Google Analytics has been the industry-standard web analytics tool for more than a decade, helping businesses of all sizes to measure the performance of their websites and gain insights into their audience’s behavior. But, as technology continues to evolve, so does Google Analytics. In 2020, Google introduced Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which is an upgraded version of the old Universal Analytics (UA). Recently, Google announced that all web tracking tied to their UA will be null and void come July 1, 2023. Therefore, all Google Analytics users are required to archive their UA data and transition to GA4 before this date. To gear up for the migration, it’s important to be aware of some significant differences between them, particularly when it comes to tracking user behavior.
Event-Driven Model vs. Session-Based Model
One of the most significant differences between GA4 and UA is the way they track user behavior. GA4 uses an event-driven model, while UA uses a session-based model. In UA a session is created when a user first visits a website and ends after 30 minutes of inactivity or at midnight. All user interactions within that session are grouped together and reported as a single session. In contrast, GA4 tracks individual user events and groups them by user rather than session. This allows website owners to get a more granular view of how users interact with their website.
Focus on User-Centric Data
GA4 focuses on user-centric data, whereas UA focuses on session-based data. In GA4, user data is the primary focus, and website owners can track user behavior across multiple devices and platforms. This user-centric approach allows website owners to see the entire customer journey and identify where users drop off or convert. It also allows website owners to get a better understanding of their customers’ behavior and preferences.
GA4 also includes machine-learning capabilities that help website owners better understand user behavior. These capabilities include automated insights, predictive analytics, and anomaly detection. For example, GA4 can automatically identify patterns in user behavior and surface insights that may be missed by manual analysis. This can help website owners quickly identify opportunities to improve their website’s performance.
Simplified Reporting Interface
The reporting interface is another area where GA4 differs from UA. The new interface provides a more user-friendly and customizable experience. With GA4, businesses can create custom reports that align with their specific goals and objectives. It also offers pre-built reports, such as engagement, retention, and monetization, that can provide insights into user behavior.
The new interface also allows businesses to create custom funnels and perform cohort analysis. These features provide businesses with a better understanding of how users move through their website and identify areas for improvement.
One potential drawback of GA4 is its data limits. While UA has no data limits, GA4 limits data collection to 10 million events per month per property. This may not be an issue for smaller websites, but larger websites may need to consider their data collection needs before switching to Google Analytics 4.
While GA4 and UA serve the same purpose, there are some key reporting differences between the two. GA4’s event-driven model, user-centric data, machine learning capabilities, simplified reporting, and data limits set it apart from UA. As July 1, 2023, draws near, website owners need to be aware and prepare for the change in their analytics and reporting.