How Google Analytics 4 Differs From Universal Analytics

How google analytics differs from universal analytics

Well, the day is officially upon us y’all. Google is “sunsetting” Universal Analytics, something we all know and love. Let’s all take a moment to mourn the impending loss of Universal Analytics, but also celebrate the potential opportunities and value we’ll gain from the new data collection methods presented by G4.

How Google Analytics 4 Differs From Universal Analytics

In 2022, Google announced that Universal Analytics will be phased out on July 1st of 2023. That goes for ALL standard properties. This means that it’s time to become familiar with Google Analytics 4! That is, if you haven’t already. 

Why is the Switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 Important for Bloggers?

First, let’s talk about why this change matters for bloggers. Because, it really DOES matter. If you’re a blogger and Influencer using Google Analytics, which you ALL should be ( unless you’ve already switched to Google Analytics 4 ), you are CURRENTLY using Universal Analytics. Google’s Universal Analytics allows you to better see where your traffic comes from. As well as how many pageviews you have, the demographics information of your audience, and so much more.

Furthermore, Google Analytics data is typically requested by brands when negotiating sponsored content. Even ad networks will request this information from you in order to join their network. So for bloggers, this change is a pretty big deal. You need to make sure you protect and preserve your data. YOUR DATA is what allows you to make smart blogging business decisions and efficiently monetize your blog.

Alright soooo since Universal Analytics will soon not be an option for tracking analytics, people in the SEO space have had varying opinions regarding this decision. It’s been a bit controversial, to say the least. One reason this has been such a hot topic is that there isn’t a way to simply migrate a property from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4. Instead, you have to create a whole separate Google Analytics property.

So let’s dive into the main differences of Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics. Plus, at the bottom of this post, we’ll explain how to switch to the new version of Google Analytics and how our team can handle the process for you IF you need help.

How google analytics differs from universal analytics

Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics

GA4, or Google Analytics 4, and Universal Analytics, or UA, have a variety of differences in how they track or relay your website’s analytics. In fact, Google says that Universal Analytics has become obsolete as it was built to be an online measurement system rooted in the desktop web, independent sessions, and provides observable data from cookies. GA4 on the other hand can operate across multiple platforms, like your website on an actual browser vs the app version of your website, while also offering more privacy protection. Also, considering the interfaces from UA and GA4 do differ, you can expect to experience a little bit of a learning curve.

According to Google, GA4 “reveals intelligent business insights” through machine learning. Machine learning is a combination of artificial intelligence and computer science that has been integrated into GA4. By utilizing machine learning, this allows GA4 to fill in any gaps found in data. Meaning it can provide better insights into user behavior, user trends, and more.

Users

If you were or currently are a user of UA, you are likely familiar with its user metrics. The UA acquisition report includes two metrics: total users and new users. This differs from the report in Google Analytics 4, which has three user metrics: total users, active users, and new users.

UA highlights total users, while GA4 highlights active users instead. Total users and active users numbers are gathered by using a different calculation. This calculation is a bit complicated, and thankfully, Google has taken the time to write about how users are identified and explains a bit about the calculation. 

Event Count

A fundamental difference between UA and GA4 is how events are recorded. You can think of an event as what a reader does once they land on your site. It’s actions that were taken.

In UA, any action a user takes is categorized based on category, action, and label. It looks at a user session in its entirety so that you can really see what actions your readers or visitors are taking. Google also considers these events as a hit type. A hit type can be a lot of different things. It can be what pages readers are visiting when they navigate your blog, whether they are accessing your site on desktop or mobile, and more. 

In GA4, total users are the number of unique users who logged any event during a specific time period. So, did a reader sign up to receive your newsletter, click on your most recent blog post, or if a reader buys a service you provide. These are all considered different events. You can also look at the value of any purchases made, pages viewed, user’s geographic location, and more. 

Google considers this to be an event-based model that provides insight into how a reader interacts with your blog and any other services you provide. 

With GA4, you can also define events yourself by using custom dimensions. Since every site is unique, you might want to track specific events. An example of this can look like if a reader purchased a product you sell, you can set a parameter to see the product’s name, category, size, and more.

Pageviews

In general, whether you use GA4 or UA, your pageview numbers should be fairly close. The difference you might see can be attributed to any filters you have set up in either. UA has both pageviews and unique pageviews whereas GA4 just has pageviews. 

Sessions

The way sessions are counted differ between UA and GA4. For example, GA4 uses a statistical estimate of the number of sessions that occurred by estimating the number of unique session IDs. While these numbers are estimates, the counts are more accurate and have a lower error rate.
Collecting data based on your sessions and pageviews is immensely valuable. These numbers tell you information on how people are engaging with your website.

