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Google Universal Analytics vs Google Analytics 4

On March 16th 2022 Google announced that they will be discontinuing Universal Analytics from July 2023. This is a big shift in how analytics is used and means everyone will need to be set up on Google Analytics 4 by this date to continue tracking. This blog post will talk about the major differences between the two pieces of software and how it will affect your workflow.

Google Analytics 4 has been around for a while now but people are still confused by its new features and menu structure. We will demonstrate these differences in this blog post and why it’s important you are aware of them in the future.

What’s the Difference Between GA4 and Universal Analytics?

The biggest change made in Google Analytics 4 is the way traffic is measured. Universal Analytics is based on sessions and pageviews. A session can contain multiple pageviews, events or transactions.

On the other hand, GA4 uses an event based model for any interaction made. This results in all hit types from the previous version of Analytics translating to events in the new Google Analytics 4.

Events in Google Analytics 4 are in one of four different categories, these include:

  • Automatically collected events are installed by default with the GA4 base code. These include all of the usual events you would expect from analytics such as page views and first visit.
  • Enhanced measurement events are another automatically collected metric which is on by default. These can be disabled if required depending on the function of your website.
  • Recommended events, these are made by Google and are split into industry sections. These are useful if your website is ecommerce based, as these events enable you to see how your customers behave.
  • Custom events can be created based on your website’s requirements although there is currently a limit of 500 unique events.

Monthly hit limits have been removed in Google Analytics 4, this is a significant change when compared to Universal Analytics. A limit of 10 million monthly hits was set by the free version of Universal Analytics. Bigger websites will see this as a major advantage and may have already made the switch from the current version of Analytics.

The reporting interface on GA4 has had a major overhaul and at first glance can be overwhelming. Most of the reports users are familiar with have been removed or replaced completely. Once you start tracking events that’s when GA4 reports can be generated but this does require some manual setup.

Google Analytics 4 has free access to BigQuery, previously this was a paid feature to subscribers of Google Analytics 360. Querying big data sets can be time consuming, that’s where BigQuery comes in to allow the user to handle these types of requests. This is a big added feature for those with larger websites especially since it is now free.

Conclusion

As shown, there are quite a few differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4.

It’s essential you know these differences before you make the switch so you’re familiar with how the new system works. If you are looking for help with your Google Analytics transfer, then please don’t hesitate to contact us and our team will be happy to help.

If you'd like to learn more about your analytics and how it can help boost your SEO campaign performance then why not sign up for a free SEO audit from one of your award winning SEO Experts.

written by:
Dan Swan