Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google’s popular web analytics tool. It brings a host of new features, upgrades and options for website owners to track the performance of their site and better understand their customer base. While it may appear to be similar to Universal Analytics (UA), there are some key differences between these two versions that must be considered when choosing an analytics platform. In this article, we will discuss five key differences between GA4 and UA, so you can prepare for the eventual transition to GA4.
Remember: on July 1, 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits, so every site that wants to use Google Analytics needs to switch over to GA4.
1st Key Difference: Data Collection Methodology
The most fundamental difference between GA4 and UA lies in the way data is collected from visitors on a website. GA4 utilizes an event-driven data model that allows for a more holistic view of user behavior across multiple devices and platforms. This new approach allows website owners to track visitor behaviors such as pageviews, search queries, clicks on links, and add-to-cart actions in real time, regardless of device or platform.
UA, on the other hand, relies on a hit-based data collection method which can be more limited in scope. This method collects “hits” from each pageview or action taken by a visitor on the site so it does not offer the same level of insight into overall customer behavior as GA4.
2nd Key Difference: Cross-Platform Analytics
GA4 was designed to provide a comprehensive view of how customers interact with a website, regardless of platform or device. By leveraging the event-driven data model mentioned above, GA4 offers insights into customer behavior across multiple devices and platforms in real time. This allows website owners to gain insights into how their mobile users are behaving differently from desktop users.
UA does not offer this same level of insight as it relies on the hit-based data collection method mentioned earlier. As such, UA provides more limited analytics capabilities when analyzing cross-platform user behavior.
3rd Key Difference: Data Security and Privacy Controls
Data security is an important consideration when choosing an analytics tool and GA4 has taken steps to ensure that customer data is safeguarded. GA4 offers a number of data security and privacy controls such as the ability to anonymize IP addresses, implement marketing opt-outs, and control user access with permissions.
UA does not have the same level of data security capabilities as it relies on the hit-based model which is more prone to potential privacy violations. As such, website owners may need to take additional steps to ensure their customer’s data is securely stored when using UA.
4th Key Difference: Customization Options
GA4 provides website owners with the ability to customize their analytics platform in a variety of ways. This includes creating custom dashboards, setting up automated alerts for specific events, tagging campaigns and URLs for better tracking, and more.
UA, while covering much of the same ground, does not offer the same level of customization capabilities as GA4. This means that website owners may need to rely on third-party applications or plugins to gain access to these features when using UA.
When determining which analytics platform is right for your website, there are a number of factors to consider. GA4 and UA both offer powerful analytics capabilities but differ in terms of data collection methodologies, cross-platform analytics, data security and privacy controls, customization options, and cost & pricing models. We hope this article has provided you with an overview of the five key differences between GA4 and UA so you get ready for the inevitable transition.
If you have any questions about implementing UA or GA4 on your CanSpace-hosted website, get in touch with us!