What Is the Difference Between Universal Analytics and GA4?

Data analytics are a key part of most marketing research. Every marketing team should stay up to date with the latest version of important analytical tools. Google’s Universal Analytics is being replaced with a new system, called GA4. This new system involves a lot of changes that could have huge impacts on marketing departments in all kinds of industries. 

Regardless of your industry or profession, search engine marketing, or SEO, affects all of us. Everyone should be up to date on all of the latest information relating to SEO, ads, and marketing. Stay informed on all kinds of marketing news by following SEO Design Chicago’s blog. Keep reading to find out what you need to know about Universal Analytics vs GA4. 

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Universal Analytics

Universal Analytics is a data analytical tool from Google. Until recently, it was the most recent version of Google Analytics. It was introduced in 2012 as the successor to the previous version of Google Analytics. It included many amazing updates that made tracking user data even easier. 

Previous versions of Google Analytics could track user data, but couldn’t distinguish between users. All user activity was registered as different users. With Universal Analytics, users could be tracked as one user across all of their activity. It also calculated bounce rates. This was a huge development for data analysis since it meant users could now accurately be tracked as themselves. 

Universal Analytics also introduced new ways to track users. While previous versions of Google Analytics tracked important data like website traffic, new versions were more in-depth. Universal Analytics kept track of how users interact with websites while also recognizing mobile devices and gaming consoles. One of the most important updates was the ability to mobile track users. Users could now be tracked from other sources using offline data. Universal Analytics could now better interpret data. For example, it could now stop tracking open browsers after a certain amount of time. This made interpreting data a lot more realistic, since many internet users leave their browsers open for long periods of time. This filtered out unhelpful data. 

Overall, Universal Analytics was a game changer for tracking user data across platforms. Many businesses benefited greatly from being able to better record and interpret user data. Since they can now more accurately understand users, they can better market to them. 

GA4 vs Universal Analytics

The newest version of Google Analytics, known as GA4, was introduced in October 2020. It came with many updates that improved upon Universal Analytics. It also came with many new features like artificial intelligence. For the GA4, artificial intelligence predicts trends in data. It can estimate when there will be an increase in demand for something or how much revenue an audience can generate. 

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Privacy

GA4 is also focused on privacy. While many internet users don’t mind having their data collected under certain circumstances, they want to know what data is being collected. Users care a great deal about the data that businesses do and don’t have access to. That’s why it’s very important that GA4 is focused so much on privacy. 

Like many data collection tools, GA4 does not collect personally identifiable information, which is sometimes abbreviated as PII. When GA4 believes that PII has been collected, it will delete all of the data inside of that property. It also has default IP anonymization. Previous versions of Google Analytics required users to hide their IP address themselves if they wanted to keep it private. In general, data collected through GA4 is more limited. It’s even held for a shorter period of time. 

Types of Users

In addition to added privacy features, GA4 also introduced a new third type of user. Universal Analytics divided users into two categories: New Users and Total Users. GA4 reports Active Users, a new category that includes people who used a website during a certain time. This new category intends to differentiate between users who are more engaged with a particular website or content. 

While there are many changes included in GA4, there are some features that remain relatively similar. Much like Universal Analytics, GA4 accounts for browser inactivity. When users remain inactive on an open browser for more than 30 minutes, the program considers the end of a browsing session. However, prior to GA4, Universal Analytics considered a session that occurs at midnight as two different sessions, since it happened on two different days. GA4 recognizes that many users browse the internet late at night, and no longer considers midnight sessions as new sessions. These updates to Google Analytics are great tools that allow programs to apply practical knowledge of behavior in order to better understand users’ activity. 

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Google Analytics Support

No matter what version you’re dealing with, Google Analytics can be difficult. Many users require support when trying to navigate these complicated programs. SEO Design Chicago is a great resource full of experts who understand these complicated systems. We even offer migration services for users looking to update from Universal Analytics to GA4.

Whether you plan on migrating soon or not, your company will eventually need to make the switch to GA4. On July 1st, 2023, Universal Analytics will stop processing data. While previous data will still be available, this will essentially make Universal Analytics obsolete and useless. Only GA4 will be available for your data analysis needs. SEO Design Chicago’s migration services can make this difficult transition much easier. 

Staying Up to Date With Google Analytics

When it comes to online marketing, many businesses would be lost without tools like Google Analytics. With each new update, the program improves upon itself. That’s why it’s important for marketing departments and SEO teams to understand Universal Analytics vs GA4. Knowing what tools are available to you can allow you to perform your job to the best of your ability. SEO and marketing heavily rely on data from users. Data that informs businesses of who is viewing their website, when, how often, etc. Keep your team up to date with the best data analyst tools by investing in migration services from SEO Design Chicago. 

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