Google Analytics

How Do GA4 Properties Differ from UA Properties?

Get a Better Understanding of the Former Version of Google Analytics + How GA4 Has Taken Things to the Next Level

Main Image Courtesy of Adswerve.

Universal Analytics (UA) Overview

Google Analytics' Universal Analytics (UA) was a tool that launched in 2012, and set the standard for how data was collected and stored by providing various features and tracking codes for websites.

Earlier this year, it was announced by Google that the new version of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) would be replacing the previous version of UA. On July 1st, UA properties stopped processing new data and a GA4 property needed to be installed to maintain website measurement. 

Up until July 1st of next year, users will still have access to UA interface, however it’s important to migrate all of your property links from UA to GA4 to ensure you don’t lose any of your important information. 

Comparing the Major Differences Between UA & GA4

Google Analytics 4 is the latest version of the company's web analytics software, which provides marketers with a deeper understanding of their customers' usage patterns.

The UA data model was based on page views and sessions, and it included a View and a Property level. On the other hand, the GA4 model is exclusively based on events, and it has a property level and data stream.

Process Behind the Measurements 

Universal Analytics used a cookie-based approach to collect data. This simply means that a website sends a cookie to its users' browsers so that it can record and monitor their activity on the site. This method is used to measure a site's performance.

GA4 allows businesses to measure their performance across various devices and platforms. It also includes first-party data and Google signals sent to users who have opted into ad personalization. While it doesn't rely on tracking sessions, it uses an event-based data model to collect information.

Due to the importance of privacy, it's reasonable to assume that the number of cookies will eventually become less prevalent. This could become a big deal for digital marketers.

Although the event-based data model is more accurate than the session-based method, it also counts different users. For instance, in Universal Analytics, the metric known as total users is used to measure its performance. On the other hand, in GA4, it's focused on the users who are active.

Tracking Links

Universal Analytics is a tool that tracks data based on the number of pageviews. It can also analyze the actions that a user takes when a page loads up. However, it doesn't track the actions that don't prompt a new page to be created. For instance, if a user clicks on a link to play a video, or if they click on a link to send traffic off the site, then it won't be able to provide a detailed view of that activity. To measure these events, you will need to use the Google Tag Manager (GTM).

Getting started with Universal Analytics was very time-consuming and challenging for marketers. To implement the process, they needed to set up various triggers and variables. For instance, the tags would track all the link clicks that took place on the branch and root sites.

The biggest difference between GA4 and Universal Analytics is the way the event parameters are set. These are predefined and provide additional information when we analyze our data.

GTM will certainly make your life easier, to say the least! Image Courtesy of Semrush

Unlike pageview tracking, GA4 does not rely on the ability to track individual pages. Instead, it’s built to handle event tracking. Some of the events are automatically collected and can be tracked by default. On the other hand, recommendations and custom events require the help of Tag Manager.

When certain event parameters are added to custom events and recommendations, they must be registered as part of a custom dimension in GA4.

In summary, some of the events that are included in custom events and recommendations need the help of GTM to be properly tracked. Others can be handled by themselves in GA4. For example, internal link click tracking is a great example of an event that can be tracked in GA4.


The main difference between Google Analytics' Universal Analytics and Google Analytics' GA4 is that UA has a more comprehensive collection of reports. On the other hand, GA4 has fewer standard reports. One of the most critical types of reports in the platform is acquisition reporting.

With acquisition reporting, we can get a deeper understanding of how various elements of our site are performing. For instance, if we want to compare the effectiveness of organic search to that of email or social media, we need to first understand acquisition reporting. It also helps us make informed decisions regarding the allocation of a budget.

Cross-Platform Tracking 

Previously, tracking users across different platforms was almost impossible with Google Analytics. With the new version, it's now possible to track both app and web data in one place. The new beta name of Google's Analytics App+Web is a reference to the unified property.

With cross-platform tracking, you can now see how your customers are performing across different platforms. You can also track the various aspects of a user's journey, such as their engagement and acquisition. This is done using unique IDs that are assigned during the login process.

