Universal Analytics vs. Google Analytics 4

The differences between Google's most popular analytics tools: Universal Analytics (UA) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

Universal Analytics vs. Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 (aka. GA4): The new and default version of Google Analytics.

Universal Analytics (aka. UA): The classic (and now the old) version of Google Analytics that most of us are used to.

We will do a deep dive into the technical, strategic, and reporting differences below.

This document is focused on the differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4. If you are interested in practical knowledge, you can check the following guides first:

Universal Analytics vs. GA4 - Technical Details

GA4 and UA are almost two different products in terms of data models, infrastructure, capabilities, interface, and user experience.

Different Data Models

The biggest change is done at the core. GA4 is using an event-based data collection method whereas UA is using a hit-based one. This might not click for non-technical people, so here’s what it means:

In Universal Analytics, there are different hit-types such as PageView, Social, Transaction, etc. On the other hand, for GA4 they are all Events with different names and parameters. This change allows us to have a deep combination between all reports & capabilities.

AI & Machine Learning Powered

GA4 offers intelligent business insights supported by AI & machine learning. We will understand the value of this over time because Google needs to collect a good amount of data to make better predictions. We will most likely hear and use more and more about predictive metrics and audiences in the near future.

More Cross-device Reporting

UA is quite limited with its cross-device reporting. In contrast, GA4 is fully ready for this with its new data streams approach and event-based data collection model. You can easily track multiple devices on a single GA4 property using different streams, and the sessions and reports can be consolidated across devices.

Enhanced Google Signals

GA4 allows you to use Google Signals on a much deeper level. Google shares its own user data with your Analytics property, which helps with cross-device tracking and advanced personalization.

Automated Event Tracking

GA4 automatically tracks events such as user_engagement, session_start, page_view, and first_visit. There is also the Enhanced Measurement feature that tracks file downloads, video engagement, site search, outbound clicks, and scrolls without the need of any additional setup.

There are many other benefits of GA4, and we expect there is even more to come in the near future as Google heavily invests in Google Analytics 4.

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