A comparison of UA & GA4
One of the most common questions I get asked about selling online is how you measure results and find out how effective (and popular!) your website, app or marketing activity is.
There are lots of different analytics programs available and each has its pros and cons. The one most commonly used is Google Analytics, not least because it’s free.
It’s fairly intuitive to use even for a tech novice and provides a range of important information.
There is, however, more than one Google Analytics package.
Universal Analytics or UA is the data collection and analysis technology that has been used by marketers and businesses for the last decade or more.
The essence of UA was based on the fact that visitors arrive in relatively traditional ways, for example, from a search engine.
UA is set to be discontinued from July 2023 and the main analytics tool will become GA4 which is an improved system that takes into account that visitors are likely to access products through a variety of different touchpoints.
There are some significant differences between UA and GA4. Here I take a look at just a few of them.
1. Data Tracking and Events
There is a major difference between the way each system tracks data – UA tracking is based on page views and sessions while GA4 uses data that is based on ‘events’.
What does this mean? Well, it means that GA4 can consolidate and track more data and get a fuller picture of how customers are interacting with your business.
A session in UA tracks page views across different properties. You can add additional events to measure by using a tool like Google Tag Manager but this can be a bit messy.
GA4 allows you to build a more complex and revealing overview of activity on your website and app by adding events. You don’t need much technical expertise to get the hang of these and there are four types of events that can be measured:
- Automatic events such as page views and visits.
- Enhanced events that allow you to track how people engage with your content.
- Recommended events that are not automatically collected but can be added to provide more understanding of what’s going on.
- Custom events that are defined by you and are more relevant to your business.
2. Data Setup
Organising your data in UA can be a handful and involves creating different properties, each of which needs to have 3 distinct views. It can be incredibly challenging for a novice to set up and get right and even experts can struggle with larger sites.
In GA4, your website or app is seen as a single data stream that can be viewed through a single property. This means that the analytics allow you to potentially follow a customer’s journey from the initial touch point to your main site.
3. Cookies and User Flexibility
In older data analytics software like UA, collecting information is largely dependent on permitting cookies which help track behaviour.
The trouble is this is no longer the only way that a user is likely to engage with your product or service. GA4 combines cookies and Google signals to essentially knit together different information to track the full journey.
In other words, GA4 gives you the bigger picture and that can influence how you market your products.
Finally, GA4 has introduced a few new metrics that could be quite revealing and these are well worth exploring to see how useful they are for your business.
One of my favourites is engagement rate which measures the percentage of sessions where a customer was engaged with your site. For example, it notes if they were on there for more than ten seconds, had clicked on a buy button or had more than 2 views of different pages.
While there’s a lot that’s different on GA4, there’s also a lot that is a great improvement. With UA set to be thrown on the digital slag heap next year, it’s well worth getting to know the basics of GA4 and begin transferring your data analytics to the new system, before it’s too late and you lose your data.