Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics

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“Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics” is a phrase that we’re seeing more and more now that we’re less than a year away from the retirement of Universal Analytics.

Google has released a new web analytics platform Google Analytics 4 (GA4) that will be replacing Universal Analytics (UA) — which is good news. This switch is to prepare you for a cookie-less world that will allow you to analyze your and review your data in more detail.

The bad news is that all standard UA properties will be wiped clean as of July 1, 2023. This means all UA properties will stop data collection and historical data will be lost. 

So, if you have a website and do any form of traffic monitoring or digital marketing — you will need to prepare for the switch. And, you’ll need to do this sooner rather than later to preserve your data.

What is Google Analytics 4?

To understand GA4 you must first understand UA. Universal Analytics has been the standard for website analytics since 2005 that uses a simple measurement model based on sessions and pageviews. Analytics data for websites and apps were separate, and came with limitations on how granular you could get with your data.


Major Differences Between UA and GA4

In the latest evolution, GA4 offers more granularity when it comes to customizing your data and what is important to your business. 

Some of the major differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics are:

  • Data is based on event tracking where every hit type (interactions such as button clicks, video plays, and social media interactions) is considered an event. Soon the days of pageviews as the most important metric will be gone, and you’ll be able to better understand user behavior and engagement across your site.
Ga4 Events
  • Reporting across devices is comprehensive so you can get a clearer picture of of how all users — from all platforms — interact with your website or app. No longer will these data streams be separate reports, and you’ll get a firmer grasp on how your customers behave across websites by tracking each user interaction.

  • You can take advantage of predictive analytics since automation, AI, or machine learning is used for GA4. The “predictive metrics” feature allows marketers to target ads to visitors that are more likely to purchase within the next 7 days. By identifying and understanding your most-interested users, you can boost your engagement through automatically collected events.

Overall, GA4 is much more customizable than UA and it serves as an enhanced measurement platform. Yes, it looks completely different. But, you can customize your dashboard when you log in to see the GA4 data that’s most important to you.

Google Analytics 4 Dashboard

Why should you switch to Google Analytics 4?

Well, other than because Google said so, Google has announced that Universal Analytics will cease operations on July 1, 2023. 

While UA and GA4 are two different platforms and you can use them simultaneously until Universal Analytics is officially replaced by Google Analytics 4. 

So, next summer your current Universal Analytics property will be set off into the sunset, and  replaced by GA4 (which is ready to be used now). But before that can happen, you will need to create a new GA4 property and begin to move your analytics from Universal Analytics to GA4. Google will not automatically do this for you (as of now).

When Should I Start Using Google Analytics 4?

July 1, 2023. That means I have about a year, right? 

Not exactly. 

When the switch happens, you will lose all historical data. That means analyzing 2023 performance compared to 2022 performance will be impossible if you wait until the months or weeks leading up to July 2023. 

In order to maintain a recent historical record of your website and app performance, you should make the move now.

If you make the switch to GA4 now, your Google Analytics 4 property will start collecting data alongside your Universal Analytics account. Come fall 2023, you will be able to look at year-over-year comparisons. Switching now, it allows you to work out any reporting concerns while you are still collecting data in the old platform.

By taking the time to transition now, you will be giving yourself more time to become familiar with the new analytics platform and its enhanced measurement events.


How do I transfer from UA to GA4?

Now that you understand why you need to make the move sooner rather than later,

you can migrate to GA4 by adding a Google Analytics property to keep your data intact.

After setting up your initial platform, you can add custom metrics as events based on what your business goals, KPIs, and other factors you want to track. After all, any marketing initiative that doesn’t focus on data collection and analysis is doomed to fail.

Not quite sure how to embrace the set-up of each conversion event and recommended event in GA4 to maximize your business’s search engine optimization (SEO)? We get it. We’ve been in that seat before, which is why we’re here.

If you’re interested in learning more about partnering with RedShift on your SEO efforts, we offer a free, 30-minute strategy session. 

Let’s talk.