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Difference Between Universal Analytics and GA4 - Tap To Digital

Difference Between Universal Analytics and GA4

Since Google acquired urchin analytics in 2005, they made continuous improvements in the software that helped all of us to understand our data and take related actions easily.

In 2013 they launched universal analytics, which we use to date. In 2020, Google launched a beta version of analytics that included app + web property, and now, finally, the most updated version is out, called Google analytics 4.

However, most of us are still confused about using the new tool. So, we will compare the previous version of google analytics (Universal analytics) with the latest version of Google Analytics 4. Going through this article will clear all your doubts.

First, let us understand how both of them work. So, it will be easier for you to compare. You can skip this part and jump to comparison if you are already an analytics pro.

What is Universal Analytics?

The older version of google analytics is known as universal analytics. It is a powerful tool that allows you to track your website and application data and make custom reports based on customer behavior, traffic, etc.

Most of us use universal analytics to date because it works pretty well. It shows widespread reports that include active user count, traffic per day, month, etc. However, there are some problems with Universal analytics.

  • You have to use a different version to collect your app and website data.
  • It has a restriction of 10m. hits.
  • At times, some of the filters don’t work correctly.
  • It’s not capable of analyzing deep data, which is very important in cutthroat competition.
  • Some pages collect data while others don’t. To solve these problems, google launched the updated version known as GA4.

What is Google Analytics 4?

It is an updated version of analytics that aims to solve most previous version problems. It allows you to analyze your web and app data in a single window that saves you from the hassle of changing software every single time.

Unlike hits and session, Ga4 collect data based on events and uses advanced measures to interpret and analyze your data. Earlier it was only available for business, but now everyone can use it.

It’s better in many ways, and indeed, GA4 will be the future of analytics. Shifting from Universal analytics to GA4 has numerous benefits, and we will find more details in this article.

Universal Analytics GA3 vs GA4

We analyzed many factors to compare both software. They work entirely differently from each other. You might see a similar dashboard, but collecting data and exploring is completely changed in the background.

1. Method of collecting data

Universal analytics collects data in the form of hits and sessions. That Results in data that shows when the user clicked on your website link to the land on your web page, how long he stayed, what links he clicked, what actions he took, etc. Applications don’t work like websites, and they don’t have sessions or hits. That’s why universal analytics have a different version to collect such data.

Google analytics 4 collects data in the form of events and adopted a firebase model. It combines web + app data and shows you in a single window. Even data collected using this way is easier to analyze and delivers better results on evaluation.

2. Monthly hit limits

The free version of Universal analytics only allows up to 10 million hits per month/ per property. If you are a small website, you don’t even need that much, but if you are a big business, this limit will hurt and create an unnecessary expense of purchasing google analytics 360. Purchasing includes other benefits too, but mostly, it’s not worth it.

Google analytics 4 removed the limit of monthly hits. You can analyze and track as much data as you want without a doubt, and it will never ask you to purchase additional software for betterment. Even GA4 doesn’t work on the concept of hits, so it’s irrelevant in the new version.

3. General reports

Here, universal analytics takes the lead. Suppose you don’t like to go in deep to analyze data, and those general reports of daily users and monthly hits are enough for you, then it’s good to stay with universal analytics. It has the power to show you the most complex data in the simplest form using graphs, pie charts, or more.

GA4 is more inclined towards the deeper evaluation, and it doesn’t include the general report option. However, if you still wish to view them, you can make an effort to feed the information to pull the reports for yourself. This means the GA4 has the general reports option, but they are not readily available.

4. Duration of holding data

Universal Analytics allows you to select the period you want to retain your data. It provides options for 14, 26, 38, and 50 months or does not automatically expire. The power remains in your hands. If you wish to fetch years-old data, it’s pretty simple with the older version as it saves all your data for free. If you don’t want to delete your data, it remains forever on the servers.

Google analytics 4 allows you to set a timing for two months or 14 months; no other options are available. Suppose you are the one who keeps analyzing years-old data for the betterment of your business and understanding changes in consumer behavioral patterns over the years. In that case, GA4 might hurt you badly. If retaining data is your priority, then stick to universal analytics.

5. App data integration

If you have ever used Universal Analytics, you must have found that the software doesn’t allow you to track your application’s data in the same window. The entire ecosystem of the older version is based on hits and sessions; apps don’t work on this concept. That’s why Google has to launch a separate software where users can track their application data. It’s pretty inconvenient to juggle between two software.

GA4 solves this problem by integrating the concept of the event. Using this, you can browse both website and application data on the same screen. Google has made it easy and convenient to compare and take informative decisions based on the results.

