now it’s all about events, not sessions:

One of the most significant differences is that GA4 has shifted from sessions and visits to events. A page view is tracked differently from an event with Universal Analytics (UA). In GA4, the focus is on events, not sessions. A site page view is now classified as an ‘event’ instead. UA worked on the principle that page views are the most important thing to track. If you need to consider other metrics, the tracking becomes much more complicated. In UA, events are managed with Google Tag Manager or by including code on the site. With GA4, events can now be edited directly in the Google Analytics user interface.

Some traditional session data is available in GA4 but not for landing page rates or conversions. However, GA4 allows user interactions to be tracked as an event, creating a more streamlined approach to measurement.


GA4 offers machine learning:

The GA4 predictive metrics feature uses machine learning to model future transactions and revenue. Now advertisers can better target ads to customers more likely to buy within the next seven days.

GA4 uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyse and model behaviours to create a wide-ranging picture of visitors. AI can fill gaps in visitor behaviours when user data is unavailable.


GA4 provides a new way of reporting:

GA4 is more about collecting data efficiently which can then be exported and analysed. But there are far fewer standard reports, with  GA4 listing three standard reports compared with thirty standard reports available with Universal Analytics.

GA4 offers an entirely different approach to reporting, and it will take administrators some time to become familiar with the new system.

GA4 has fewer pre-set reports but includes templates for “Dashboards” and “Explorer” reports and is easier to use when creating “pivot” style customer reports. GA4 can be used with Google BigQuery or Path Analysis.


The bounce rate has gone. It’s all about engagement:

With Google Analytics 4, the Bounce rate is no longer an available measure. Instead, GA4 has developed an alternate engagement metric called “Engaged sessions per user”. It is still possible to analyse user behaviours (events) to add more understanding to your engagement scores, in the same way as you might consider metrics that add more context to your bounce rate data.


GA4 is adaptable to privacy regulation changes:

Universal Analytics relies on tracking cookies, which are becoming more limited by browser security settings, operating systems, and ad blockers. GA4 can track with or without cookies. It can use other means, such as AI and statistical modelling. GA4 has user-friendly privacy controls built-in so that you can remain compliant with existing and future privacy regulations.


Why GA4 is better than GA3 or Universal Analytics

Why GA4 is better than GA3 or Universal Analytics?

The Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics comparison is evident. While we may need to do some work to accommodate the change, GA4 is better for digital marketing reporting several reasons.

Clearly, the issue of privacy and tracking has become more significant. Google realised that it needed to develop a reporting and measurement system that did not rely upon cookies alone.

Similarly, In the previous version, GA3 or Universal Analytics, tracking Android Apps and IOS Apps was unavailable. You need to use Firebase, another Google platform, to track your apps.

In GA4, you will be able to track all the data across different apps and web platforms under the same GA4 Analytics property. GA4 focuses on tracking events based on visitors’ journeys across all devices. This feature creates better reports and de-duplicates data automatically. Eliminating the boundaries between websites, apps, and devices, and de-duplicates data, gives an uninterrupted view of how users convert from start to finish.

GA4 uses AI, which groups all tracking data in simple reports that are helpful for most businesses. There is no requirement to figure out what kind of report works best for your measurements. GA4 does that for you. It can also include additional understanding from interactions like user clicks, downloads, and video plays, without using Google Tag Manager.


Can I use both GA4 and UA?

You can use both GA4 and UA at the same time. If you want to create a new GA4 property and you already use Universal Analytics, you can add your new GA4 property to the same GA account. Please note that in UA, your tracking ID begins with “UA-” and in GA4, your measurement ID for implementation starts with “G-“.

Your new GA4 property will collect data in parallel with your Universal Analytics property. Your Universal Analytics will continue to collect data as always. Please expect and investigate the discrepancies in results from the two platforms.

Know that from July 1 2023, Universal Analytics will stop recording data.

After this date, you will have to upgrade to Google Analytics 4 or switch to another analytics solution. That also means you should export your existing Universal Analytics data before that date to ensure you keep a historical record of performance. Google has indicated that they will provide a six-month grace period after July 1, 2023, but your historical archive may be lost beyond that.

Sometimes change can be challenging, but it’s undeniable that in the Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics debate, GA4 is the future. As we approach this Universal Analytics end of life period, businesses would do well to prepare for the change by acquainting themselves with the new Google Analytics 4. We should all use the time remaining to understand GA4 and its functionality so we can get the best out of the analysis it offers. And the best way to do that is to start using it.


If you are already one of our customers, you don’t need to worry at all about migrating from UA to GA4 as we will help take care of the process for you.


However, you are struggling with how to start using GA4 in your business, please call us.  We have a team of digital marketing experts ready to help.

Call us on 1300 638 734 today to learn more.

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