Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: 3 Critical Differences

on Data Analytics, Google Analytics, Google Analytics 4, Marketing Analytics • August 6th, 2021 • Write for Hevo

GA4 vs Universal Analytics - Featured image

According to Forbes, 50% of businesses say that Big Data and Analytics have fundamentally changed business practices in their Sales and Marketing departments. With the growth in technology, End-User Privacy has become one of the most demanding aspects of every business. Browsers and other platforms are making changes to core technologies such as cookies, etc. Nowadays, end-users themselves are demanding more transparency and control over their data gets used. At the same time, the amount of data generated from countless business points and platforms that users interact with continues to increase exponentially. Therefore, businesses these days are investing in Analytics to navigate all these, but when it comes to this, the choice of Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics is puzzling.

Google Analytics 4 is a new version of Google Analytics that helps you with your Data Analysis. Google Analytics 4 comes with a bunch of new features like Data Modelling using Artificial Intelligence (AI), etc., which makes it a reliable tool. Universal Analytics is a Traditional Analytics tool that helps you track your website performance and measure user behavior.

This article introduces you to Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics. It provides a comprehensive analysis on Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics and highlights the major differences between the two to help you make the Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics decision with ease. It also provides the key features of both properties and the challenges you might face while working with these properties.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 image
Image Source

Google Analytics 4, also known as App and Web Property of Google Analytics is a newer version of Google Analytics that helps you track both Apps and Web visits in a single Google Analytics property (where your data loads to get processed) instead of using different Google Analytics properties. There are 3 criteria that set Google Analytics 4 apart:

  • It is built with Machine Learning at its core to automatically uncover insights from your data. These insights can be used to improve your Sales and Marketing.
  • It provides a more complete understanding of your Customer Life Cycle from Acquisition to Retention by bringing together data across App and Web at scale.
  • It is built to be durable and future-proof. It can scale with your business and can work with or without cookies or identities. This helps you take advantage of modeling and learn about your customers even with gaps in your data.

Key Features of Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 houses several new and exciting features that differentiate it from other Data Analytical tools. Listed below are some of the features of Google Analytics 4:

  • It allows you to modify (edit, correct, and fine-tune) and collect new events and conversions without writing a single line of code. You can do this within its User Interface (UI).
  • It provides you the feature of Data Import for both App and Web events. This allows you to transfer data to your Google Analytics 4 property. It also allows you to import additional data and signals from third-party databases.
  • It allows you to easily set up Cross-Domain Measurement that helps you in measuring the user’s journey across domains.
  • It provides you with Life Cycle and E-commerce Reporting that helps you in surfacing default reports and better understand your E-commerce funnels.

For more information on Google Analytics 4, click here.

Introduction to Universal Analytics

Google Universal Analytics image
Image Source

Universal Analytics, also known as Traditional Analytics is a version of SEO Google Analytics that offers new Tracking Codes for your websites. It also provides features that can more accurately measure user behavior.

Key Features of Universal Analytics

Listed below are the key features of Universal Analytics:

  • It provides a unique User ID to every user visiting your website. This makes sure to report all activities from a User ID as coming from a single user. With this feature, you can more accurately assess your user count.
  • It provides 3 Tracking Codes viz. Analytics.js, Google Analytics SDKs, and Measurement Protocol that help you gather more insightful information about your users.
  • It also allows you to track your user’s behavior from outside sources like Lead Generation Systems, Call Centers, etc. This gives you a better picture of your user’s behavior.
  • It allows you to create custom metrics that help you target data that is unique to your business goals.

For more information on Universal Analytics, click here.

Simplify Market Analysis Using Hevo’s No-code Data Pipeline

Hevo Data, a No-code Data Pipeline helps to Load Data from any data source such as Databases, SaaS applications, Cloud Storage, SDK,s, and Streaming Services and simplifies the ETL process. It supports 100+ data sources  (including Google Analytics 4, Google Analytics, etc.) and is a 3-step process by just selecting the data source, providing valid credentials, and choosing the destination. Hevo loads the data onto the desired Data Warehouse, enriches the data, and transforms it into an analysis-ready form without writing a single line of code. It helps transfer data from Google Analytics 4 to a destination of your choice for free.

Its completely automated pipeline offers data to be delivered in real-time without any loss from source to destination. Its fault-tolerant and scalable architecture ensure that the data is handled in a secure, consistent manner with zero data loss and supports different forms of data. The solutions provided are consistent and work with different Business Intelligence (BI) tools as well.

Get Started with Hevo for free

Check out why Hevo is the Best:

  • Secure: Hevo has a fault-tolerant architecture that ensures that the data is handled in a secure, consistent manner with zero data loss.
  • Schema Management: Hevo takes away the tedious task of schema management & automatically detects the schema of incoming data and maps it to the destination schema.
  • Minimal Learning: Hevo, with its simple and interactive UI, is extremely simple for new customers to work on and perform operations.
  • Hevo Is Built To Scale: As the number of sources and the volume of your data grows, Hevo scales horizontally, handling millions of records per minute with very little latency.
  • Incremental Data Load: Hevo allows the transfer of data that has been modified in real-time. This ensures efficient utilization of bandwidth on both ends.
  • Live Support: The Hevo team is available round the clock to extend exceptional support to its customers through chat, email, and support calls.
  • Live Monitoring: Hevo allows you to monitor the data flow and check where your data is at a particular point in time.
Sign up here for a 14-day Free Trial!