6. Ecommerce tracking

Universal analytics is still a good option for eCommerce tracking because it offers powerful tools that we are yet to see in the new version. Some people claim that e-commerce tracking is better in GA4, but we didn’t find that. If you analyze a lot of eCommerce-driven data, we suggest you currently stick with the older version.

Google Analytics 4’s eCommerce tracking is still in development, and with time, we will see more updates in the software. It looks like it is in the beta stage and offers only a few options that are not enough for a business.

7. Ease of use

We already have hung of using universal analytics, so most of us find it easy to work on the older version. Of course, it’s much easier to operate and show you general reports in the basic form that even a beginner can quickly analyze the data. It’s best for small businesses or new website owners, who usually don’t have much time to analyze data.

Google analytic four has complicated a few things, and it is difficult to operate if compared. It includes a more profound analysis of data and constructive reports that needs time to understand. It is not very difficult to understand, and you will get in the habit of using it with time. But, indeed, as a beginner, you will face many issues.

8. IP Anonymisation

Universal analytics provides you with an option to mask your visitor’s IP addresses. IP addresses are helpful to identify a user’s geolocation, but it can be a massive problem if the laws of your country don’t allow you to store the complete address. The older version allows you to enable or disable the option to collect IP addresses.

If you enable IP anonymization, then google will mask the last three digits of the user’s IP address. It saves you from problems.

In GA4, the option is by default enabled. If your country allows you to collect addresses, still, you cannot because there is no option in the software.  This prevents you from getting users’ locations and might hurt you badly.

9. Reporting interface

Universal Analytics allows you to report views per property. It helps you keep an eye on individual data tracking and ultimately helps you make better decisions as all your confusion gets solved in the differentiated reports. It makes things easier for users and is one of the significant benefits of using the older version.

Google analytics 4 allows you to have only one reporting view. Although, you can replicate some of the functionality of reporting view by creating a new sub-property. It solves the problem in a new way, but we would say that the older version is much better for reports.

10. Acquisition Reports in Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics

The primary differences are that GA4 uses an event-based data collection model and Universal Analytics has a session-based model. In other words, UA collects data based on page views, hits, and other things during a session, while GA4 collects all hits as events.

Universal Analytics Report TypeGA4 Report Type
Page viewEvent
User timingEvent
App/screen viewEvent

The main reason behind data collection in the form of events is that GA4 integrates both app + web property on the same screen. Now, apps don’t have page views, sessions, and more. That’s why Google used a common term for both, known as an event.

Google Analytics 4 Benefits

The updated version of every software must come with improved benefits. Otherwise, it’s a failed project. Google understands this very well, so GA4 is bundled up with surprising benefits that no one could imagine.

1. Updated engagement metrics

Instead of showing you the bounce rate, or the percentage of users that leave a page without any interaction, Google Analytics 4 gives tons of positive data on user engagement.

In the new version, every session is considered an event when the user at least stays for 10 seconds or clicks on a link for conversions, or involves two page views. It is much more sophisticated than the older version.

Also, the enhanced measurements include events like scrolling, video engagement, and file downloads. GA4 analyzes all this information and tells you what exactly to improve.

2. BigQuery integration

That’s another milestone achieved by google to better the entire software. BigQuery is a data warehouse that allows processing SQL queries at a very high speed. This means you can quickly analyze terabytes of raw data to take advantage of platforms’ machine learning abilities that weren’t available before.

As of now, you get BigQuery integration with GA4 for free. New users get 10GB of free storage and processing of up to 1TB of data. Then you need to purchase a plan.

3. No loss of unsampled data

We all know that universal analytics has a limit of 10 million hits; if you exceed, the remaining data will be left unsampled until you purchase Google Analytics 365. This might result in an unknown loss.

GA4 solved this problem by removing the limit of 10 million hits. You can collect unlimited data without worrying about any storage space; you don’t have to pay for the service.

4. Access to intelligent tracking

Laws are becoming complex, and some governments don’t allow you to use trackers or collect cookies. It is difficult to understand user insights without intelligent data, resulting in poor conversions and money loss.

Google Analytics uses AI and machine learning algorithms that help collect intelligent data based on user interactions, not just relying on cookies.

5. It helps you with better ROI

An intelligent businessman knows what his audience wants, and when you solve the core problem that hurts the most, no one can beat you in your game. GA4 helps you understand your audience’s exact pain point so that you can smartly design relevant products for them.

This increases your return on investment, which ultimately helps better your business.

Is GA4 free or paid?

