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Universal Analytics (UA), developed by Google, has been the go-to analytics solution for many businesses over the years to optimize their digital strategies and enhance user experiences. It provides valuable insights into website and app performance, user behavior, traffic sources, and more.
In October 2020, Google Analytics 4 (GA 4) was introduced as the next generation of analytics from Google, as GA4 offers a more advanced approach to insights. GA 4 utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver deeper analytics into user behavior across various platforms as well as focusing on event-based tracking, which allows businesses to track specific user interactions and engagement events on more of an individual basis.
On July 1, 2023, Google Analytics 4 will officially take over Universal Analytics as the main platform for Google Analytics. While Universal Analytics will stop collecting data from here on out, it is still very important for companies to understand both of the platforms and the differences in their capabilities for a smooth transition experience.
In this article, we will be comparing metrics in both Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 as well as explaining each of their purposes. We will use LearningComputer.com to model Google Analytics’ metrics for data sampling.
Universal Analytics: Audience Overview
Google Analytics 4: Landing Page
Understanding user behavior is at the core of gaining valuable insights as users play a crucial role in shaping the success of any digital venture. By examining user metrics, businesses can uncover valuable information such as demographics, interests, and browsing patterns.
- Total Users
- UA: A primary user metric for UA. Total number of users.
- GA 4: Not a GA 4 primary user metric. Total number of unique users who logged an event.
- New Users
- UA: Number of unique individuals who have accessed a website for the first time.
- GA 4: Count of distinct individuals who have initiated sessions (see number 3) on a site or launched your app for the first time. The number of new users has the potential to go down in GA 4 due to the new event tracking model.
- Active Users
- UA: Not applicable as UA doesn’t collect data on this.
- GA 4: The primary user metric in GA 4. Encompasses individuals who have participated in an engaged session or whose activities have been tracked by Analytics.
Google Analytics 4: Pages and Screens
Pageviews are a fundamental metric in web analytics that measures the total number of times a webpage has been viewed or loaded by visitors. Pageviews provide insights into the popularity and traffic of specific pages, allowing companies to identify popular content and optimize their website or app accordingly.
- Pageviews (or Views)
- UA: The total count of pages viewed, including multiple views of the same page.
- GA 4: Also called “Views.” The overall count of screens and/or web pages that were accessed by users. The Views metric for GA 4 is a combination of screenviews and pageviews so it will be interpreted differently than in UA.
- Unique Pageviews
- UA: The total count of unique pages viewed, excluding duplicates.
- GA 4: Not applicable because GA 4 does not calculate this value. GA4 is geared more toward user and event-based metrics rather than page-centric
- Views Per User
- UA: UA does not calculate this metric directly. Can calculate manually by dividing the Total Number of Pageviews by the Number of Unique Users.
- GA 4: The average count of mobile app screens or web pages viewed per individual user.
Universal Analytics: Exit Pages
Sessions in analytics represent individual visits or interactions a user has on a website or app. A session begins when a user accesses the site or app and it ends after a period of inactivity or when they exit. Sessions provide valuable insights into the duration, frequency, and depth of user interactions to enhance overall performance.
- UA: Refer to individual user visits or interactions on a website or app, measured by the start and end of user activity.
- GA 4: also called “Session Start.” Session Start is the more equal comparison to make for the time period of a session. But, in GA 4 Sessions can actually be triggered by events and user interactions rather than a fixed time frame.
- % Exit
- UA: Percentage indicating how often users exit from a certain page or set of pages when they view the page(s).
- GA 4: There is no % Exit in the GA 4 interface, but you can manually calculate this by dividing the number of sessions that end on a page by the total sessions including that page. This difference in calculation might be why you will have a higher % Exit for GA 4.
4. Bounce Rate
Bounce rate measures the percentage of website or app visitors who navigate away or “bounce” from the site after viewing a single page, without engaging further. A lower bounce rate usually indicates a higher user interest and engagement and is very helpful for businesses to determine if they need to rework their sites.
- UA: Proportion of all user sessions on site where visitors viewed just one page and generated one request to the Analytics server.
- GA 4: The percentage of sessions that did not result in engaged interactions. The bounce rate can decrease in GA 4 because GA 4 incorporates factors like engagement time and scrolls for calculating bounce rate.
5. Event Count
Event count is the total number of specific actions tracked on a website or app. Events can be user actions such as clicks, downloads, video plays, and more. Tracking event counts help organizations make data-driven decisions and improve user experience.
- Total Events
- UA: The overall count of specific user interactions on a site consisting of a Category, Action, and Label as a “hit” type.
- GA 4: Not applicable in GA 4.
- Event Count
- UA: Not applicable in UA. This is a fundamental difference between UA and GA 4 and the biggest improvement Google has made to the interface.
- GA 4: The total number of user actions tracked on a site or app. Unlike in UA, GA 4 includes every type of “hit” as an event. This increases the number of events by a substantial amount in the metrics.
When comparing the metrics in Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4, there are notable differences to consider–especially since GA 4 is very event-based now–but there are similarities that are important to know when transitioning from UA to GA 4. Keep these comparisons in mind to optimize your company’s digital reach.
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The article was authored and optimized by Nishi Datla, a skilled SEO Blogger and marketing strategist. Please refer to her LinkedIn profile for more information about her professional background.