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  • Writer's pictureLachlan Brown

What are the Differences Between Universal (Google) Analytics and GA4?

Google Analytics (GA) is a popular web analytics tool that helps businesses track website traffic and user behavior. There are two versions of GA currently available: Universal Analytics and GA4.

Universal Analytics (UA) is the older version of GA and has been available since 2013. It provides a wide range of data collection and analysis tools and allows for the tracking of website traffic, user behavior, and conversion data.

GA4 is the newer version of GA and was released in October 2020. It is designed to provide a more complete and accurate picture of the customer journey across all devices and channels. GA4 uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to process data and provide insights, and it also includes new features like enhanced measurement, cross-device tracking, and integration with other Google products.

GA4 offers an automated daily data export to BigQuery for both Free/Standard and Paid/360 customers, formerly only available to GA360 customer (~$150k per year). Moreover if you have a standard GA4 property, critical data will only be retained for up to 15 months. This means you really have to use the BigQuery data in conjunction with a dashboard tool such as Google Looker Studio (formerly Data Studio) in order to have YoY (year over year) reporting capabilities.

UA uses cookies to track user behavior, GA4 uses a new measurement protocol called "measurement ID" that allows for cross-device tracking that paves the way for a near-future where cookies are blocked by all the major browsers.

UA has many different reports and metrics that are not available in GA4, and GA4 has new features like event-based tracking and automatic data collection, which are not available in UA.

GA4 is built on the App + Web property, which is a new type of property in GA that allows you to collect data from web and app together in a single property. This is game changing as it gives the ability to track user journeys from a website to an app and vice versa!

Both versions of GA have their own strengths and weaknesses and it's important to evaluate which one is the best fit for your business needs and goals. If you're using the free version of UA, aka "Standard," it's important to know Google is sunsetting this product starting July 1, 2023. This means it will no longer be processing new data. While your existing data will be available for the time being, Google has indicated that even this will go away. Therefore it's vital to

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