GA4 vs Universal Analytics
Marketing & Advertising

GA4 vs Universal Analytics: Understanding the Differences and Benefits of the New Google Analytics


Change is nature’s universal law. Since Google’s invention, technology has advanced significantly. Search engines are now the core of information and its implementation. This has led to a massive platform for sharing crucial details worldwide, prompting the analysis of its impact and effectiveness.

Analysing the effects helps determine if your expectations match implementation. It highlights areas where expected results aren’t achieved. Google Analytics property plays a vital role here. It empowers informed decision-making through data-driven insights.

According to Econsultancy and Adobe, 94% of businesses consider web analytics crucial for their success. In fact, organisations that use web universal analytics have a better grasp of their consumers’ demands and behaviours, resulting in a 79% boost in total profitability.

Key Takeaways

  1. Universal Analytics Overview:
    • Introduced in 2005, became industry standard.
    • Session-based model, limitations in cross-device tracking.
  2. Limitations and Challenges of Universal Analytics:
    • Session-based model shortcomings.
    • Limited event tracking and lack of real-time reporting.
  3. Introduction to Google Analytics 4 (GA4):
    • Event-centric tracking, enhanced cross-device monitoring.
    • User-centric data model, streamlined implementation.
  4. Benefits and Migration Considerations:
    • Improved cross-device tracking and user identification.
    • Advanced reporting, integration with Google Ads, and AI-powered insights.
    • Migration involves creating GA4 property, updating tracking codes, and data mapping.

Importance of web analytics for businesses

After its introduction in 2005, Google Analytics swiftly emerged as the industry standard for web analytics. With its 2012 launch, Universal Analytics provided cross-device measuring capabilities and sophisticated tracking features.

Over 50 million websites were reportedly utilising Google Analytics in 2019 to monitor user behaviour and website performance. But when user behaviour and technology developed further, a new version was required to offer more precise and thorough information. This prompted the creation of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which adds advanced features suited to the contemporary digital environment while extending the framework of Universal Analytics. 

Now, let’s dive further into this blog to debate GA4 vs Universal Analytics. Let’s learn the advantages of updating to Google Analytics 4 and other information about universal analytics in this extensive guide that can help companies with this shift.

I. Overview of Universal Analytics

A. Key features and capabilities

Web analytics has significantly advanced due to options in Universal Analytics property, which include:

  • Pageview Tracking: Business websites monitor user-specific data like user visits, page views, active users, average session duration, and other fundamental metrics of website interactions via Universal Analytics. According to StatCounter’s global statistics, as of June 2022 – July 2023, Google’s search engine received over 92% of the worldwide search engine market share.
  • Event Tracking: Companies may use event tracking codes to monitor certain user-specific data and activity, such as downloads, clicks, video views, and more. Based on research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, articles that include visual components (pictures, videos) get 94% more views than text-only articles.
  • Cross-Device Tracking: A more comprehensive picture of user journeys is possible because Universal Analytics enables tracking interactions of the users across several devices.
  • Personalised Dimensions and Metrics: This function allowed companies to identify and monitor personalised data points that were particular to their aims and objectives.

 B. Limitations and challenges

Even with its improvements, Universal Analytics has several drawbacks, which lead to the GA4 vs Universal Analytics debate:

  • Session-Based Model: The main component of Universal Analytics was a session-based model, which occasionally failed to capture the whole user experience over several engaged sessions.
  • Limited Event Tracking: Although event tracking was feasible, it was frequently labour-intensive to deploy. The function had limits when it came to monitoring intricate user interactions. An analysis by Moz found that while 90.63% of web pages had at least one image, only 17% had Schema markup. This illustrates that manual implementation of tracking codes, like event tracking, might face similar challenges in terms of adoption and implementation.
  • Lack of Real-Time Reporting: It was difficult to track the performance of campaigns in real time due to the lack of real-time information. According to a post by Forbes, 67% of consumers said that seeing content in real-time influences their purchasing decisions.

C. Common use cases

Universal analytics is used across industries

Multiple use cases were served by Universal Analytics properties, such as:

  • eCommerce: On eCommerce websites, businesses may monitor user behaviour, conversion rates, and online sales with the help of Google Analytics data stream. Statista estimates that by 2026, worldwide eCommerce sales will have reached $8.1 trillion from $5.2 trillion in 2021.
  • Lead Generation: One way to gauge the success of lead generation tactics was to keep tabs on form submissions, downloads, and other such activities. According to a HubSpot survey, 42% of marketers said that getting leads and traffic was their biggest marketing obstacle. Tracking form submissions and other lead-related activities using Universal Analytics is essential for evaluating how well lead-generation tactics work in solving this problem.
  • Content Engagement: Companies were able to examine how users interacted with certain content, such as blogs and videos, by using Universal Analytics. In a Content Marketing Institute poll, 81% of B2B marketers said they utilise blog posts as a content marketing strategy. 

