You’re likely familiar with Google Universal Analytics (UA). It’s been the industry standard for years, providing a wealth of data to help you understand your website’s performance. But it is being replaced with the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4). GA4 is  the latest version, and it’s making waves in the digital marketing world.

GA4 is designed to give you an even deeper understanding of your customer’s journey. It’s packed with new features and a completely revamped interface. But how does it stack up against the tried-and-true UA?

That’s what we’ll explore in this article. We’ll delve into the key differences between UA and GA4. So, let’s dive right in.

Google Universal Analytics

This section is devoted to taking a more in-depth look at Google Universal Analytics (UA)a classic model that served countless businesses for several years. It was a go-to platform for gaining insights into your website’s performance and user behavior.

Overview of Google Universal Analytics

Established in October 2012, Google Universal Analytics has often been viewed as a revolution in the digital analytical world. It centered on delivering a more user-based, cross-platform type of tracking, letting you monitor digital interactions not just from websites, but also from other digital devices like mobile apps.

The defining characteristic of Universal Analytics was its spotlight on users, connecting multiple session data. It could also utilize custom dimensions and metrics, providing you with capabilities for customized data collection and configuration.

Features of Google Universal Analytics

Google Universal Analytics brought a variety of features to assist businesses in understanding their users’ website activities. Here’s a quick rundown of some noteworthy features:

  • User ID tracking allowed you to track engagement from the same user across multiple devices and sessions. It was not focused on individual sessions but the total interaction the user has with your site.
  • There was cross-domain tracking, which was helpful when you had different domains but wanted to track them as a single entity.
  • Enhanced E-commerce tracking gave you detailed data about your store’s performance, such as what products get views, add to carts, and purchases.

By understanding these key features, you’re better equipped for the move to the next phase of Google Analytics. A grasp of Google Universal Analytics can provide a valuable foundation as you consider braving the new waters of Google Analytics 4.

Google Analytics 4

Having discussed Universal Analytics, let’s pivot to the more recent analytics tool from Google. Google Analytics 4 (GA4), released in October 2020, brings valuable enhancements to digital analytics, opening the door to a more in-depth understanding of user behavior and performance across devices.

Overview of Google Analytics 4

GA4 combines the best of Universal Analytics with improved cross-platform capabilities, making it robust for tracking user interaction events. It’s engineered to provide comprehensive insights by delivering a complete view of the customer journey. You can use it to track both website and app data in the same property, breaking down the silos between device types for a comprehensive view. Google Analytics 4 focuses on individualized insights, machine learning, and future-proof privacy practices. Let’s delve deeper into some of these features.

Features of Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 boasts the following features:

  • Event-based Tracking: Gone are the days of hits. GA4 replaces pageviews and sessions with events and parameters, offering more nuanced insights. This shift enables you to understand the specifics of individual user interactions on your site.
  • Advanced Analysis Tools: GA4 enhances data exploration through advanced analysis tools. Analysis Hub provides powerful techniques like segment overlap, path analysis, and funnel analysis.
  • Predictive Metrics: Using machine learning models, GA4 predicts user churn and identifies potential revenue from specific groups of customers. A valuable tool for marketers.
  • Privacy-Centric Design: Responding to evolving privacy regulations and changes to cookies, GA4 is built with a privacy-first approach. It allows data collection and analysis while respecting users’ privacy preferences.

These are just a few features of Google Analytics 4. Following this section, we’ll focus on comparing Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4, familiarizing you with their unique characteristics and aiding you on your analytics journey.

Comparison between Google Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4

Navigating through the differences between Google Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 could be challenging. It’s ever-crucial to understand the changes and make well-informed decisions to optimize your digital platform’s performance. Let’s dive into the various aspects where these two differ.

Data Collection Methods

The first difference that stands out is their approach towards data collection.

In the realm of Universal Analytics, sessions played a pivotal role in understanding user interactions. Sessions were crucial as they grouped together a series of user actions during a given timeframe on a website or app. The emphasis was particularly on pageview hits, which helped in tracking how users navigate through the digital platform. These sessions were key to analyzing user behavior patterns and engagement levels.

Conversely, Google Analytics 4 introduces a more advanced approach by adopting an event-based data model. This model essentially treats every user interaction as an event, whether it’s a page view, a button click, or any other form of engagement. This detailed tracking system in GA4 provides a comprehensive view of user activities and interactions, allowing for deeper insights into user behavior and preferences.

Codeless Event Tracking

As mentioned above, event tracking is an area where GA4 truly shines compared to its predecessor, not only in terms data collected, but also in ease of access. 

 In Universal Analytics, one would have to manually implement custom event tracking, a process that could be time-consuming and require a deep understanding of coding. However, GA4 streamlines this process by automatically tracking specific events without the need for additional code, making it a more user-friendly and efficient solution. This automated approach not only saves time and effort but also provides a more intuitive way to gain insights into your audience’s interactions with your website or application.

User Interface

To bring a fresh yet user-friendly approach, GA4 introduces an entirely new user interface. If you are accustomed to Universal Analytics’ interface, you’ll notice this change right away. GA4’s interface is designed to isolate and display the most relevant information for marketers clearly. It offers user-friendly navigation buttons and a clearly outlined data display. However, it may take some time to get used to GA4’s layout and functionalities, especially if you’re moving straight from Universal Analytics.

Transitioning to Google Analytics 4 may seem daunting at first, but its cutting-edge design, advanced event tracking features, and sophisticated data collection methods truly set it apart. With a focus on adapting to evolving user behaviors, GA4 emerges as a compelling option compared to Universal Analytics. Mastering GA4 today not only equips you with valuable skills but also lays the foundation for implementing a data-driven approach in shaping your future business strategies. It’s a strategic and necessary move that can lead to insightful analytics and enhanced decision-making capabilities down the line.

You’ve seen how Google Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 differ in crucial areas like data collection, event tracking, and user interface. GA4’s event-based model simplifies tracking, making it a more streamlined choice. Its fresh UI design may take some getting used to, but it’s user-friendly and modern. If you’re looking to future-proof your business with a data-driven strategy, transitioning now to GA4 is a smart move. It’s forward-thinking, offering advanced capabilities that position it as a superior choice over Universal Analytics. Remember, change isn’t always a bad thing, and in the case of GA4, it is a great thing.

Contact us at Boostabiliy for more information about GA4 and how to add it to your SEO toolbelt.



Kristine is the Director of Marketing at Boostability. She brings a decade's worth of communications strategy work to the company. Kristine has a Masters Degree in Leadership and Communications from Gonzaga University and graduated from BYU with her undergrad in Broadcast Journalism. She's worked in television news, public relations, communications strategy, and marketing for over 10 years. In addition to being a part of the marketing team, Kristine enjoys traveling, sports, and all things nerdy.