Conversions

For UA, you define a goal which indicates that a particular action by a user is considered a conversion event. UA will only count one conversion per session based on the goals you have set. By using GA4, you define a conversion event based on actions you want to be considered as a conversion.

Bounce Rate

For UA, bounce rate is a reasonable measure to figure out how engaged your users are on your site, but it has become less useful as it is a bit outdated. On UA, bounce rate is literally counted as any session that only visits one page on your site. So for example, let’s say a user finds your site through a search engine, your content is exactly what they’re looking for, the user is engaged with your entire post. Because they found their answers, they left your site as soon as they were done. Because this user only visited one page, they are included in your bounce rate. 

In GA4 metrics, the focus is on engagement, rather than bounce rates.

The engagement rate measures how much time is spent on your landing page and monitors users who don’t visit other pages on your site. So essentially, it tells you about any user that goes to your site and doesn’t engage, which HERE Google says is when the user spends less than 10 seconds on your site. THOSE sessions will be counted towards bounce rate, while the other sessions that actually ENGAGE but only visit one page will be not.

So basically, bounce rate is the inverse of the engagement rate. This is a useful way to measure how engaged your users are in the content or services you are providing. And gives you greater insight into how users interact with your site. If you are in charge of your own blog, you are likely interested in readers visiting your site, but then quickly leave once they realize they aren’t finding what they’re looking for. This metric will be super helpful for figuring out how to turn every person that visits your site into an ENGAGEMENT. Which, at the end of the day, should be your priority.

How google analytics differs from universal analytics

When To Switch To Google Analytics 4 

It will be best to switch to GA4 sooner rather than later. By switching sooner, you ensure you have data to refer to once the UA service is shut down. For example, if you switch by the end of January, you can have about five months of GA4 data, rather than having no data by the time UA will shut down. You will have less historical data to measure the performance of your website. On July 1st, UA will stop processing new hits. 

How To Switch To Google Analytics 4 Properly

Friends, we cannot emphasize this enough. If you have not switched to GA4 and have a Universal Analytics property, it is absolutely time to do so. Google provides insight on how you can do this, but InfluencerSEO is here to help you make the switch.

Set Up DUAL TRACKING.

It’s optimal to set up dual tracking so that UA and GA4 track your data until UA is shut down. This allows your new G4 account and your old UA account to track side by side until UA is officially sunset. So you can build up as much data in G4 before you’re officially solely using it. You want to avoid creating an entirely new account or setting up a new UA and GA4. Again, this is something you do not want to do. It’s best to just set GA4 and UA so that it is dual tracking.

Create a G4 property under your current Google Analytics account. 

This will be ideal so you have everything in one place. Just go into your analytics admin, and add a property, then select to create a G4 property, which should be the default selection. You’ll go through the process of answering some questions about your business and goals. Then, you’ll click to finalize creation of the G4 property. This part should be pretty easy!

Add the G4 tracking code to your website.

After you create the G4 property, Google Analytics immediately shows you the tracking code you need to add to your website. Copy that code and get ready to paste it into your website. There are multiple ways to do this. You can manually add it to your website’s HTML header, or use Google Tag Manager ( caution against this as this plugin conflicts with Yoast SEO related to sitemaps sometimes ), or use another analytics tracking plugin.

Personally, we prefer to do this manually so there are no plugin conflict issues or confusion when you work with web designers and developers in the future. As manual install is typically the go-to method when you’re working with a knowledgeable SEO team or high-quality programmers.

How google analytics differs from universal analytics

Have The InfluencerSEO Team Setup Google Analytics 4 For Me

At this point, we hope you realize it’s time to switch to GA4. We know this kind of thing can be overwhelming, so we are here to help! If you don’t feel comfortable making the switch on your own, the InfluencerSEO team is happy to handle this process for you. 

If you are currently a Strategize client, we can help you switch from UA to GA4 FOR FREE! Ahh the perks of focusing on YOUR SEO GROWTH! WOO! All you need to do is let us know you’re interested. You can check your email to find an email promoting this service. You can also respond to any of our weekly custom reports we send you and tell us you’re ready to make the switch!!! Let’s do this together!!!

If you are not a Strategize client, we can still set this up for you! We only ask that you pay for the time it takes to set up and provide details about your website. If you would like to request more information, please fill out this form. We will ensure your UA account remains up and remains tracking your data alongside GA4 until UA shuts down!

At InfluencerSEO, we’re here for you. Let us help you take the stress out of this upgrade & make the most of this monumental switch in your data collection process.

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