In 2023, Google started to phase out Universal Analytics (UA) in favor of Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Even though GA4 became the standard option for new Google Analytics setups since October 14, 2020, many marketers and website developers didn’t hurry to switch from UA to GA4 for their reporting needs.

One reason could be that GA4 operates quite differently compared to UA. While GA4 offers many new useful features, some people criticized it for having bugs and missing some loved features from UA. In this article, we’ll discuss seven main differences between the two platforms and why it might be a good idea to explore the new possibilities in GA4.


Google Analytics 4 represents the latest iteration of Google’s renowned analytics platform. Unlike its predecessor, Universal Analytics, GA4 is engineered to monitor both your WordPress website and apps within a single property. This means you no longer need to manage separate tracking setups for apps and websites.

The shift to Google Analytics 4 provides a more comprehensive understanding of your customer’s journey, spanning various channels and devices. Additionally, GA4 prioritizes enhanced data privacy measures for users, ensuring a safer and more secure data environment.

Key differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics

Here are the key differences:

App tracking

One exciting feature of GA4 is its capability to track both website and app data within the same setup. GA4 uses a similar measurement approach as Google Analytics Firebase, which is typically used for mobile apps. In this model, all user actions are recorded as events. This unified system for collecting data from both websites and mobile app development  makes it simpler to merge and analyze data across both platforms.

Hit types

Another important contrast between Universal Analytics (UA) and GA4 lies in how they capture user interactions. In UA, interactions were recorded in various hit types like page views, transactions, and social interactions. However, GA4 takes a different approach, where every interaction is treated as an event.

Events were also present in UA, with specific categories, actions, and labels assigned to them. However, these classifications are not present in GA4. Instead, GA4 utilizes event parameters, which are extra pieces of information about the action (event) a user performed. Some event parameters are automatically sent, like page title, and you can add more as needed (with a limit of 25 event parameters per event).

Session calculations in GA4 vs universal analytics

Another contrast between UA and GA4 that becomes evident when comparing data is the difference in session values.

  • In UA, a session denotes the duration a user spends actively interacting with your website. Here are the events that terminate a session in UA:


  • 30 minutes of no activity (or based on your session timeout settings).
  • The day changes (leading to the start of a new session).
  • Encountering new campaign parameters (like UTM parameters in internal links, although Google advises against using them for this purpose)

Exports to BigQuery are free

In GA4, BigQuery exports are accessible for all properties, whereas with UA, this feature was restricted to Analytics 360 properties. This enables you to send raw events directly to BigQuery, where you can then analyze them using SQL queries. The feature is free to use as long as you stay within the usage limits set in the sandbox environment for BigQuery. However, it’s important to mention that the sandbox environment doesn’t support streaming data.

Bounce rate and engagement rate

GA4 doesn’t include metrics related to bounces, unlike UA. Instead, Google has opted for a more positive approach by focusing on reporting engagement rate. Engagement rate is a percentage-based metric calculated as engaged sessions divided by total sessions. Now, what are engaged sessions? Engaged sessions are sessions that meet one of the following criteria:

  • Lasted for at least 10 seconds.
  • Included at least 1 conversion event.
  • Had at least 2 page or screen views.

Yes, bounce rate does exist in GA4, but it’s calculated differently compared to UA. In Google Analytics 4, bounce rate represents the percentage of sessions that were not engaged sessions. Therefore, in simple terms, bounce rate in GA4 is the inverse of engagement rate, which is calculated as the number of engaged sessions divided by the total number of sessions within a specific timeframe. The UA, bounce rate was calculated as the percentage of website users who didn’t view more than one page on your website during their visit.

Google Tag Manager is more important than ever

In the past, if you were using the simpler features of Google Analytics Universal, you could operate it without needing Google Tag Manager. For example, you could set up destination page conversions directly within Google Analytics. However, with GA4, this has changed. Now, all goals are event-based, meaning you must be familiar with Google Tag Manager.

Knowing how to use Tag Manager, especially if you’re in digital marketing or e-commerce, has become more crucial than ever. Tag Manager is essential for advanced data collection tasks. For instance, you’ll need it to create custom events and custom dimensions.

Account structure

In Google Analytics Universal, the account structure consists of three elements: Account, Property, and View. However, in GA4, there are only two elements: Account and Property. This means that in Google Analytics 4, a property does not have any views.

Additionally, Google introduced a new concept in GA4 called data streams. A data stream represents the flow of data from your website or app to Google Analytics.


In Universal Analytics, data is collected at the property level using a tracking ID. In contrast, GA4 collects data at the stream level using a unique data stream ID. Each GA4 property can have up to 50 data streams, with a maximum limit of 30 app data streams.


With Google Analytics transitioning from a session-based data model to an event-based one, significant changes are underway. On July 11, 2022, Google unveiled new dimensions and metrics for GA4. Notably, among these additions are bounce rate and conversion rate—two dimensions eagerly anticipated by marketing professionals.