Parameters that Drive the Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics Decision

Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics image
Image Source

Now, that you have a basic idea of Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics, let us talk about the parameters on which you can differentiate Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics and make the best choice for your business. There is no on-fit solution to this. The decision of GA4 vs Universal Analytics highly depends on your Business Model, Requirements, Budget, and Parameters listed below. The following are the parameters that drive Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics decision:

1) Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: Data Model

Google Analytics 4 Home Page image
Image Source

This is the most important parameter that drives Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics decision. This is the parameter that decides the overall working of both properties. Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics are based on different Architectural Models. Where Google Analytics 4 works on the Event-Driven Model, Universal Analytics is centered around the Session-Based Data Model.

In Google Analytics 4, each event is distinguished with the event_name parameter that helps you map your events in Google Analytics 4 and extract meaningful insights. Additional parameters are also used in Google Analytics 4 to describe a particular event. On the other hand, Universal Analytics has Category, Action, Label, and its Hit-Types to distinguish each event.

Unlike Universal Analytics, Google Analytics 4 has 4 categories for its events. These are explained below:

  • Automatically Collected Events: These events are automatically logged to your App or Web Page. You need to have the base code for Google Analytics 4 property implement on your App or Web Page. This can be achieved either via gtag.js or Google Tag Manager. All the events that fall into this category follow predefined naming conventions and schema.
  • Enhanced Measurement Events: Similar to Automatically Collected Events, Enhanced Measurement Events are also automatically logged. These events can easily be enabled/disabled using Google Analytics 4 User Interface. All the events that fall into this category follow predefined naming conventions and schema.
  • Recommended Events: These events are automatically not logged. They are recommended for specific business verticals and have predefined naming conventions and parameters that provide maximum detail in the reports.
  • Custom Events: These events are customized events that you can create according to your business requirements.

2) Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: Cross-Device Reporting

Cross-Device Reporting image
Image Source

Cross-Device Reporting helps you organize data across multiple devices and therefore is one of the focused parameters to make Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics decision. This gives a better understanding of how TouchPoints, Sessions, and Interactions are connected.

For example, you discovered a set of users searches for a particular product on their mobile device but purchase it via their tablet the same day while another set of users clicked your ad on their mobile device, browse your website on their desktop the next day and make a purchase via their tablets a week later. This is where Cross-Device Reports help you connect data collected from different devices of the same user. This report gives a better understanding of what your users do at each step of the conversion process (from user to customer).

Google Analytics 4 offers Cross-Device Reporting whereas Universal Analytics does not. This is because of the difference in the way these platforms record user interactions. Google Analytics 4 uses Event-Based Tracking to record user interactions while Universal Analytics uses Session-BasedTracking which records and groups user interactions based on a given time frame.

3) Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: Predictive Audience and Metrics

Predictive Audience and Metrics image
Image Source

Predictive Audience and Metrics is one of the important parameters to decide the Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics decision. Predictive Audience allows you to target ads to users that are more likely to purchase your product/service within the next 7 days and Predictive Metrics allows you to model future transactions and revenue using Machine Learning. 

Unlike Universal Analytics, Google Analytics offers Predictive Audience and Predictive Metrics. These help you understand the users base who are most interested in purchasing your products/services and boost your engagement with them. It also helps you fetch trends and future analyses more accurately. It uses Machine Learning to paint a picture of your user’s behavior by filling in gaps where the user’s data is not available. This ensures End-User Privacy and at the same time helps you make informed decisions by analyzing the trend.

Challenges with Google Analytics 4

Now that you have a good understanding of how Google Analytics 4 works and the parameters to decide Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics decision, it is now important to understand some of the challenges that you might face while working with Google Analytics 4. The challenges of Google Analytics 4 are:

  • Google Analytics 4 change history does not reflect all API secret activities.
  • It does not have any feature to analyze expenses for non-Google campaigns. You will have to integrate third-party software for this purpose.
  • When exporting data from Google Analytics 4 if you want to gain necessary information from Google Analytics 4 tables, you will have to process more data when compared to Big Query export in Google Analytics 360.

Challenges with Universal Analytics

Now that you have a good understanding of how Universal Analytics works and the parameters to decide Universal Analytics vs Google Analytics 4 decision, it is now important to understand some of the challenges that you might face while working with Universal Analytics. The challenges of Universal Analytics are:

  • Every user interaction can be sent to Universal Analytics as an individual hit but the number of hits is limited for each session. There is no assurance that the excess hits will be processed in Universal Analytics.
  • Data Processing Latency is 24-48 hours in Universal Analytics and generally results in the reports being refreshed only once a day.
  • As Universal Analytics does not support Cross-Device Reporting, you will have to integrate third-party software for this purpose which could be a complex task.

Conclusion

The article introduced you to Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics. It gave a comprehensive analysis on Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics. It briefed you on their features and limitations. It also gave the parameters to differentiate both the properties. Overall, the Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics choice solely depends on your business model and requirements.

In case you want to integrate data from data sources like Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics into your desired Database/destination, then Hevo Data is the right choice for you! It will help simplify the ETL and management process of both the data sources and the data destinations. It helps transfer data from Google Analytics 4 to a destination of your choice for free.

Visit our website to explore Hevo

Want to take Hevo for a spin? Sign up and experience the feature-rich Hevo suite first hand. You can also have a look at the unbeatable pricing that will help you choose the right plan for your business needs.

Share your experience of Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics in the comments section below!

No-code Data Pipeline For your Data Warehouse