Key Differences Between UA and GA4 Metrics: What You Need to Know
Understanding the difference between Universal Analytics (UA) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) metrics is critical for marketers, companies, and website owners in the ever-changing field of digital analytics. UA and GA4 are effective tools for tracking user behaviour and website performance, but they utilise different approaches and have different functionality. Here, we aim to shed light on the fundamental differences between UA and GA4 metrics so that you can decide which analytics platform suits your needs.
The significant variations between UA and GA4 may make comparing conversion counts problematic. There are three major reasons for disagreement:
- Differences between UA and GA4 are inherent: The data model for GA4 properties differs from that of UA properties. GA4, for example, gathers events, whereas UA collects hits. GA4 is also developed with AI-powered solutions to enable new privacy-preserving technologies like behavioural and conversion modelling. These technologies provide a comprehensive performance perspective while protecting user privacy, but they are unavailable in UA properties.
- Differences in setup: Conversion differences can be driven by differences in site coverage for UA tags vs. GA4 tags, tag firing situations, and ecommerce schemas.
- Setting discrepancies: Several UA, GA4, and Google Ads parameters might cause conversion differences. Conversion count, filters, URL parameter exclusions, and more examples are available.
We’ll review the most common reasons for conversion disparities between UA and GA4, concentrating on those caused by product/setup/setting differences in Google Analytics and those caused by product/setup/setting differences in Google Ads.
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What makes GA4 different from Universal Analytics?
Due to the fact that GA4 is a brand-new platform, it has several capabilities that Universal Analytics does not. So, what makes Universal Analytics different from GA4? Take a closer look at them down below.
The key difference between Universal Analytics (UA) and GA4 is how data is captured and analyzed. User interactions are largely recorded in Universal Analytics through page views. This approach has proved efficient but has occasionally resulted in data gaps due to its inability to account for other user activities, such as video views and clicks.
In contrast, GA4 classifies each user interaction as an event, providing additional data analysis and assessment flexibility using the reporting tools. These events are tracked separately from sessions and can be enabled or removed anytime. Universal Analytics, on the other hand, focuses mainly on page views as its primary tracking technique.
Mobile App and Website Tracking
One of the most significant advancements in GA4’s analytics system is the ease with which mobile app data can be collected alongside standard website monitoring.
While this was possible with Universal Analytics, it required the creation of a distinct Property. Everything can be tracked in one platform using GA4. As a result, website owners get a far more complete and comprehensive view of how people explore your website.
Cookies and IP-less tracking
Google has taken considerable pains to ensure that GA4 is as privacy-friendly as possible. For that purpose, gathering data on GA4 without utilizing third-party cookies or collecting IP addresses is feasible.
Instead, Google uses first-party cookies with AI to fill in data gaps. This ensures the platform complies with significant privacy legislation such as the GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act.
The usage of machine learning is one feature that many people are enthused about in Google Analytics 4. Machine learning in GA4 can assist in forecasting what activities a given user will do in the future.
In GA4, you can track three prediction metrics:
- Purchase probability: Purchase probability in GA4 forecasts a user’s potential of making a future purchase on your website, assisting in focused marketing efforts for conversion optimization.
- Churn probability: Churn probability is a GA4 indicator that forecasts the possibility of users abandoning your platform, allowing organizations to execute retention strategies proactively.
- Predicted revenue: Predicted revenue in GA4 anticipates a user’s potential monetary worth in future transactions, which aids in revenue-focused marketing and user segmentation.
Purchase probability examines the likelihood of customers purchasing during the next seven days. Churn probability is the possibility that a user will not be active in the following seven days. Anticipated revenue predicts how much a user will make in the next 28 days.
Better Product Integration
GA4 works flawlessly with other Google products such as Google Ads, Google Merchant Centre, and Big Query.
Big Query was a formerly exclusive connection to anyone having a GA 360 account. This link, however, is now free for GA4 users and provides a multi-cloud, serverless data warehouse that you can utilize to keep your organization up-to-date and adaptable to change.
GA4 allows you to find highly engaged or high-value audiences and target them with a sponsored campaign in Google Ads. In addition, you can monitor your Google Ads campaigns in GA4’s acquisitions report and integrate analytics conversions into your Google Ads account.
Unlike Universal Analytics, which does not allow users to customize report pages, GA4 will enable users to rearrange data cards by clicking the customize report button.
Better Search with the GA4 Search Bar
In Universal Analytics, you might look for items like reports and insights. Typing “conversions” into the search field, for example, would provide the most relevant conversion reports and the conversion insight tab.
However, this pales in comparison to GA4’s user-friendly search engine. You may view recent searches you’ve done by clicking in the search box. Begin typing a query, and Google will propose answers. You may look for queries that compare data ranges, such as how traffic compares between periods.
What Does GA4 Still Have In Common With Universal Analytics?
Followings are some similarities between the two platforms.
Data and Reporting Functions:
- Both platforms provide similar data and reporting capabilities.
- Universal Analytics measurements can also be performed in GA4 and produce identical results.
- GA4 has enhanced reporting tools, whereas Universal Analytics has identical functionality hidden in separate tabs.
- GA4 and Universal Analytics are both free, making them cost-effective for users.
- GA4’s user interface is similar to that of Universal Analytics.
- Users who are familiar with Universal Analytics will find GA4 to be quite simple to access and use.
- While certain elements have been moved and certain functionalities have changed, the fundamental design and structure remain the same.
When we compare Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), we can see that GA4 represents a tremendous advancement in digital analytics.
UA relies on manual event tracking, whereas GA4 automates and simplifies this process using Enhanced Measurement. Furthermore, GA4 has an event-centric approach, which allows for more precise monitoring, whereas UA focuses on specific user behaviours.
Regarding tracking methods, UA mostly relies on cookies, which have limits in cross-device monitoring. GA4, on the other hand, uses an event-based data format, which allows for improved cross-device tracking.
The “Audiences” feature in GA4 provides greater flexibility and extensive segmentation choices than UA’s predefined segments and targets. Furthermore, GA4 allows for additional customization of reports and dashboards, making it a more adaptable tool for in-depth study.
Regarding data retention, GA4 has a 14-month retention time by default, whereas UA has a 26-month retention period. If necessary, both allow for extensions.
One notable feature of GA4 is its machine learning integration, which enables predictive metrics such as purchase probability, attrition probability, and expected revenue. These predicted insights give organizations a forward-thinking viewpoint that UA does not have.
Finally, GA4 places a high value on user privacy and compliance. It includes consent mode and data deletion tools to address data privacy issues.
In conclusion, GA4 delivers improved capabilities corresponding to the growing digital ecosystem, user expectations, and data protection requirements, while UA is a helpful analytics tool. Migrating to GA4 is a strategic step for organizations and marketers trying to remain ahead of the competition and leverage the power of data-driven decision-making in a changing environment.