II. Introduction to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

A. Key differences and advancements compared to Universal Analytics

  • Event-Centric Tracking: The event-centric methodology of Google Analytics 4 transforms user interaction tracking by going beyond pageviews and single-page sessions is the prime difference between GA4 vs Universal Analytics. Businesses can employ it to record a variety of user behaviours and gain detailed insight into how users behave. According to 71% of marketers surveyed by Econsultancy, event-based data is essential for comprehending customer journeys and enhancing digital experiences. Google Analytics 4’s event-based monitoring is in line with this requirement for in-depth knowledge.
  • Enhanced Cross-Device Tracking: Google Analytics 4’s improved cross-device tracking solves the problems caused by broken user journeys. Google Analytics 4 offers a more realistic depiction of user behaviour as they use cutting-edge technology to engage with websites and applications on various devices. A Google/Ipsos survey indicates that 58% of online transactions include multiple devices, and 87% of users use numerous devices consecutively during the day. Google Analytics 4 supports this multi-device user behaviour with improved cross-device tracking.
  • User-Centric Data Model: By using a user-centric data architecture instead of a session-based one, Google Analytics 4 enables companies to monitor user activities throughout the course of several engaged sessions. This update provides a comprehensive understanding of user involvement and behaviour over time. According to a Google survey, 69% of internet shoppers think that the quality or relevancy of a company’s message impacts their opinion of the brand. With Google Analytics 4’s user-centric data paradigm, companies can provide more individualised and relevant experiences.
  • Streamlined Implementation: With improved tracking code setup and automated conversion event monitoring for specific interactions, Google Analytics 4 streamlines installation. This simplified method makes tracking less complicated to set up on Google Tag Manager. Giving firms a free way to concentrate on gaining insights.

These significant modifications and improvements in GA4 underscore its emphasis on offering more precise and useful insights about user behaviour.

B. Enhanced tracking capabilities and data collection methods

Data collection made easy with GA4 capabilities

GA4 provides additional tracking features for data collection. They include, but are not limited to –

  • Enhanced eCommerce Tracking: With GA4, businesses can gain deeper insights into the entire consumer journey, from product views to purchases. The enhanced eCommerce monitoring provides more detailed data, enabling better decision-making.
  • Event Parameters: GA4 allows companies to add additional information or event parameters to events. This level of detail enhances data collection and analysis of user behaviour, providing valuable insights for further optimisation.
  • Automatic Event Tracking: GA4 streamlines the process by automatically monitoring some common occurrences in Google Tag Manager. This feature eliminates the need for manual conversion event setup, saving time and ensuring more accurate data capture.

C. Integration with Google’s machine learning technologies

Businesses can use Google Analytics 4’s integration with Google’s machine learning technologies in the following ways: 

  • Predictive Metrics: GA4 uses past data to forecast user behaviour, such as conversion or possible turnover.
  • Insights and Anomaly Detection: Machine learning aids in locating noteworthy patterns, oddities, and openings in the data.
  • Custom AI-Driven Alerts: GA4 allows businesses to set up custom alerts based on machine learning insights. These alerts can notify businesses of significant changes or anomalies in their data, enabling proactive action.
  • Customer Lifetime Value Prediction: With machine learning capabilities, GA4 can predict the lifetime value of customers. This information empowers businesses to focus on high-value customers and optimise their marketing strategies accordingly.
  • Automated Audience Segmentation: Machine learning in GA4 can automatically segment audiences based on their behaviour and characteristics. This feature allows businesses to target specific customer segments with tailored campaigns.
  • Smart Attribution Modeling: GA4’s machine learning algorithms provide smarter attribution models that give businesses a more accurate understanding of the customer journey and the impact of various marketing touchpoints.
  • Content Recommendation: GA4 can utilise machine learning to suggest personalised content recommendations for individual users, increasing engagement and retention.

D. Is GA4 better than Universal Analytics?

GA4 solves many of Universal Analytics’ drawbacks and provides more functionality. With its enhanced cross-device monitoring, event-centric methodology, and machine learning technology integration, it offers a deeper and more insightful knowledge of user behaviour.

However, the decision between GA4 vs Universal Analytics is based on each organisation’s particular requirements. Other factors that will help to decide are the state of the tracking system and the readiness to adopt new technologies. Go through these points carefully to base your evaluation on GA4 vs Universal Analytics. 

Web Analytics helps understand complicated User behaviours

III. Benefits of GA4

Hiring a GA4 partner can help your business leverage the benefits of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) to enhance overall digital strategies. Let’s explore how experts can assist with each of the benefits of GA4:

A. Improved cross-device tracking and user identification

GA4 service providing a firm’s experience may assist companies in implementing GA4’s improved cross-device tracking with ease. They assure precise monitoring across PCs, tablets, and smartphones so that organisations can see user journeys in a comprehensive way.

In the end, this all-encompassing picture makes it possible to create customised user experiences. When you detect touchpoints and preferences across devices will help create a feasible user experience. 

B. Enhanced event tracking and event-based universal analytics

Businesses may benefit from the expertise of GA4 specialists in setting up custom events and optimising event-based tracking on Google Tag Manager. With this help, companies can make sure that they can track and mine historical data and analyse user behaviours that are important to their goals in an efficient manner.

