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  • Stavros Kalokairinos

Universal Analytics vs. Google Analytics 4: Decoding the Differences

Reading Time Estimate: 5-7 minutes


Universal Analytics (UA) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) are both web analytics platforms that provide insights into website traffic and user behavior. However, there are some key differences between the two platforms, particularly in terms of their data model and reporting capabilities.




Data Model

  • Universal Analytics: UA uses a session-based data model, which means that data is collected for a user's session, or the time they spend on your website between pageview events. This model can be helpful for understanding user behavior within a session, but it can be less useful for tracking user journeys across multiple devices and sessions.

  • Google Analytics 4: GA4 uses an event-based data model, which means that data is collected for each event that a user triggers on your website or app. This model can be more accurate for tracking user journeys, as it captures data from all of the interactions that a user has with your brand.


Reporting

  • Universal Analytics: UA offers a comprehensive set of standard reports, which provide a wide range of insights into website traffic and user behavior. However, these reports can be overwhelming for new users, and they may not be flexible enough to meet the specific needs of all businesses.

  • Google Analytics 4: GA4 focuses on flexibility and customization, with a variety of reporting options available. This includes pre-built reports, Exploration reports, and custom reports. Exploration reports are particularly useful for exploring your data and identifying trends.


Reading Reports

  • Universal Analytics: UA reports are typically organized around sessions, with metrics such as Pageviews, Users, and Bounce Rate. This can make it difficult to track user journeys across multiple sessions.

  • Google Analytics 4: GA4 reports are organized around events, with metrics such as Events, Users, and Engagement. This makes it easier to track user journeys and identify key moments in the customer journey.


Summary Table

Feature

Universal Analytics

Google Analytics 4

Data Model

Session-based

Event-based

Reporting

Standard reports

Flexible and customizable

Report Organization

Sessions

Events

Strengths

Comprehensive overview of website traffic

Flexibility and customization for data exploration

Weaknesses

Less accurate for tracking user journeys

Can be overwhelming for new users

Overall

GA4 is a more modern and versatile analytics platform than UA. It is better suited for tracking user journeys across multiple devices and platforms, and it offers more flexibility for customization and data exploration. However, UA may be a better choice for businesses that are already familiar with the platform and that do not need the advanced features of GA4.

Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 in terms of reading reports:

Feature

Universal Analytics

Google Analytics 4

Overall Layout

More traditional report layout

More modern and interactive layout

Use of Visualizations

Uses more charts and graphs

Uses more interactive visualizations

Ability to Filter Data

More limited filtering options

More flexible filtering options

Ability to Share Reports

Can be shared with colleagues via link

Can be shared with colleagues via link or embedded in websites


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