The gtag.js script will send the user ID from either the application or the website to Google Analytics. This will allow the company to collect and analyze the data that the user has logged in. After they have logged in on another platform, reports will then link the user's data to their unique identity.

This data can be incredibly valuable to any marketer as it allows them to gain a deeper understanding of their customers' experiences on different platforms. It can also be utilized to create more accurate models by analyzing the data for a specific demographic.

SEO Strategies

One of the biggest changes that SEOs will need to make is their reporting strategies. With the help of GA4, they can create more informed reports by comparing their previous performance with that of other users. In addition, it allows them to see how their optimizations have affected their website. One of the most important factors that you’ll need to consider when it comes to building a landing page report is how to implement the features of GA4.

Through the help of GA4 and its Customer Lifecycle Reports, SEOs will understand the various stages of a customer's journey, which helps them make informed decisions regarding their business strategy.

Unfortunately, due to the complexity of reports built using GA4, many marketers end up changing their reporting strategies completely. One of the easiest ways to implement this strategy is by leveraging BigQuery, which helps analyze all the site data.

With Google BigQuery, you can store and query massive amounts of data in a highly scalable, quick way. Its built-in query engine can handle queries up to petabytes in just minutes. Image Courtesy of Usercentrics

Major New Features made by GA4

While GA4 has made lots of improvements from the days of UA, there are also a lot of features that are completely new since it is still considered a different platform. Take a look at some of these new and highly impressive features GA4 has created. 

Machine Learning

In Google Analytics 4, one of the most talked about features is the ability to predict a user's future actions. This feature is powered by machine learning.

Predictive metrics by machine learning include the purchase probability, churn probability, and predicted revenue. The purchase probability is a prediction of how likely it is that a customer will make a purchase within seven business days, while the churn probability is a prediction of how likely it is that a user will not engage in the next few days. The predicted revenue is a prediction of how much money a user will earn in the next 28 business days.

A good predictive metric can help you identify which users are most likely to convert and make a purchase. On the other hand, it can also help you identify which users have the lowest likelihood of converting. Image Courtesy of the Digital Analyst Team

Unique Product Integration 

With GA4, you can integrate with other Google products such as Google Ads and Big Query.

Previously, anyone with a GA 360 account was able to access Big Query. But now this connection is free for everyone, and it gives you a multi-cloud data warehouse that's ideal for keeping your business up-to-date.

With Google Ads, you can target audiences with high-value as well as highly engaged individuals. You can also see your campaigns in the GA4 report and import analytical conversions into your account.

Brand New Metrics 

The GA4 reports will feature three new metrics. These include the average duration of each session, the rates of engagement, and the number of sessions that were engaged:

  • Google defines an engaged session as a session that lasted for longer than ten seconds, had a conversion event, or featured two or more page views.
  • According to Google, the average duration of an engaged session is the amount of time that the user spends on a particular page. This is how long the user is actively engaged with the site.
  • The concept of the engagement rate refers to the ratio of the number of sessions that the user has engaged with the site. If you had 1,280 total sessions and around 130 of them were considered engaged, the total number of sessions that the user has engaged with the site would be around 1,000.

Although Google Analytics 4 did not initially include a bounce rate metric, it was eventually added to the platform when it launched, but the calculation is different in GA4 from the UA version.

What You Won’t See in GA4 from UA

One of the biggest changes that GA4 made was the removal of monthly hit limits. In Universal Analytics, for instance, the maximum number of hits that a property could receive was 10 million.

Another big thing that Universal Analytics didn't implement in its new platform is the ability to block spam referrals. With the help of GA4, users will now have a secret key that will prevent them from receiving spam referrals.

Some of the features that were not migrated are not being enabled by the new platform. For instance, users won't be able to create custom views of their data, block IP addresses, or set a filter for their hostname.

Instead of referring to bounce rates, reports will now focus on engagement rates. This change is because Google is taking a more positive approach when it comes to reporting.

Set Up GA4 Today and Take Your Digital Marketing Game to the Next Level

Making the transition into GA4 from UA might have felt like a complicated process, but in the end, GA4’s new, precise, and improved features sure make up for it. If you need any additional assistance on the transition over to GA4, check out Google’s guide here. Good luck and happy business ventures!

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