All you need to know about GA4 and how it differs from Universal Analytics

So, as you may know, we are in the last week of having access to Universal Analytics (UA) before Google begins to deprecate this tool. As of 1st July 2023, UA will be paused and data will only be tracked in GA4.

The whole ‘migration’ to GA4 can be a little confusing so you might not be aware of everything involved and what this means for your business. This article will dive into all aspects of UA/GA4 and the impact this might have on tracking data.

The Timeline

The introduction of GA4 has been a well-known & documented addition to Google’s suite of tools for some time now. However, to understand the whole process and plan it’s important to understand the key dates and information which Google has provided us with.

Announcement Of New Tracking Tool – October 2020

In October 2020 Google announced they would be introducing a new tracking tool. Initially, it was released in beta before being released for general use.

UA Depreciation – March 2022

This is the first time we found out officially that UA will be deprecated, and all tracking will be coming from GA4 moving forward. They also announced the following 2 step process that will end in UA being deprecated.

Stopping Tracking – July 2023

As of 1st July 2023, there will be no more data tracked on Universal Analytics. We will still have access to all properties to view historic data, but no new data can be added. You must have a GA4 set up and correctly configured to continue tracking data.

Complete Closure – From December 2023

No specific date has been decided but for “at least 6 months” we will have data for UA. In this 6 month period, you will be able to download your historic data into a CSV. We don’t think this is enough, so we are currently working on a new reporting method to hold this historic data in a presentable report to make sure all historic data is accessible and easy to interoperate.

Why is Google doing this?

So, we now know the timeline, but why has Google decided to switch to GA4 and deprecate UA?

There are many ‘reasons’ floating around the industry as to why Google has decided to move towards a GA4 future, some plausible, some wieldy off the mark.

Here are the facts.

  1. Google Analytics was built for Desktops. It doesn’t mean it can’t track data from mobile sessions but it wasn’t built for the cross-device world we now live in. Instead GA4 ‘does not rely exclusively on cookies and uses an event-based data model to deliver user-centric measurement’.
  2. Privacy is becoming more and more prevalent in society. While UA had some Privacy tools Google built this new tool with it at the centre of all they are doing. ‘Google Analytics 4 is designed with privacy at its core to provide a better experience for both our customers and their users’.
  3. ‘Designed for the future’. Google has changed how they track data & introduced new features to not only make GA4 their most advanced analytics tool yet but to also future proof it. Hopefully, we won’t see it go anywhere anytime soon!

What are the differences between UA & GA4?

If you have started using GA4 you will notice many changes, there are too many to list but here are some of the key differences.

  • As mentioned above, in GA4 data is tracked differently when compared to UA. This does mean there will be contrasting data when cross-comparing UA & GA4 metrics. We tend to see a ~10% difference in data but this can be more extreme depending on the site & the information tracked. 
  • The change in data tracking also means that some metrics now report the data differently. A comprehensive guide has been supplied by Google here.
  • Almost all data is now handled within ‘reports’, you can utilise the predefined one or you can build your own to access specific data you require. – If you need assistance with this, send us a message!
  • Visually it’s more pleasing and once you get to know how it’s laid out it’s much easier to navigate.

If you currently track data using Universal Analytics, it’s imperative to change to GA4. This will allow you to track data using Google’s latest tool and ensures you don’t miss out on any data. You will also need to ensure that tools such as Looker Studio are adjusted to report on the new analytics property.

How does the change to GA4 affect your business?

If you don’t currently track this sort of data, why not? You can use it to make business decisions that will help with growth and allows you to make informed decisions.

If you need help with anything mentioned above, please do get in contact. We have a team of experts ready to help you get your GA4 kick-started. You can contact us by emailing, calling us on 02392 822 377, or filling out a contact form here.

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About the Author

Owen Gaudion - technical seo developer

Owen G

Digital Developer

Owen’s day to day jobs include ensuring our SEO client websites are meeting Google’s performance criteria, assisting with website changes and creating monthly Core Web Vital reports to ensure we are always driving our clients’ websites in the right direction!

He has been in the marketing industry since 2017 but his passion for SEO and development started long before. He has been developing websites and helping businesses with their online presence since he was 16.

Owen is a keen football fan and enjoys traveling around the country to watch football. So far, he has gone 3,429 miles to watch his team, Portsmouth, play away.