3 Key Differences Between GA4 and Universal Analytics

Jun 16, 2022 | Google Analytics / Tracking

The GA4 transition is creeping closer every day. Here are three major reporting changes you can expect as you settle into Google's new web analytics interface.

Google's official GA4 transition date is July 1, 2023, which is when its old analytics platform, Universal Analytics, will stop tracking data on website visits and activity.

If you're an Informatics client or a tech news reader, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Google has been warning people to prepare for the analytics switch practically since GA4's release in 2020. But the importance and scope of the change continues to catch users off-guard as the final UA switch deadline approaches.

Although many aspects of the two web analytics platforms are the same, there are also quite a few differences. To help position you for success, our Digital Marketing experts offered up their thoughts on three of the biggest reporting differences to know when reviewing your website performance.

3 Key Reporting Differences Between GA4 and Universal Analytics

1. Your User Numbers Will (Probably) Look Different

One of the biggest changes Google implemented in GA4 was placing an emphasis on overall site engagement and focusing less on users who don't interact with your website. The easiest way to see this is with the User metric.

Universal Analytics considered a user as anyone who entered your website. GA4 captures this as well, but this metric is now called Total Users.

The Users metric you'll see listed in most GA4 reporting instead refers to Active Users. Active users are those who have visited and engaged with your website in the last 28 days—an important distinction, as these more engaged visitors are more likely to shop and convert with your brand.

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2. Old Metrics Have New Names

Just like with Users, Google has updated its other reports to hone in on engaged site visitors. One commonly used metric you won't find in GA4, for example, is Bounce Rate.

Google re-imagined this metric, choosing instead to measure the percentage of active site visitors and renaming it Engagement Rate. Another update is the switch from Goals to Conversions. Conversions are now based entirely on the events you track, with room for 30 conversions in one property. And speaking of events...

3. Event Tracking Gets a Makeover

If you're familiar with Universal Analytics event tracking framework, you know that events typically have an associated category, action, and label. Not so in GA4: Events will default to only show the event's name.

Google Tag Manager has updated to reflect this as well. When creating new events, only Event Name appears as an input option. 

To help guide which actions should be tracked and how they should be categorized, Google created a list of recommended GA4 events that you'll find helpful.

New platforms can definitely be tricky. Here at Informatics, we want to make sure your GA4 property is configured properly to give you the insights and data you care about from Day 1. Need help setting up new GA4 events or conversions? We can do that too! Reach out today to talk with our expert team.

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