difference between google analytics 4 properties and universal analytics properties

Uncovering the Differences: Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics Properties


In the dynamic landscape of web analytics, staying up-to-date with the latest tools and methodologies is crucial for businesses seeking to gain a competitive edge. As the digital world continues to evolve, Google has introduced a groundbreaking shift in its analytics platform – Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This new iteration promises to revolutionize the way we collect, analyze, and interpret data, offering a significant departure from its predecessor, Universal Analytics.

Understanding the key distinctions between these two analytics platforms is essential for organizations aiming to make informed decisions and optimize their online strategies. This comprehensive guide delves into the depths of Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics, exploring their fundamental differences, strengths, and limitations. By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid grasp of the paradigm shift and be better equipped to leverage the power of GA4 for your business’s growth.

Table of Contents

  1. The Shift from Sessions to Events
  2. Embracing the Event-Driven Model
  3. Cross-Platform Integration
  4. User-Centric Data Collection
  5. Enhanced Privacy and Data Control
  6. Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics
  7. Streamlined Configuration and Setup
  8. Data Retention and Processing
  9. Reporting and Analysis
  10. Compatibility and Migration Considerations
  11. Conclusion

The Shift from Sessions to Events

One of the most significant departures from Universal Analytics is the shift from a session-based data model to an event-driven approach in Google Analytics 4. In Universal Analytics, data is organized around sessions, which represent a group of user interactions within a defined time frame. However, in GA4, the focus is on capturing individual events, which can be any user interaction, such as page views, clicks, transactions, or custom-defined events.

This fundamental change in data modeling allows for a more granular and flexible approach to tracking user behavior. Instead of relying on predefined session boundaries, GA4 captures each interaction as a distinct event, providing a more comprehensive and accurate representation of the user journey.

Embracing the Event-Driven Model

Building upon the event-driven data model, Google Analytics 4 introduces a streamlined approach to event tracking. Unlike Universal Analytics, where different hit types (e.g., pageviews, events, transactions) were treated separately, GA4 consolidates all interactions into a unified event structure.

This simplification of event tracking makes it easier to capture and analyze a wide range of user interactions, from traditional web activities to more complex scenarios involving mobile apps, single-page applications, and internet of things (IoT) devices.

Moreover, GA4 allows for the collection of up to 25 custom parameters for each event, enabling businesses to capture and analyze highly granular data points tailored to their specific needs.

Cross-Platform Integration

In today’s multi-device world, users seamlessly transition between various platforms, such as websites, mobile apps, and connected devices. Google Analytics 4 addresses this reality by offering a unified platform for data collection and analysis across different environments.

With GA4, businesses can seamlessly track user journeys across multiple touchpoints, providing a holistic view of the customer experience. This approach, coupled with utilizing tools like Google Tag Manager, enhances the management and deployment of marketing tags without modifying the code. Cross-platform integration as seen in Google Analytics 4 eliminates the need for separate analytics implementations and facilitates a more cohesive understanding of user behavior, offering tools that interoperate smoothly in tracking, optimization, and analytics practices.

User-Centric Data Collection

Another key distinction between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics is the shift towards a user-centric approach to data collection. GA4 introduces the concept of a User ID, which allows businesses to track individual users across multiple devices and sessions.

By assigning a persistent and unique identifier to each user, GA4 enables businesses to gain deeper insights into user behavior, preferences, and journeys. This user-centric approach facilitates more personalized experiences, targeted marketing efforts, and informed decision-making.

Enhanced Privacy and Data Control

Privacy and data protection have become paramount concerns in the digital age. Google Analytics 4 addresses these concerns by offering enhanced privacy features and greater control over data collection and processing.

One notable improvement is the ability to adjust data retention settings, allowing businesses to specify how long user-level and event-level data should be retained within the platform. This feature enables organizations to comply with data protection regulations and align their data practices with their privacy policies.

Additionally, GA4 provides granular controls over data collection, allowing businesses to selectively enable or disable specific data streams, such as those related to advertising or cross-device tracking.

Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics

Google Analytics 4 leverages the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide businesses with valuable insights and predictions. The platform incorporates advanced modeling techniques to analyze user behavior patterns and generate intelligent insights.

One notable feature is the ability to generate predictive metrics, such as the likelihood of a user converting or churning. These predictive insights can inform strategic decisions, optimize marketing campaigns, and enhance user experiences.

Furthermore, GA4 offers automated insights and recommendations, using machine learning algorithms to identify trends, anomalies, and areas for improvement within the data. This automation reduces the need for manual data analysis and allows businesses to quickly identify and act on opportunities for growth.

Streamlined Configuration and Setup

Google Analytics 4 simplifies the process of configuration and setup, making it more accessible and user-friendly for businesses of all sizes. The platform offers a streamlined setup process, with intuitive interfaces and clear guidance for configuring data streams, events, and user properties.

Additionally, GA4 provides better integration with other Google products, such as Google Ads and Google Marketing Platform, enabling seamless data sharing and more efficient campaign optimization.

Data Retention and Processing

While Universal Analytics had a fixed data retention period of 26 months for standard properties, Google Analytics 4 offers more flexibility. Businesses can configure data retention settings based on their specific needs, ranging from 2 months to 14 months for event-level data and 14 months for user-level data.

Furthermore, GA4 introduces a new data processing model that leverages event-level data and machine learning algorithms to generate aggregated reports and insights. This approach aims to provide more accurate and meaningful analytics while preserving user privacy.

Reporting and Analysis

Google Analytics 4 introduces a fresh approach to reporting and analysis, with a revamped user interface and new reporting capabilities. The platform offers a customizable reporting experience, allowing businesses to create tailored SEO reports and dashboards that align with their specific goals and KPIs.

One notable feature is the ability to create and analyze audiences based on specific criteria, such as user properties, event parameters, or machine learning models. This audience-centric approach enables businesses to gain deeper insights into their target segments and tailor their strategies accordingly.

Additionally, GA4 provides improved data visualization tools, including the ability to create and share customized reports and dashboards with stakeholders, facilitating data-driven decision-making across the organization.

Compatibility and Migration Considerations

While Google Analytics 4 represents a significant advancement in web analytics, it is important to note that it is not fully backward-compatible with Universal Analytics. This means that businesses currently using Universal Analytics will need to plan and execute a migration strategy to fully adopt GA4.

During the migration process, businesses may need to update their tracking implementations, reconfigure data streams, and potentially adjust their reporting and analysis workflows. It is recommended to run both Universal Analytics and GA4 in parallel during the transition period to ensure data continuity and facilitate a smooth migration.

Google has provided resources and guidance to assist businesses in migrating from Universal Analytics to GA4, including migration tools and best practices for data mapping and integration.


The introduction of Google Analytics 4 represents a paradigm shift in the world of web analytics, offering businesses a powerful and flexible platform for data collection, analysis, and insights. With its event-driven data model, cross-platform integration, user-centric approach, enhanced privacy features, and machine learning capabilities, GA4 empowers organizations to make data-driven decisions and deliver exceptional customer experiences.

While the transition from Universal Analytics to GA4 may require some effort and planning, the potential benefits of this new platform are significant. By embracing the capabilities of Google Analytics 4, businesses can gain a competitive edge, stay ahead of industry trends, and drive sustainable growth in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

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