Like universal analytics, GA4 is also free to use for everyone. Earlier it was only available for enterprises, but now every website owner can use the service for free. Please make sure your hosting plan includes the integration with google analytics; otherwise, you have to pay for it.

Google Analytics 4 is free to use, but some additional features like integrating BigQuery will cost you money after you exhaust your free trial.

Is GA4 replacing Universal Analytics?

What happens with the old software when an updated and advanced version arrives? Slowly it obsoletes! GA4 will surely replace Universal Analytics with time.

Currently, the wait could stretch long because GA4 has some issues with eCommerce integrations, reports, and more. That’s why even Google hasn’t discontinued the older version. Also, people need some time to learn the new software and shift.

Should I shift from Universal Analytics to GA4?

We recommend you start using GA4 as it will overtake Universal Analytics in the future. It’s better to start now than to regret it later.

Even it includes benefits and deeper insights that Universal Analytics fails to provide. You will take some time to learn, but it’s pretty easy and self-explanatory; you need to get familiar with events and the different types of reports.

Try watching YouTube tutorials or check google analytics help pages if you face any problems.

Can I Convert Google Analytics 4 to Universal Analytics?

Don’t like the new concept of GA4? You still can return to the older version of universal analytics. There are no restrictions, and it’s even pretty easy to replace. However, it’s not recommended.

Instead, we will suggest you use both of the software simultaneously. It is not compulsory to use only one at a time. You can connect your property to both versions of google analytics and then compare which one suits you the best.

Universal Analytics is suitable for general reports and eCommerce integrations, while GA4 will help your intelligent data and deeper insights and connect you with BigQuery. You can use the benefits of both software for free.

We don’t know long this service will be available, but Google wants people to use GA4. When they find that most users are shifting to GA4, they might discontinue using both software. So, take advantage until it’s available.

GA4 vs Universal Analytics Reddit

Reddit is the hub of discussions where you find some of the industry’s best minds sharing their knowledge. To find out people’s opinions about GA4, we researched various discussions on Reddit and found out that.

  • Most people love the concept of GA4 and said it looks familiar and easy to use.
  • Users are happy that they can use both UA and GA4 simultaneously.
  • Some complained that they didn’t like the event features and said that hits and sessions were better and easier to understand.

Anyways there is a positive vibe on Reddit about the use of GA4. People are willing to shift, but they will also continue to use the older version for the time being.

Check out this discussion on Reddit. It will closely help you understand the facts which people are currently debating. It included both negative and positive comments.

Google Analytics Four Documentation

Here you can find the official document of GA4 by google.

It says that “Google Analytics 4 is an analytics service that enables you to measure traffic and engagement across your websites and apps. This document provides implementing instructions and reference materials geared towards a developer audience”.

It includes every minute detail and provides you with the help you might need after migrating to GA4. The document consists of several pages explaining revenue, e-commerce, debugging, exceptions, and more.

If you are stuck without any help, you know where to find answers.

Is GA4 replacing Universal Analytics?

Of course, GA4 will replace the older version of Universal Analytics in the future; that is why it was launched. However, we won’t see any immediate changes because GA4 needs more improvement.

Google Analytics 4 is a good software that uses AI and machine learning to collect intelligent data that helps you collect and analyze data without touching the cookies. It’s a new experiment that is yet to receive user acceptance from the masses.

It’s not perfect yet and needs more work with the reports and eCommerce integration. Let us see how much time Google takes to completely roll out the old software and make GA4 compulsory for all.

Do I need GA4?

That is a million-dollar question! We would say it depends on your individual needs. Universal Analytics is a good option if you own a small website with minimum traffic and don’t care about deeper insights or machine learning.

But if you are willing to expand to discover new dimensions and ready to take the help of analytics to provide better services to your audience or customers, then Google Analytics can help.

In total, maybe you don’t need it today, but things will change in the future, and if you don’t adopt the changes, you will be left behind.


Google Analytics 4 is a fantastic tool with some tremendous benefits.

  • It integrates artificial intelligence and machine learning to help you with in-depth data evaluation.
  • Provides web + app data on the same screen. That makes it easier for you.
  • It’s not based on the previous data collection model of cookies, sessions, hits. Instead, GA4 uses events. That is more helpful and easy to understand.

Future will be based on AI, and GA4 is based on a similar model. It’s free to use for everyone and integration with a data warehouse called BigQuery as a trail.

The best part is that you can simultaneously use Universal Analytics and GA4. But we recommend you to shift as soon as you can. Each Software has specific drawbacks, but GA4 will be the future.

What do you think? Please share your comments.