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Digital Analytics

Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics – What Is the Difference?

Oct 05, 2021

6 minutes read

Ever since Google announced the latest version of Google Analytics, marketers and web analysts have been curious to know more.

The switch from the traditional analytics platform to Google Analytics 4 is definitely an exciting one.

However, the biggest question is, “What makes Google Analytics 4 different from the traditional Universal Analytics?”

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at major differences between the two.

So, let’s get started!

Want to know more about Google Analytics 4 and how it works? Learn more, here!

How is Google Analytics 4 Different from Universal Analytics?

Feature Google Analytics 4 (GA4) Universal Analytics
App & Web Property Access Websites and Mobile Applications Websites
Measurement Model Session-Based Model Event-Based Model
Event Parameters Optional Required (Category, Action, Label)
Monthly Hit Limits Capture 500 Unique Events Capture 10 Million Hits Per Month
Tracking IDs Begins with ‘G-XXX XX’ Begins with ‘UA-XXXX XX’
View Creation Not Possible Possible
Event Tracking Automation Enhanced Measurement No Such Feature
Cross-Device And Cross-Platform Tracking Robust and Reliable Less Robust and Reliable
Debugging Available Unavailable
Bounce Rate Provides Engagement Rate Provides Bounce Rate
User Count Calculate Using User ID Calculate Using Client ID
Spam Data Resolve Spam Issues With GA4 Secret Key Spam Referrals Data Available
Exploration Reports Advanced Beginner
Event Modification No Need to go to the GTM Container to Make Edits Modify in the GTM Container Only

1. App and Web Property

You can use Google Analytics 4 (GA4), formerly known as ‘App+Web’, for both applications and websites.

On the other hand, you can only use Universal Analytics (UA) for websites.

It requires additional extensions to work with applications.




2. Measurement Model

Universal Analytics has a session-based model, while GA4 has an event-based one.

A session is a group of user interactions taking place within a given time-frame.

Interactions include page scrolls, form submissions and eCommerce transactions.

In Google Analytics 4, every action that a user performs is considered an event, from a page-view to a website form submission.



Measurement Model

3. Event Parameters

Universal Analytics has an event category, action, and label, which are required with every event that is sent.

However, there is no such notion of category, action, and label in Google Analytics 4.

GA4 has a flexible event-tracking system. Every hit is an event, and these may or may not contain parameters.

Events in GA4 are divided into the following four categories:

a. Automatically Tracked Events

b. Enhanced Measurement Events

c. Recommended Events

d. Custom Events

4. Monthly Hits

Universal Analytics has a monthly limit of 10 million hits, which has been removed in Google Analytics 4.

Since GA4 has an event-based model, there is an overall limit on the number of events you can capture. This is 500 unique events per property.

5. Reporting Interface

As compared to Universal Analytics, the interface in GA4 provides an in-depth view of real-time reports.

Universal Analytics also has categories in its real-time interface, which you can divide further into subcategories.

On the other hand, GA4 charts and graphs have a dropdown option, enabling you to view additional details.



Reporting Interface 1



Reporting Interface 2

6. Tracking IDs

In Universal Analytics, we use a Tracking ID beginning with ‘UA-XXXX XX’ in order to set up tracking.

In Google Analytics 4, we use a measurement ID, which begins with ‘G-XXX XX’.



Tracking ID



Measurement ID

7. View Creation

Best practices indicate that you should create three views per property in Universal Analytics.

The first is for unfiltered data, the second for test data, and the third for the main view.

There’s no such functionality in GA4. Instead, you can create a new data stream according to requirements.



No Views in GA4



Views in Universal Analytics

8.Event Tracking Automation

A GA4 property has an in-built feature called ‘Enhanced Measurement’.

With this feature, you can track certain website interactions without the need to create additional tags and triggers in the Google Tag Manager (GTM) container.

This feature enables you to automatically track page views, scrolls, video engagement, site search, and downloads.

Universal Analytics doesn’t offer any such feature.

Instead, you need to associate a tag for every website interaction.



Event Tracking Automation

9. Cross-Device and Cross-Platform Tracking

GA4 provides robust and reliable cross-platform and cross-device tracking as compared to Universal Analytics.

It gives you an edge over Universal Analytics since it is based on ‘App + Web’ data and is used to track users across applications and websites.

GA4 applies advanced machine learning to automatically highlight useful information.

10. Debugging

You can validate your analytics configuration from within the reporting interface of the DebugView tab in GA4.

This is not possible in Universal Analytics, though.




11. Bounce Rate

This refers to the percentage of visitors who navigate from one web page to another when browsing a website.

For instance, when a user visits a page on your website and leaves without making any interaction, it will be considered a bounce.

Unlike Universal Analytics, GA4 does not include the bounce rate, and has introduced the engagement rate instead.



Bounce Rate

12. User Count

Google Analytics 4 uses the User ID method and considers active users on the website to calculate user count.

On the other hand, Universal Analytics uses the Client ID method, which considers total website users to calculate user count.

13. Spam Data

Universal Analytics has always had spam referral issues.

Therefore, anyone can send spam hits to a UA property using the ‘Measurement Protocol’.

Google Analytics 4 has resolved this issue by including a secret key in the ‘Measurement Protocol’.

Only users who have access to the analytics property possess this secret key.

With GA4, you can only send those hits to the property which have a valid key associated with them.

14. Exploration Reports

The GA4 interface comes with a new set of reports under the “Explore” column.

It enables you to create advanced reports by choosing from a wide range of templates.

Using the advanced exploration reports, you can study the customer journey for mobile and tablet users over different marketing channels.




15. Event Modification

GA4 offers an event modification feature in its interface.

This enables you to make changes to the event tag and save time spent in opening the Google Tag Manager (GTM) container.

Universal Analytics, on the other hand, doesn’t include any such feature.

You need to carry out changes in the GTM container only.



Event Modification

Wrapping Up

Comparing Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 shows that GA4 enables you with improved and customer-centric insights.

Track visitors and customers from the beginning to the end.

In case you miss anything, AI fills in the gaps!

Need Help With Google Analytics? Contact Us!

Grazitti Interactive has a team of digital marketing experts working tirelessly to enable customers to effectively and effortlessly track and improve website performance with Google Analytics.

Should you want to learn more about Google Analytics 4, take a look at our eBook.

You can also get a complimentary digital marketing and analytics audit or drop us a line at [email protected] and we’ll take it from there!