UA versus GA4: What's the Difference?

While Universal Analytics isn't going anywhere yet, marketers and advertisers will want to ensure that they're ahead of the curve.
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As is the case with many moves from Google, the switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics in October 2020 shook everything up. Most importantly, the action has everyone questioning what the difference between the two is. Which should you use? Is one better than the other?

What's Universal Analytics?

Universal Analytics (UA) was the previous version of analytics. It's not the first version, however, preceded by Urchin and Classic in years past. We're now onto the latest iteration, GA4.

Until mid-October 2020, this was the default form of Google Analytics.

What is Happening to Universal Analytics?

While Universal Analytics isn't going anywhere yet, marketers and advertisers will want to ensure that they're ahead of the curve.

What is GA4?

GA4 (Google Analytics 4) is the newest form of Google Analytics. It replaced Universal Analytics in October 2020.

What makes GA4 so special, though?

GA4 has a ton of premium features available to everyone and puts a massive emphasis on event-driven data. Being resistant to using GA4 is understandable. There are different features, a new UI, and data models to acclimate yourself to.

New Features and Data Streams

On launch, GA4 is ready to show you numerous types of analytical user data across multiple 'data streams.' GA implemented the newer term, Data stream, as your data coming from:

  • Websites
  • iOS apps
  • Android apps

Events

The new GA is all about the event model. Events are essentially whenever a user interacts with your content. With GA, you have considerable technical freedom to pursue which events result in the most data. The full range of event measures are:

Automatically collected events - This is your standard data collection that happens each time a user interacts with your site.

Enhanced Measurement events - This is another feature that truly separates GA4 from UA. Enhanced measurement events give you considerable customizable options for viewing data from multiple sources and data streams.

There are also Recommended and Custom events, which allow for you to have total control over measurements. Depending on the type of data you're collecting, these may be the default event models you'll use.

New User Interface

We recommend getting used to the new GA user interface ASAP, as GA will be the new normal. It will be the new default and the primary version of GA for years to come. The user interface splits into a few tabs:

  • Overview
  • Events
  • Retention
  • and All Events

The Verdict: Universal Analytics versus GA4

While Universal Analytics definitely gets the job done, GA4 is the way to go. Not only is it the primary iteration of Analytics, but everything will stem from it. Think back on the phasing out of Gmail ads in favor of Google Discovery ads. GA4 will offer you more information on user metrics, giving you more insight. Combining all the pertinent data into one neat package is going to be infinitely more accessible.

As we all know now, Google and its tools are constantly evolving. If you want to make your life easier, switching to GA4 full-time is the way to go. It isn't going away and will definitely be the future of measuring user data across different platforms.


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