The world of analytics has come a long way since the first web analytics tools were introduced in the 1990s. Today, businesses of all sizes rely on analytics to gain insights into their website’s performance and make informed decisions about their online presence. Two of the most popular analytics tools available today are Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4. While both tools serve the same purpose, there are significant differences between the two. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at these differences and help you along the migration process.
What is Universal Analytics?
Universal Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google. It was introduced in 2012 as an upgrade to the previous version of Google Analytics. Universal Analytics uses a tracking code that is placed on your website to collect data about your visitors and their behavior. The data collected includes information such as the number of visitors, their geographic location, the pages they visit, and how long they stay on each page. Universal Analytics also offers a variety of reports and tools that allow you to analyze this data and gain insights into your website’s performance.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4, also known as GA4, is the newest version of Google Analytics. It was introduced in October 2020 and is designed to provide businesses with a more comprehensive view of their customer’s journey across multiple platforms and devices. GA4 uses an event-based data model, which means that it tracks specific user actions, such as clicks and page views, rather than tracking visitors as a whole. This allows for a more detailed understanding of user behavior and can provide insights into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.
Key Differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4
1. Data Collection
One of the most significant differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 is how they collect data. Universal Analytics uses a tracking code that is placed on each page of your website. This code collects data about each visitor and sends it to Google Analytics for processing. Google Analytics 4, on the other hand, uses an event-based data model. This means that it tracks specific user actions, such as clicks and page views, rather than tracking visitors as a whole. This allows for a more detailed understanding of user behavior and can provide insights into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.
2. User Identification
Another key difference between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 is how they identify users. In Universal Analytics, each user is assigned a unique ID that is stored in a cookie. This ID is used to track the user’s behavior across multiple sessions and devices. However, if the user deletes their cookies or uses a different device, a new ID is created, and their data is no longer associated with their previous sessions. Google Analytics 4, on the other hand, uses a user-centric approach to tracking. It uses machine learning to identify users based on their behavior and interactions with your website or app. This allows for a more accurate view of user behavior across multiple sessions and devices.
The reporting capabilities of Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 are also different. Universal Analytics offers a wide range of reports and tools that allow you to analyze your website’s performance, such as Audience, Acquisition, and Behavior reports. Google Analytics 4 also offers similar reports, but the data is organized differently. For example, the Audience report in GA4 provides information about your users’ demographics, interests, and behavior, while the Acquisition report provides information about the sources that led users to your website or app. GA4 also introduces a new feature called “Exploration,” which allows you to create custom reports and analyze your data in more depth.
4. Machine Learning Capabilities
One of the significant advantages of Google Analytics 4 is its advanced machine-learning capabilities. GA4 utilizes machine learning algorithms to provide valuable insights into user behavior and trends. It can automatically identify important events and patterns in your data, such as high-value conversions or drop-off points in the user journey. This can help you make data-driven decisions and optimize your marketing efforts more effectively.
5. Enhanced Cross-Platform Tracking
In today’s digital landscape, users interact with brands across various platforms and devices. Universal Analytics struggles to accurately track user behavior across different platforms, making it challenging to gain a comprehensive view of your customer’s journey. Google Analytics 4 addresses this issue by providing enhanced cross-platform tracking. It allows you to track user interactions across websites, mobile apps, and other digital touchpoints, providing a unified view of user behavior and engagement.
When it comes to choosing between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4, Google has made it easy because the Universal Analytics properties will stop processing data on July 1, 2023 (July 1, 2024, for Analytics 360) There are many articles and migrating assistance available on their help pages. Embracing this change could be difficult for your marketing team, however, if you’re looking for more advanced features, such as enhanced cross-platform tracking and machine learning insights, Google Analytics 4 is definitely the way to go.
Keep in mind that transitioning from Universal Analytics to GA4 may require some effort and adjustments to your tracking implementation. It’s crucial to evaluate your business’s requirements and consider early adopting GA4 before making it to the deadline and having to force-feed this migration process.
Understanding the key insights gained from these tools can empower you to optimize your website or app, enhance user experiences, and drive business growth in the digital age.