In the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing, data analysis plays a crucial role in understanding user behavior and making informed decisions. For years, Universal Analytics (UA) was the go-to tool for tracking website metrics, but with the introduction of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in July, marketers are now faced with a new set of data measurement methods. In this blog, we will explore the key metric differences between Google Analytics 4 vs. Universal Analytics and their implications for data analysis and reporting.

Data Models: Sessions vs. Events

The most significant difference between UA and GA4 lies in their data models. UA is based on sessions and pageviews, while GA4 utilizes events and parameters. UA tracks user interactions based on sessions, which group a series of actions within a predefined time frame. GA4, on the other hand, focuses on individual events, capturing more granular user interactions. This fundamental distinction in data models leads to variations in how data is collected and reported.

Metric Discrepancies

Due to the contrasting data models, metrics with the same name may not align precisely between UA and GA4. For instance, user counts and new user counts in GA4 may be slightly lower compared to UA. This can create challenges when trying to compare data between the two platforms for year-over-year (YOY) analysis. Going forward, when you are comparing a current period of data to YOY historical reports, the changes in how GA4 measures data compared to UA will make it difficult to compare the data sets. 

Conversion Tracking

Another significant difference between UA and GA4 is how conversions are calculated. In UA, only one conversion is counted per session for each goal. For example, if a user clicks on a “click to call” button multiple times but cancels the call before it goes through, UA will count only one conversion. However, GA4 counts a conversion event every time it is recorded during a session, irrespective of how many times it occurs. This can lead to variations in reported conversion numbers, affecting the assessment of growth and success.

Rethinking Web Performance Metrics

GA4 introduces a paradigm shift in web performance metrics, encouraging marketers to focus on meaningful engagement rather than simplistic metrics. For instance, GA4 introduces the concept of “engaged sessions,” which considers sessions that last longer than 10 seconds, involve one or more conversion events, or include multiple page/screen views. This metric promotes a deeper understanding of user behavior and engagement on the site. Additionally, GA4 replaces the traditional bounce rate metric with an engagement rate, which measures the percentage of quality site visits, providing a more nuanced perspective on user interactions.

Events as the Core Tracking Mechanism

In GA4, events take center stage as the core tracking mechanism for all user interactions. Every user action, including pageviews, session starts, clicks, video interactions, file downloads, and more, is treated as an event. Unlike UA, where events could be categorized, labeled, and given an action, GA4’s event tracking lacks such differentiation. This shift presents new challenges in organizing and interpreting event data effectively.

beMarketing Is Here to Help

The transition from UA to GA4 brings significant changes to how data is measured and analyzed in Google Analytics. The digital team at beMarketing has taken the necessary steps to understand these key metric differences to ensure accurate data analysis and reporting. GA4’s enhanced event-based tracking and deeper engagement metrics can empower our clients to gain a more comprehensive understanding of user behavior and optimize their digital marketing strategies accordingly. As data-driven marketers, adapting our online marketing services to Google Analytics 4 is a crucial step toward unlocking new opportunities and driving success in the ever-evolving digital landscape.