Google Analytics 4 vs Google Universal Analytics : A Comprehensive Comparison
Google Analytics has been an integral part of the digital marketing industry for over a decade, allowing businesses to track and analyze their website traffic and user behavior. With the recent release of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), many businesses are curious about the differences between GA4 and its predecessor, Google Universal Analytics (UA).
In this article, Tech Shady will compare GA4 and UA, discussing their similarities and differences, and help you determine which platform may be better suited for your business needs.
What is Google Universal Analytics (UA)?
Google Universal Analytics (UA) is the previous version of Google Analytics, launched in 2012. UA has been the go-to analytics platform for many businesses, providing insights into website traffic, user behavior, and conversion rates. UA uses a tracking code that is embedded into your website’s pages, allowing you to collect data and analyze it using various reports and dashboards.
What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google Analytics, launched in 2020. GA4 is designed to provide more insights into user behavior across multiple devices and platforms, including mobile apps and websites. GA4 uses an event-based data model, which means it can track a wider range of user interactions, such as button clicks and video views, providing more comprehensive insights.
Key Differences between GA4 and UA:
GA4 uses an event-based tracking model, which allows you to track and analyze user interactions beyond just pageviews. This means you can track and analyze specific actions users take on your website, such as button clicks and form submissions. In contrast, UA uses pageviews and sessions as the basis for tracking user behavior.
GA4 is designed to track user behavior across multiple platforms and devices, including mobile apps and websites. This is achieved through the use of a single tracking code and user ID, which allows you to track a user’s behavior as they move across different devices and platforms. UA, on the other hand, requires separate tracking codes for each platform, which can lead to incomplete data.
Reporting and Insights
GA4 offers more advanced reporting and insights, including the ability to track user engagement with videos and other media. It also includes advanced machine learning capabilities, such as predictive metrics and automated insights. UA, on the other hand, offers more traditional reporting and insights, such as traffic sources and conversion rates.
User Interface and Navigation
GA4 has a modernized user interface that is more user-friendly and intuitive than UA. The new interface allows you to easily switch between different reports and data streams, and provides a more streamlined navigation experience. UA, on the other hand, has a more complex and cluttered interface, which can be overwhelming for new users.
One of the most significant drawbacks of Google Universal Analytics is that it can sometimes sample data, which can lead to inaccurate or incomplete data. Data sampling occurs when UA selects a subset of data from your website traffic to analyze, rather than analyzing all the data. This can occur when there is too much data to analyze in real-time, or when you are using custom reports. In contrast, GA4 does not sample data, providing a more accurate and complete picture of your website traffic and user behavior.
Compatibility with Third-Party Tools
Another advantage of GA4 is its compatibility with third-party tools, such as Google Ads and BigQuery. GA4 allows you to integrate your analytics data with these tools, providing a more comprehensive view of your marketing and advertising efforts. UA also supports integration with third-party tools, but the process can be more complicated and time-consuming.
GA4 has a longer data retention period than UA, which can be beneficial for businesses that need to analyze data over longer timeframes. GA4 allows you to retain data for up to 14 months, while UA only allows data retention for up to 2 years. This means that if you need to analyze data that is older than 2 years, you will need to export the data from UA before it is deleted.
Which One Should You Choose?
As mentioned earlier, the choice between GA4 and UA will depend on your specific business needs and goals. While GA4 offers some significant advantages over UA, there are also some disadvantages to consider. For example, GA4’s event-based tracking model can be more complicated and time-consuming to set up than UA’s pageview-based model.
Another factor to consider is the learning curve. If you are already familiar with UA, it may be more convenient to stick with it rather than investing time and resources into learning a new platform. On the other hand, if you are just starting with analytics, GA4 may be a better option as it has a more modern and intuitive user interface.
Ultimately, the best way to determine which platform is right for your business is to evaluate your specific needs and goals, and then test both platforms to see which one provides the most accurate and comprehensive insights. You may also want to consult with a digital marketing expert who can help you determine which platform is best suited for your business.
In conclusion, GA4 and UA are both powerful analytics platforms that offer different advantages and disadvantages. GA4’s event-based tracking model, cross-platform tracking, advanced reporting and insights, and longer data retention period make it an attractive option for businesses that need a more comprehensive view of their website traffic and user behavior. However, it can be more complicated to set up and learn than UA.
UA, on the other hand, has a proven track record, a simpler tracking model, and a more traditional user interface. It may be a better option for businesses that don’t need the advanced features offered by GA4 or are more comfortable with a traditional analytics platform.
Ultimately, the choice between GA4 and UA will depend on your specific business needs and goals. It’s important to evaluate both platforms and test them out to see which one provides the most accurate and comprehensive insights for your business.
What is the difference between GA4 and UA?
The main difference is the tracking model. GA4 uses an event-based tracking model, while UA uses a pageview-based tracking model. Additionally, GA4 offers cross-platform tracking, advanced reporting and insights, and longer data retention period compared to UA.
Is GA4 better than UA?
It depends on your specific business needs and goals. GA4 offers some advantages over UA, such as cross-platform tracking and advanced reporting, but it can also be more complicated to set up and learn. UA has a more traditional user interface and simpler tracking model, which may be more suitable for some businesses.
Can I still use UA if I switch to GA4?
Yes, you can still use UA if you switch to GA4. However, it’s important to note that GA4 and UA operate independently of each other, so you will need to set up tracking for both platforms separately.
Does GA4 sample data like UA?
No, GA4 does not sample data like UA. This means that GA4 provides a more accurate and complete picture of your website traffic and user behavior.
Which tracking model is easier to set up, event-based or pageview-based?
Pageview-based tracking, which is used by UA, is generally easier and quicker to set up than event-based tracking, which is used by GA4. However, event-based tracking provides more detailed insights into user behavior, making it more valuable in the long run.
Can I integrate GA4 with third-party tools like Google Ads and BigQuery?
Yes, GA4 is compatible with third-party tools like Google Ads and BigQuery. This allows you to integrate your analytics data with these tools, providing a more comprehensive view of your marketing and advertising efforts.
How long is data retention in GA4 and UA?
GA4 allows you to retain data for up to 14 months, while UA only allows data retention for up to 2 years. This means that if you need to analyze data that is older than 2 years, you will need to export the data from UA before it is deleted.