GA 4 vs Universal Analytics

Google Analytics is a powerful tool used by businesses to track their website’s performance and gain insights about their audience. In October 2020, Google introduced a new version of Google Analytics, known as Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This new version is an upgrade to the previous Universal Analytics, which has been the standard for web analytics for many years. While both versions serve the same purpose, there are several key differences between Universal Analytics and GA4.

Data Collection

The main difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 is the way data is collected. Universal Analytics relies on a tracking code placed on each page of the website. This tracking code sends data to the Google Analytics servers where it is processed and analyzed. GA4, on the other hand, uses an event-based data model. It collects data based on events that happen on the website, such as clicks, pageviews, and other interactions. This allows GA4 to capture a more complete view of the user journey, from initial touchpoints to final conversions.

User Tracking

Universal Analytics uses cookies to track users across sessions. This means that if a user clears their cookies, their data is lost, and they will be considered a new user the next time they visit the website. GA4 uses a combination of first-party cookies and Google signals to track users. This allows GA4 to better track users across devices and sessions, even if they have cleared their cookies.

Data Analysis

Another key difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 is how data is analyzed. Universal Analytics provides a wealth of reports and metrics that are organized into pre-defined categories. While these reports are helpful, they are not always customizable, and it can be challenging to find the exact information needed. GA4, on the other hand, offers more flexibility and customization when it comes to data analysis. It provides a more flexible and customizable reporting interface, allowing users to create custom reports, analyze trends, and perform ad-hoc analysis.

Integration with Google Ads

Both Universal Analytics and GA4 integrate with Google Ads, but the process is slightly different. Universal Analytics requires manual linking between the two platforms, which can be time-consuming and prone to error. GA4, on the other hand, has a built-in integration with Google Ads. This allows for easier tracking and reporting on ad performance, including custom conversion events and Google Ads data directly within GA4.

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Finally, one of the biggest differences between Universal Analytics and GA4 is the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence. GA4 has been designed to be more machine-learning-driven and to offer more advanced analysis capabilities. For example, it includes automatic insights that highlight key trends and opportunities in the data. It also has predictive analytics capabilities that use machine learning to identify patterns and predict future behavior. These features are not available in Universal Analytics, making GA4 a more powerful tool for businesses looking to gain deeper insights into their audience.

In conclusion, while Universal Analytics and GA4 serve the same purpose, there are several key differences between the two. GA4 offers a more advanced and flexible data collection model, better user tracking, more advanced analysis capabilities, and built-in integration with Google Ads. While the transition to GA4 may require some effort and learning, it offers significant advantages for businesses looking to get the most out of their web analytics.

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