Google Analytics 4 versus Universal Analytics: Differences You Need To Know

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Google Analytics is one of the most powerful digital marketing weapons one should be using whether you’re running an online store, a blog, or brick and motor business. This amazing tool allows you to track and analyze all of your website traffic that is the visitors to your website. 

If you are curious to know about;

  1. How many visitors visit your website?
  2. Where are these visitors coming from?
  3. How long do they spend time on your website?
  4. Which pages are they visiting?       

Then, you should be using Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the updated version of Google Universal Analytics, as it unfolds a lot of important data. 

Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

Google Analytics 4 is the next generation of Google Universal Analytics and provides useful user insights into website behavior, user experience, and marketing efforts. This tool has improved its features and capabilities in order to best meet the needs of business owners. 

It gives more control to adapt to changing environments without the need of reconfiguring the tracking codes. This allows businesses to adapt more quickly to changing business needs due to better control over data collection and use.

Google Universal Analytics vs Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 uses different data structures and collection logic.  With Universal Analytics (UA), the metric that stands out is page views. While GA4 focuses on events, you won’t get generalized insights about the audience but it will provide you with data to understand how people interact with your site (or your app). 

Mentioned below are the key differences between the two versions;

Hits vs Events

 Every hit type that you have known in Universal Analytics is converted to Event in GA4

Event Structure

In Universal Analytics, the event structure included category, action, label, and value. The notion of such an information-gathering system is replaced by GA4’s Parameters. This information structure is much more open to your customization.

Web & App

The most relevant difference between the two versions is that GA4 collects data as a combination of both the app and the website. Whereas Universal Analytics (UA) was a web-only system. Most of the GA4 users would agree that GA4 offers all the modern features that one needs for a modern business.


The way sessions are calculated has changed in GA4. In Universal Analytics (UA), sessions were calculated when a user would land on a page that is, the timestamp would start when the user landed on the page and the timestamp would stop when the exited from the page. In GA4, sessions are calculated based on the start event getting triggered. The process of calculating sessions is entirely automated in GA4. If you have used the UA property and currently using the GA4 property, you may see a difference between the session count and the session duration due to the way sessions are calculated.


The views in Universal Analytics no longer exist in GA4. Inside GA4 there is Data Stream. GA4 has multiple data sources that you can make use of such as your website, mobile application, etc. from where you draw the data which are ultimately data streams that were not available in Universal Analytics (UA).

Data Retention Settings

The data retention settings have changed in GA4. In Universal Analytics (UA), one had the option to retain data for many different durations or tiers of time like 24 months, 36 months, 12 months, etc. Unfortunately, in GA4, you only have two options; 2 months and 14 months.

Ecommerce Reports

The enhanced eCommerce options we knew in the Universal account are now replaced by Monetization Reports in GA4.

User Engagement Reports

In Universal Analytics (UA) one would use metrics like bounce rate, session duration, and more to understand user engagement. However, in GA4, we have engagement metrics where the engagement is decided as engaged sessions automatically by GA4. It also detects where the user is being more active and vice versa.

Exploration Reports

The most powerful feature introduced in GA4 are the exploration reports. This comes close to the reports that you could create at the data studio environment in UA. GA4’s exploration reports are robust creating a system that beats the Universal Analytics (UA) custom report systems. It offers many methods to create reports such as Path Analysis, Funnel Analysis, and Code Analysis … including a lot of customization options that you were never able to do in Universal Analytics.

The Benefits of Google Analytics 4 over Universal Analytics

Google’s newest analytics product Google Analytics 4 is the replacement for universal analytics. Let’s walk through the 5 really good reasons to shift to Google Analytics 4.

You can track both the website as well as the app

Previously, you had to use Google Analytics for your website tracking and Firebase App tracking. Now you can do it all together in one place.

Enhanced measurements based on events

Previously, GA just tracked basic events automatically and anything else had to be set up manually in Universal Analytics and in Google Tag Manager. In fact, in Universal Analytics everything was really just a hit and event for a type of hit. While you will still need to create custom events to get the most out of GA4, it does have more available measurements out of the box such as scrolling, outbound link clicks, document link clicks, website searches, etc. Also, a marketer can check more details without the need for developers to help you set everything up as a custom event.


Pathways allows you to better visualize the customer journey and understand the flow users take on your website. One can get a better grasp of how they get to your final conversion point and create a hypothesis on how to optimize those steps. You can even work backward from a conversion point and build the conversion journey that way.

Custom Reports

 Custom Reports have become explores which are much more user friendly and one can easily choose segments to work with and then add dimensions and metrics, which enables simpler, more flexible analysis. Even though it isn’t a huge difference in functionality, it is easier to use.

GA4 offers free BigQuery export

 In Universal Analytics, you had to upgrade to GA 360 in order to get raw data out, which is way expensive. You can now export raw event-level data for free to BigQuery which is great for people working with data in the warehouse. 

The entry of GA4 is a fantastic opportunity to review your entire tracking setup and really dig into what matches your strategic KPI Plan. In summary, GA4 is easier and slightly more powerful than Universal Analytics.