Selecting the right analytics technology for your business can be a daunting task. With the birth of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the decision is becoming more complex. A common question making the rounds is: Is GA4 the way to go or should I stick with Universal Analytics?
This blog post will thoroughly investigate the key differences between Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Universal Analytics (UA). We’ll also look at which one makes the most sense for different types of businesses. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll have a good understanding of what to look for when choosing the analytics system that is just right for you.
1. An Overview: GA4 Vs Universal Analytics
At its core, Universal Analytics is an upgraded version of the original Google Analytics platform — the one that dominated Google’s offerings for over a decade. By contrast, GA4 is a newer product, released in October 2020.
It takes advantage of new data collection techniques, most notably an event-based model, and is optimized for the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) models.
2. Migration To GA4
GA4 migration from Universal is a relatively simple process, but it’s important to understand the differences between the two before you make the move. Fortunately, Google provides a number of resources to help guide you through the process.
From its recently launched Migration Center to specific articles and tutorials, you should be up and running with GA4 in no time.
3. Event-Based Vs Pageview Data Collection
Universal Analytics collects data formats and in formats that are consistent with traditional web analytics paradigms. That is, it tracks each web page visit and records the activities users perform on the page. By contrast, GA4 is much more flexible and collects data differently.
The core differentiator for GA4 is that it collects data as events, which are any meaningful user/customer interaction with your website/app. This data can include everything from video plays and product purchases to call-to-actions.
However, there is a caveat here: GA4 events are somewhat limited compared to other analytics suites, such as Adobe or Mixpanel.
4. AI & ML Ready
GA4 also differs from UA in its capability to incorporate ML and AI models. This means that you can use these models to draw insights from already collected event data, enabling you to understand user behavior on a much deeper level. UA can give you some insights, but not to the same extent that GA4 can.
5. Integrate With BigQuery
This is a feature exclusive to GA4. BigQuery is Google’s cloud-based data warehouse solution, and by integrating with BigQuery you can store and analyze an almost infinite amount of data. This can be especially useful for businesses that are already heavily data-driven.
For these companies, the ability to pull data from multiple sources into one place and then analyze it in real-time is a dream come true.
6. Flexibility & Scalability
In terms of flexibility and scalability, both GA4 and UA have their strengths and weaknesses. With Universal Analytics, you can customize your analytics setup to your exact needs, but the limits to scalability may quickly become apparent.
Conversely, GA4 creates an ever-evolving foundation for collecting data, allowing businesses to get the most out of their analytics system, with the ability to add more users as needed
Both Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Universal Analytics are powerful options for tracking user behavior and extracting data insights. Ultimately, the decision of which to use depends on your specific needs and objectives. For more traditional data tracking and analysis, UA may be a better fit. But if you’re looking for a system that can easily incorporate AI and ML models, GA4 is the clear winner.
Do your research carefully, and consider any additional resources Google provides for migration to GA4 before you make your decision.