Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics

The main differences a business owner should know about

Before I started my business, learning about digital marketing tools was my top priority. It is a fascinating world, and all the things you can do with the tools. I enrolled in nearly all the online platforms that were teaching anything about digital marketing at the time. I also attended workshops, conferences and in-person courses wherever an expert would be talking about any of the related topics. I wanted to absorb as much information as possible so I could start applying it. 

But there are times when we need to unlearn a lot of what we learned, which is the case now that we talk about Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics. I still find it fascinating, I enjoy the challenge of learning something new, but it is time consuming. And of course, even more challenging for some of my clients.

In this blog post, we will talk about some of the differences between Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Universal Analytics (the current version of analytics until 2023). There are a few differences that are very technical, and here is a document by Google that you can read if you prefer to know the more technical details. 

But we will concentrate on the overall changes and what it means as a business owner when you take a look at your analytics reports. 

To start with, if you haven't done it yet, it is time to install the new version of Google Analytics (GA4). I already started doing this since last year for my clients. What is important is to start gathering information, and above all, to get used to the new version. I created a guide that will take you through the setup and the most common reports.

1. All actions are called Events

The first thing I will mention when talking about Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics, is that there are two types of data: User Properties and Events. Every action that a visitor takes on your website is now an Event. An event can be a page view (when they arrived at your website or viewed any other page), a scroll (when they start scrolling down to the end of the page for example), a click, a video view, etc. All these are called Events in Google Analytics 4. In Universal Analytics, we have to create events separately. In Google Analytics 4, there are some events that are already installed and you don’t need to create them.

You can see in the table above that the different terms used in Universal Analytics are now called Events in Google Analytics 4.


2. Reports layout

The second big difference between GA4 and Universal is the reports. The layout has changed, but you can still see most of the information you used to see on Universal Analytics.

universal versus ga4 reports - claudia kramer


3. Engagement Rate

And the third one is the disappearance of bounce rate and the appearance of engagement rate. There are some rumours that the bounce rate will reappear, and I will make sure to update this article if that is the case. But for now, it is important for you to get familiar with the engagement reports and see this from a different perspective: how engaged are visitors with my website, rather than how quickly do they leave my website 🙂

ga4 engagement report - claudia kramer


The image you see above comes from a demo account from Google. In it, you can see the Engagement overview report. And here it is important for you to know that an engaged session means that a visitor had your website open in the foreground for 10 seconds or more, they completed a conversion event or they viewed two or more pages during their session on your website.

These are the main differences we can see, of course there are many more, but for now,  let’s start getting familiar with this while we learn how to switch between the two versions. And one last thing to keep in mind, start installing it now so that you are ready whenever Universal Analytics stops working in July 2023.

These were the high level comparisons between Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Universal Analytics for now. This is of course bound to change in the next few months. But for now, I suggest you have it on your website and start getting familiar with it.

Digitally savvy and culturally rounded, I embrace context quickly, enjoy working with people and adapt easily to different environments and projects. Fluent in English, French, German and Spanish, I help my clients boost their digital performance locally and internationally across cultural, language- and geographic boundaries.
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