Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: A first Impression

Google Analytics 4 has been around for about a year already but only recently has been put at the centre of any marketer’s agenda, following Google’s announcement that Universal Analytics will stop working from July 2023, leaving people between fear and excitement.

In the midst of all our emotions towards this big change (The current version of Google Analytics has been around since 2012) what do we need to take note of? Are there any major changes that could impact us all? In this blog, I’m going to tell you my first impression from using GA4 and the main differences with the previous platform.

Get started with Google Analytics 4

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UA

UA

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Google analytics 4 will automatically copy your main basic data.

What’s Changed

The new changes in Google Analytics 4 include;

  • Universal Analytics offers a “session-based” model whereas in GA4 everything is “event-based”
  • “Goals” are now called “Conversions”
  • In contrast to Universal Analytics, GA4 allows for up to 30 conversions
  • You can measure your users on the web, mobile and both on the web and mobile with cross-device tracking
  • GA4 anonymises IP addresses by default, making data privacy safe
  • A “Recently viewed” section has been added, showing your most recent visited events
  • GA4 works in data streams, as opposed to views/properties. A data stream is a flow of data from a customer touchpoint (e.g., app, website) to Analytics. Data can come from different streams into one single property
  • “Bounce Rate” disappeared in GA4 and it is now replacement by engagement metrics such as engagement rate

The old vs new changes; my first impression

Home

Navigation: There are a lot of changes on this page but the first thing that caught my eye was the Nav bar on the left hand side. Universal Analytics has a clear, steady navigation bar whereas GA4 has icons which you can hover the mouse over and the bar shows up.

Navigation in Universal Analytics has 10 categories in comparison to Google Analytics 4 which has only 5. This makes the UI look much neater!

UA

GA4

Insights: On the home page of Google Analytics 4 you can see Insights, an auto-generated report that Google Analytics has already built for you. An example of insight is below, which says “New users for the screen class, New Google merchandise store spiked,” when you scroll down, it gives you a brief graph of the new users, which you can expand to see more information. I find this very useful as it gives you bite-size information which quickly helps you understanding what’s going on. You can always dig deeper in data if you wish to.

GA4

There is only one tab of “Insights” in Google analytics and a button for “More Insights” at the end.
Compared to UA we have a good idea of what to expect on Google Analytics 4, such as a graph showing demographics, target audiences, visitors, and devices used by users.

Another thing that caught my eye was how there’s almost no charts or graphs on the homepage in GA4. We have been seeing and are used to a variety of charts displayed on the home page on universal analytics, this is quite a big change and it takes some time to get used to.

Reports [ in GA4 ] and Customisation [ in Google Analytics ]

GA4 has a whole new section for reports where you can view your data with wide range graphs and charts.
I noticed it is now easier to compare your data. Cool right?

GA4

In Google Analytics 4, you have a landing page when you click on “reports” which is called “report snapshot”. This page gives you an overview of all the data as mentioned above, and you can also compare with previous period. But do not worry you can also view your data that has been sub categorised for you already.

UA has always focused on offering plenty of information to its users so that the users are satisfied. This new update has changed it all. In GA4 you only have 4 subcategories per 1 category now. Confused? Look at the image above.

In universal analytics we have Audience, which is primarily divided into different categories / subcategories. GA4 however, condenses everything into main categories and, when you select a report, it opens with the charts you desire but in a much neater format.

UA HomePage

In comparison to,

GA4 HomePage

Summary

As seen above, there’s a massive shift between from the old platform to the new. Despite the fact that sooner or later everybody will have to switch to GA4, I honestly think it’s worth it moving to it as soon as possible.

Certainly, you will have to spend a bit of “learning time” to understand the new layout and concepts. Whether it’s the metrics, the new layout or even different property type, familiarising yourself with this platform can be challenging at first but ultimately I think it is much easier to use than its predecessor, especially when it comes to find top-level information and insights. 

In order to familiarise with the platform, my best advice is to allow yourself a “transition period” where you make good use of both. This will help you familiarising with the new platform, avoiding you a sudden leap in the dark next year.

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