Top 10 differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4
The countdown has begun: In less than a year, most Universal Analytics properties will stop collecting data. As is usually the case with changes, whether you see the glass as half empty is your decision. At Adviso, we’ve decided to see the situation as half full and are highlighting the opportunities such a big change will bring. With this in mind, the entire purpose of this article is to run through the major differences between Universal Analytics and GA4 in order to highlight the new business opportunities that will be made available to you.
The first element that distinguishes GA4 from Universal Analytics is its ability to collect and combine data from your website with data from your mobile application in a single property. The silo in your ecosystem that was imposed on you by Universal Analytics will disappear, enabling you to better visualize the user journey. In our hyper-connected world, customer experience through personalization has never been this strategic. GA4 will let you take a first step towards this technological concept.
If you’ve ever opened a GA4 property, you might have noticed some major differences in the measurements and metrics it presents compared to those you’re accustomed to using in Universal Analytics. Welcome to GA4.
With dimensions like Average Engagement Time or Lifetime Engaged Sessions, Google is encouraging us to reconsider our methods for analyzing the performance of our digital assets. In GA4, it’s the quality of interactions on platforms that has greater importance, which pushes us to rethink digital key performance indicators (KPI) from a user-centric perspective. With these new metrics, Google is also trying to normalize the measurement of engagement, which formerly was often not standardized and was subject to a lot of variation depending on the industry or business model. This new way of approaching performance is being driven by GA4 and its new metrics.
A new suite of functionalities called Enhanced Measurement now lets you automatically collect a number of useful events (downloading documents, playing videos on YouTube, etc.) simply by adding the GA4 configuration tag to your pages. But note that this option is exclusively available for websites, not mobile.
It is therefore possible to quickly gather basic data in these reports while giving yourself some time to (re)think personalized data collection. You should therefore set up a GA4 migration in two phases, with the first dedicated to adding the GA4 configuration tag to your site, and the second where you set up your personalized tracking. This will give you some time to think about and define what your needs are in terms of data, ensuring they are well-aligned with your current and future business objectives.
With GA4 you can say goodbye to the last-click attribution model and hello to a data-driven model.
Configured by default in every new GA4 property, the data-driven attribution model will help you distribute your conversions across different channels by performing a smart analysis of your data. Your attribution will be refocused on the particularities of your business, and GA4 will give you a more accurate idea of how efficient your marketing activities are. To this is also added new acquisition channels, such as paid social media and paid shopping, which will help you develop a comprehensive view of your marketing investments.
In GA4, you’ll also discover a new audiences configuration tool that is more flexible and will help you go a bit further in defining the targeted profiles you would like to exploit on your media platforms or in your online personalization activities.
In particular, it is now possible to work with exclusions (temporary or permanent) or even play with several levels (hit, session, user). To this is added the possibility of launching events directly from the audience tool. You can therefore work with events or conversions that rely on segmentation principles, but which also might be based on predictive metrics. GA4 basically offers you a number of predictive audiences, such as, for example, an audience composed of users with the highest probability of making a purchase within the next seven days.
Do you really use all of the reports available in Universal Analytics? It’s highly likely you don’t, and that’s completely normal.
With GA4 you can say goodbye to the visualizations you’re not interested in by personalizing the interface. In each section or report, you can define which visualizations or information are important to you. This lets you eliminate any distracting “noise” and focus your attention on the data that counts, in your estimation. Because of its great adaptability, GA4 also gives you the opportunity to encourage your power-users to create an analytics solution that truly satisfies your everyday needs.
For heavy users of Universal Analytics, the change also involves exploration reports. Similar to a dashboarding tool, such as Data Studio, explorations allow you to create reports that are 100% personalized.
With over 150 dimensions and measurements available in the inventory, you can now create visualizations that are aligned with your analytics needs. There are many categories of visualization offered, such as conversion tunnels or Venn diagrams. Whether it’s for daily monitoring or occasional analysis, explorations can satisfy your needs by generating insights that feed strategic thinking.
Besides the functionalities available, GA4 is innovative also for its data schema, which is different from the one we’re used to in Universal.
Based on events, the schema is closer to current industry standards and promotes a reconciliation between web and mobile. The more flexible schema should also allow for better native integration with complementary tools, such as for customer relationship management (CRM). In short, its new schema positions GA4 as an up-to-date solution that’s full of promise, and which should allow you to simplify the management and unification of your data across your ecosystem.
But watch out for your current dashboards! GA4 is a new source of data. You therefore need to update all your connected dashboards in order to maintain access to the results and visualizations you’ve become accustomed to consulting in Universal Analytics.
Issues related to visibility and data sharing between different business intelligence teams might be a thing of the past thanks to the native, free integration between GA4 and BigQuery. Your more technically minded analysts will enjoy being able to use SQL to interact with GA4 data. BigQuery enables you to centralize and unify your company data, which will also simplify their management. BigQuery ML offers e-commerce recommendation system templates, which can be trained with your transactional data to offer personalized recommendations to customers. That means this free integration will give your teams the means to go beyond the technical limits of GA4.
The final GA4 feature that will drive your analytics even further is the significant integration of predictive metrics.
Whether through available metrics (predicted revenue or purchase probability) or configurable audiences (likely 7-day churning purchasers or predicted 28-day top spenders), Google’s algorithms will be processing your data in the background so that you can graduate from a purely descriptive mode into a predictive approach.
This will allow you to take your marketing to the next level and optimize your returns by making smart investments where your money will produce the most benefit.
We hope you’re as excited as we are now that you understand the new functionalities offered by Google Analytics and their advantages.
The analytics giant has equipped itself with the tools it needs to make it a one-stop shop for data management and business intelligence. GA4 changes the paradigm established by Universal Analytics, prioritizes self-serve access to data and emphasizes predictive metrics rather than descriptive ones.
Here at Adviso, the number of business opportunities that have opened up thanks to the innovations brought about by GA4 are inspiring great ideas and encouraging us to transcend the former limits of our business practices. We can’t wait to discuss the possibilities with you and help your company achieve even its most ambitious objectives.