Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics 

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is not just a random combination of words for digital marketers. Last year, its disruptive nature shook the analytics community.  

Many digital marketers jumped at the opportunity to use the tool quickly. Some have resisted the urge to jump in immediately. 

Although it has been several months since Google announced the release of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), we still see a lot of confusion about the key differences between GA4 vs the older Universal Analytics.  

Google Analytics has evolved since its inception. With the advent of mobile apps and shifts in consumer behavior and privacy regulations, the transition to a more efficient way of collecting and analyzing data is timely. 

GA4 will be available for free and offer some new benefits, but there are also some missing features (when compared to Universal Analytics). Google promises faster GA4 development and solutions to many of the current problems in analytics. Let us dig in to know more about GA4 and Universal Analytics before understanding the difference. 

What is Google Analytics 4? 

Google Analytics 4 (also known as App and Website Property of Google Analytics) is a newer version that allows you to track both Apps visits and Web visits within a single Google Analytics property (where data loads to be processed), instead of using multiple Google Analytics properties. Google Analytics 4 is distinguished by 3 criteria: 

  • This app and web data at scale allows you to gain a better understanding of the Customer Life Cycle, from Acquisition through Retention. 
  • Machine Learning is used to automatically extract insights from data. These insights can be used to improve your sales and marketing. 
  • It has been designed to last and be future-proof. It scales with your business. It can be used with or without cookies and identities. This allows you to take advantage of modelling and learn more about your customers, even if there are gaps in your data. 

What is Universal Analytics? 

Universal Analytics is the traditional analytics SEO version. UA understands user behavior and delivers statistics based on that. This was the default property of websites before October 14, 2020.  

Key features of Universal Analytics:   

  1. Every user visiting the website receives a unique User ID and the activities of the user ID. This feature allows an accurate assessment of the user account. 
  1. There are three tracking codes in universal analytics: Google Analytics SDKs, italics dot JS, and measurement protocol to gather more user information. 
  1. Universal analytics creates custom metrics to help target data unique to the business. 
  1. UA can track users’ behavior from outside sources. This feature of your universal analytics delivers a better picture of the user and their requirements. 

With the basic idea of Google Analytics 4 and universal analytics, let us discuss the parameters or features that differentiate UA and GA4. 

The choice between GA4 and UA depends on the business model, budget, requirements, and parameters. 

Key Differences between Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: 

The Data Model of Google Analytics 4 Vs Universal Analytics 

When comparing Google’s new data model with the UA’s, one thing that stands out is that GA4 supports events in a different way. Instead of having a taxonomy of events like UA, GA4 supports only Event Name. However, GA4 does allow you to collect additional data about your events by setting up custom parameters. You can create up to 25 different custom parameters for each event. The parameters are created as custom dimensions or metrics.  

In GA4, the event-based data model is more flexible. The sessions in Universal Analytics are called sessions, while GA4 treats each interaction as an event. GA4 also has event parameters, which add additional context to the event data. Ultimately, which of these two analytics platforms is right for your business depends on the goals you have for your site. However, remember that both systems are essentially the same. 

Both GA4 and UA systems use event-based and session-based models for tracking visitors. Event-based data allows you to track visitors and re-target them with ads and marketing campaigns.  

Cross Drive Reporting of Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics  

Cross drive reporting is an amazing function in Google Analytics 4, whereas universal analytics does not.  

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has a few notable differences from Universal Analytics (UA), one of which is how cross-device reports are generated. GA4 offers two ways to see cross-device reports:  

– By individual user: You can see how each user moves between devices and see the conversion paths they take.  

– By device type: You can see how users interact with your site or app on different types of devices.  

Both options are useful, but UA only offers the second option. So, if you are looking for more detailed cross-device reporting, GA4 is the way to go.  

Predictive Audience and Metrics of Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: 

Another major deciding factor of Google Analytics 4 is the predictive metrics and predictive audience approach. Predictive metrics help businesses to model future transactions and revenues. Whereas, the predictive audience feature identifies the user’s next purchase within a short time and delivers target ads. These two features use machine learning to fetch the trends and accurately analyze future purchases. Machine learning helps fill the gaps between the user’s data and informs businesses about the decisions using trend analysis. End-user privacy is also secured under this metric. 

These three features help businesses decide whether to opt for Google Analytics 4 or Universal Analytics.  

Google Analytics 4 Universal Analytics 
GA4 delivers detailed insights into customer behavior UA is focused on collecting high-level data 
It is an entity –based data model UA is a hit-based data model 
GA4 uses a data-driven model UA uses a rule-based model 


The data model is what drives the key differences between both platforms. Therefore, the transition to Google Analytics4 is more than an upgrade. It’s a new way of collecting data and analyzing it. 

The platform is still evolving. InfinityHub recommends that you implement dual tags across your websites in order to begin collecting GA4 data alongside Universal Analytics. This will take advantage of the unified model and user identification across mobile and web apps. We are excited about the other new features and insights GA4 will provide. 

This is the best time to plan and activate your migration and increase your team’s knowledge and skills. Check out GA4 services for the best start to this new platform. 

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