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A swift movement from Google Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4(GA4)

Piyush Gupta
Reading Time: 5 minutes

1. Introduction:

Understanding your users and their journey provides deeper insights and helps you to get them converted with minimal effort, and this is the prime goal of marketing. Google Analytics4 enables the ability to get these insights in more depth and lets you win your users and get them converted.

GA4 is built on the foundation of Web + App property to provide you with a holistic picture of your user journey across the Web and App. It solved the problem of a broken user path from the web to the app and back, that you had with universal analytics.

Google Analytics4 with machine learning at its core provides you with a holistic understanding of your customers across devices and platforms. It is more focused on the user’s privacy, you can trust Analytics even if industry developments like cookie and identifier limits leave gaps in your data.

Universal analytics is more data-centric, whereas GA4 is more insights centric. Let’s discuss the difference between them in more detail.

2. How are they different? Focus – Data Processing

Universal Analytics processes data based on hit types page hits, event hits, and social interaction hits; while GA4 processes data based on events. All the hits are now considered as events.

Keep in mind: It is important to plan your data processing focused on the method used by GA4 to avoid any hassle in your reporting.

Universal Analytics Google Analytics 4
Page ViewEvent
User TimingEvent
App/Screen ViewEvent

3. What are the fundamental differences?

3.1. Traffic calculations

MetricUniversal AnalyticsGA4Comment
Session– It can comprise user interactions like multiple pageviews, events, transactions etc.

– It usually ends with 30 minutes of inactivity 
– It starts with an automatically collected event called “session_start”.

– Session duration is calculated as the time span between first and last event.
– This brings a slight difference in the definition of Session
Active User Calculation– Depends on the firing of interactive hit– Automatically detected– This may lead to higher active users in GA4
Session Counting– A new campaign starts a new session

– Hits are processed if they arrive up to 4 hours of the preceding day.
– A new campaign does not begin a new session

– Events are processed if they arrive upto 72 hours.
– This may lead to a lower number of sessions in GA4

– This may lead to a higher session count in GA4

3.2. Engagement metrics calculations

Bounce Rate is one of the most observed metrics in Universal Analytics. It is the percentage of sessions which has only one hit in it. This crucial metric is no longer in the GA4. But GA4 has introduced a more promising metric. i.e. Engaged Users.

Engaged users are defined as the users who spend more than 10 secs. We can change the default from 10 secs to 60 secs.

How to change the default time of the Engaged User metric:

  • Click on the Gear box (Admin Setting) located in the bottom left pane 
  • Move to the Data Stream located under the property column 
  • Click on the “More Tagging Setting” 
Screenshot at PM

How to find the Engagement Report in GA4?

  • Move to the Report section in the left pane 
  • Move to the Life Cycle section 
  • Click on the Acquisition section of Life Cycle
  • Move to the Traffic Acquisition section
Screenshot at PM

3.3. Event count calculations

Universal AnalyticsGA4
In universal analytics, events have parameters like category, action, and labelIn GA4, all the hits are considered as an event. Events have no parameters associated with it.

The Fundamental data model difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 is because of the events. As stated above, GA4 events have no parameters like category, action, or label associated with events. It is time to rethink your data collection strategies according to the GA4 model to avoid any implementation error.

How to find the Engagement Report in GA4?

  • Move to the Report section in the left pane
  • Move to the Life Cycle section 
  • Click on the Engagement section of Life Cycle
  • Move to the Event section
Screenshot at AM

Keep in mind: GA4 offers some enhanced events. It is highly recommended to enable it. Page views, scrolling (more than 90% of page height), outbound clicks, site search, view engagement, and file downloads are among the “enhanced events” you can activate.

How to activate the enhanced event in GA4?

  • Click on the Gear icon (Admin Setting) located in the bottom left pane
  • Move to the Data Stream located under the property column 
  • Click on the “Gear” icon 
  • Choose the required event
Screenshot at AM

3.4. Conversion count calculations

Universal AnalyticsGA4
Goals are used to create conversionsEvents are used to create conversion
No by default goal 5 by default conversions i.e. purchase (web and app), first_open (app only), in_app_purchase (app only), app_store_subscription_convert (app only), app_store_subscription_renew (app only)

Note: Most of the by default goals are for the app, only purchase is for both web and app.

In GA4, you can mark events as conversions.

How to mark the events as conversions? 

  • Move to the Configure section in the left pane 
  • Move to the Event section 
  • Use toggle to mark events as conversion

Learn more about conversion GA4 Conversions

Screenshot at AM

4. Final thoughts

As of July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics properties will stop processing hits and become obsolete, so it is best to start progressing towards GA4. Shifting completely from Universal Analytics to GA4 won’t be smooth sailing, because everyone has been using Universal Analytics on a subconscious level. Since we are certain now that UA would be discontinued it is in the best practice to start learning about GA4 and implementing it. GA4 has many additional benefits; GA4 can “measure, unify and de-duplicate” user interaction data. This helps us understand the user journey. The new property “adapts to a changing environment” as it relates to privacy. Just to state a few, additionally, GA4 has a stronger preference for insights than for data. At the end of the day, any firm needs insights to grow its business.

Universal Analytics will soon be obsolete, it is in best practice for marketers to slowly learn and implement GA4. Sooner or later everyone will transition to Google Analytics 4, so click here start today!

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