Businesses may get useful data from user interactions by tracking intricate user journeys and custom events with the aid of advice offered by experts.

C. Advanced reporting and visualisation features

GA4 specialists work with companies like yours to mine data streams, design unique GA4 dashboards and create custom reports. This customised reporting strategy fits with specific objectives and KPIs. The report will provide companies with enlightening visuals that support data-driven decision-making.

GA4’s sophisticated reporting features are more useful and accessible because of GA4 specialists’ proficiency in data visualisation. Besides, you can use simple integration to connect GA4 data to Google Sheets for more in-depth analysis and reporting.

D. Integration with Google Ads and other Google marketing platforms

GA4 partner agency’s expertise in digital marketing may help you integrate Google Analytics 4 with Google Ads and other Google marketing platforms more easily. Through this connectivity, firms may assess campaign efficacy more precisely and share data more efficiently.

Businesses may optimise their Google ads strategy by using expert assistance, which is based on thorough insights from GA4. 

E. AI-powered insights and predictive universal analytics

Businesses may benefit from GA4 specialists’ expertise in machine learning and universal analytics by utilising GA4’s AI-powered insights and predictive Google analytics. Through expert assistance, companies can fully utilise machine learning algorithms to anticipate user behaviour.

It will also be helpful in forecasting spot possibilities and proactively collecting data from website users to optimise strategy.

IV. Migration from Universal Analytics to GA4

A. Considerations and prerequisites for migration

Prior to converting to GA4, companies must:

  • Access Tracking Needs: Determine which Google Analytics 4 data points are essential and must be continued.
  • Update Tracking Codes: To guarantee that Google Analytics 4 is collecting data correctly, update current tracking codes or introduce new ones.

B. Step-by-step guide for migrating to GA4

During the migrating procedure,

  • Creating a GA Property in GA4: Establish a new Google Analytics property in addition to the current Universal Analytics property.
  • Implementing GA4 Tracking Code: Add the code to every page of your website or application.
  • Defining Events and Conversions: In Google Analytics 4, define and set up automatically collected events and conversions in accordance with the current tracking configuration.

C. Data migration and mapping strategies

In order to guarantee a smooth transition, companies can:

  • Export Data: For comparison and reference, export past data from Google Universal Analytics.
  • Map Data: Transfer current app data from Universal Analytics to corresponding Google Analytics 4 events and parameters.

V. Use Cases and Examples

A. eCommerce businesses: Leveraging GA4’s enhanced eCommerce tracking

Circles.Life is the first totally digital telecom in Asia. The company delivers cutting-edge digital goods and no-contract, data-focused mobile plans. The team serves with an aim to transform the digital services sector with a user experience that is customer-centric.

They developed a more efficient method to update the current data layer so that, with fewer API calls, it can handle Google Analytics 4 and universal analytics. They developed a special javascript code to monitor transactions by unique purchase ID in order to prevent repeated purchase tracking.

B. Content publishers: Optimising content strategy and user engagement

Consider a digital publication named “Lifestyle Insight” that features a range of articles and infographics on subjects including travel, fashion, health, and lifestyle. The magazine’s goals are to increase user interaction. They want to identify the content that appeals to their audience the most and adjusts their content strategy as necessary.

The custom dimension function in Google Analytics 4 is used to group material according to themes like tourism, fashion, health, etc. Because of this, “Lifestyle Insight” is able to examine user behaviour and interaction via the lens of content categories.

C. Mobile apps: Tracking and analysing user interactions and in-app events

Have a look at the “FitTrack” fitness monitoring programme. This app assists users in measuring their progress, setting goals, and keeping an eye on their workout schedules. The app has a lot of functions, such as diet tracking and exercise regimens. “FitTrack” tracks in-app purchases, including premium exercise regimens or dietary recommendations, using GA4.

This aids in their ability to gauge the engagement rate and the success of their monetisation plan and tailor services to individual user preferences. “FitTrack” monitors how users react to suggestions and reminders for workout-engaged sessions by configuring Google Analytics 4 event monitoring for in-app notifications. This encourages users to stick to their fitness routines.


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On an ending note

With its sophisticated tracking features and machine learning integration, Google Analytics 4 is a major advancement in web universal analytics. Businesses can now observe user behaviour more precisely and thoroughly thanks to its event-based methodology and improved cross-device monitoring when they get a conclusion to GA4 vs Universal Analytics matter.

Although Universal Analytics was a useful tool for enterprises, the digital environment has changed. It now requires a more capable and flexible analytics programme. Businesses can stay ahead of the arc and have access to the newest resources for data-driven decision-making by migrating to Google Analytics 4.

Adopting Google Analytics 4 is a reasonable step for organisations to take as they embrace the digital revolution. After going through all the points in GA4 vs Universal Analytics, you now realise the full potential of web universal analytics. Businesses may get professional advice and assistance during the transfer process by working with digital analytics and marketing firms.

Use Sortlist to take your pick from thousands of firms to choose that suit your needs and budget. With Google Analytics experts at aid, you can ensure a seamless shift and make the most of Google Analytics 4’s sophisticated capabilities.


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