July 8, 2024

Google Analytics is a widely used web analytics service provided by Google, which tracks and reports website traffic, user behavior, and other important metrics. In October 2020, Google introduced a major upgrade to their platform, releasing a new version called Google Analytics 4 (GA4). GA4 is a significant departure from the previous version of Google Analytics (also known as Universal Analytics or “old GA”) in terms of data collection, analysis, and reporting. In this article, I will compare the two versions of Google Analytics and highlight the key differences.

1) Data Collection

One of the biggest differences between old GA and GA4 is the way they collect data. GA4 uses an event-based data model that focuses on user interactions with the website or app. This means that instead of tracking pageviews and sessions, GA4 tracks user actions such as clicks, video plays, and form submissions. In contrast, old GA uses a session-based model that tracks user sessions and pageviews. GA4 also uses Google’s Measurement Protocol to track offline conversions and events.

2) Tracking Capabilities

GA4 offers more advanced tracking capabilities than old GA, including:

  • Cross-domain tracking: GA4 allows you to track user activity across multiple domains or subdomains without needing to create a separate property for each one.
  • E-commerce tracking: GA4 includes a more advanced e-commerce tracking feature that allows you to track user transactions and revenue.
  • App tracking: GA4 integrates app tracking into the same property as web tracking, making it easier to track user behavior across platforms.
  • User-centric tracking: GA4 allows you to track users across devices and sessions, making it easier to understand how they interact with your website or app.

3) Analysis and Reporting

  • The analysis and reporting capabilities of GA4 are also significantly different from old GA. GA4 focuses on providing more actionable insights by using machine learning to analyze user behavior and predict future outcomes. Some key differences include:
  • Simplified reporting: GA4 has a simplified interface that makes it easier to navigate and understand the data.
  • Analysis hub: GA4 includes a new Analysis Hub feature that provides access to advanced analysis tools, including funnel analysis, path analysis, and user segmentation.
  • Predictive metrics: GA4 uses machine learning to predict future user behavior and provides metrics such as Churn Probability and Purchase Probability.
  • Event-driven reporting: GA4 reports on user actions instead of pageviews, allowing you to see a more granular view of user behavior.

4) Data Privacy

GA4 includes several features designed to enhance user privacy, including:

  • Consent mode: GA4 includes a new Consent Mode feature that allows you to control how data is collected based on user consent.
  • IP anonymization: GA4 includes built-in IP anonymization, which allows you to mask the IP addresses of your users.
  • Data retention controls: GA4 provides more granular control over how long data is retained, allowing you to comply with data retention regulations.

5) Implementation

Finally, the implementation process for GA4 is different from old GA. GA4 requires a new implementation using the global site tag (gtag.js) or Google Tag Manager. In addition, some features, such as custom dimensions and metrics, are implemented differently in GA4.

In summary, GA4 represents a major shift in the way data is collected, analyzed, and reported in Google Analytics. By using an event-based data model and machine learning, GA4 provides more advanced tracking and analysis capabilities that can help businesses better understand user behavior and make more informed decisions. While there is a learning curve associated with the new platform, GA4’s new features and capabilities make it a powerful tool for web and app analytics.