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Google Analytics 4 vs. Universal Analytics

Universal Analytics was Google’s default Analytics tool until October 2020, when they introduced the new generation of Analytics. Now, Universal Analytics is on its way out, and Google Analytics 4 is set to be the new default website monitoring tool.

Google Analytics 4 — or GA4 — is designed to meet a variety of business goals, including increasing mobile app downloads, generating more leads, and driving sales. 

Read more about the distinction between Google Analytics 4 vs. Universal Analytics below, as well as the switch to GA4 and the unique features it offers.

What is happening to Universal Analytics?

Google is sunsetting Universal Analytics. It will be replaced by Google Analytics 4. Google will begin the sunsetting process in 2023, but Universal Analytics will fully stop processing new data on July 1, 2023. Universal Analytics 360 will be able to process new data until October 1, 2023.

You’ll be able to access your Universal Analytics data for at least six months, but you’ll still want to make the switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 as soon as is convenient for you! Google has a Help Center to assist you in making the switch. 

Why is Google making the switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4?

One of the primary reasons Google is making Google Analytics 4 the standard version of Google Analytics is because Universal Analytics is becoming obsolete as technology changes. For example, Universal Analytics cannot deliver cross-platform insights — it relies on cookies and was built at a time when simple analytics observed from a desktop was enough.

This essentially means a company with both a website and an app would need two separate “properties” under their Google Analytics account — one for their website and one for their app. 

Google Analytics 4, on the other hand, does not rely on cookies and can deliver cross-platform insights. This means businesses can get insights into their website and app with only one property. 

One of the final reasons Google Analytics 4 is a more appealing and modern version of Universal Analytics is the privacy benefits it offers. Google Analytics will no longer store IP addresses, which a lot of businesses find incredibly valuable in an age where users expect more data security and privacy when online. 

A session-based model vs. event-based model

The Universal Analytics method of using cookies to track user data is called a session-based data model. Basically, a website sends a “cookie” to the user’s computer who is visiting the site. This gives the site permission and the ability to monitor and record a user’s time on the site. 

The method used with GA4 is called an event-based data model. While Google Analytics 4 still uses some cookies, it collects “event” data, including:

  • Pageviews
  • Button clicks
  • User actions 

An event-based data model provides a lot more context regarding what users are doing on your website by specifying the actions they take on it. 

Benefits of Google Analytics 4

GA4 boasts a lot of features not seen with Universal Analytics. Let’s look at more benefits of Google Analytics 4:

Integrations with other platforms

Google Analytics 4 easily integrates with other Google apps, such as Google Ads. While Universal Analytics offered some integration options, it didn’t do so to the same extent that Google Analytics 4 is expected to.

What’s the benefit of this? In short, GA4 will let you connect to far more external tools and platforms. That lets you bring in more data, improving the quality of your marketing insights and subsequently helping you optimize your business’s ad campaigns.

Valuable data

Google Ads can help companies create new audiences by using machine learning to generate predictive insights about website conversions. It also automatically surfaces critical insights so you can improve your marketing efforts. 

There are three new metrics you’ll be able to see with Google Analytics 4:

  • Engaged session: Engaged sessions last longer than 10 seconds, have a conversion event, or have at least two page or screen views. 
  • Average engagement time per session: This is the amount of time a user interacts with your website content.
  • Engagement rate: The engagement rate is the ratio of engaged sessions vs. total sessions. 

There is also an additional user metric with GA4 — rather than seeing only total users and new users, you’ll be able to see total users, new users, and active users. These metrics and more will show up on GA4 reports. 

Data-driven attribution

Attribution uses a machine learning algorithm to analyze different paths users take with your ads, both converting and nonconverting. Data-driven attribution examines how different “touchpoints” affect conversion rates and outcomes. Data-driven attribution assigns credit to more than the user’s last click by looking at additional factors, such as:

  • Time from conversion
  • The type of device
  • The number of ad interactions

It compares the path users took against other paths they could have taken to better analyze which touchpoints are most likely to drive conversions. This will help you determine which marketing efforts encourage conversions. 

Export this new knowledge to Google Ads or Google Marketing Platform media tools. 

Future-proof and beginner-friendly

Because Google Analytics 4 does not rely on website cookies, it is a much better option for going forward that will stay more evergreen as technology continues to advance. 

Additionally, GA4 is believed to be more beginner-friendly than Universal Analytics. Google Analytics 4 operates under the assumption that there are more important metrics besides the number of page views. This might make it seem like GA4 is going to be super complicated. On the contrary, GA4 looks at all the essential metrics you might need without any extra settings.

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Hear from HydroWorx, who saw a 131% increase in organic forms by partnering with WebFX

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Learn how to leverage your Google Analytics with WebFX

If you have questions about Google Analytics or are wondering how you can leverage it to start driving results for your company, the experts at WebFX can help. We are a full-service digital marketing agency, and we’ve been helping clients use Google Analytics since it was first launched. 

If you’re ready to kickstart your digital marketing goals, starting by taking advantage of Google Analytics 4, contact us online or call us at 888-601-5359 today!

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