Google Analytics is an essential tool for viewing the performance of your website. If you want to see how visitors discover your website, the pages they view, and how they engage with your website, you need to have a Google Analytics account set up to record and report on this data.

Without this insight there can’t be any form of attribution towards marketing spend or any understanding of how your website is performing, effectively leaving you in the dark.

The deadline for switching to Google Analytics 4 is fast approaching. If you use Google Analytics to track your website and marketing performance, then you know that on July 1st 2023 your Universal Analytics property will stop recording data.

2023 is the year everyone is being forced to switch to Google Analytics 4, but before you make the switch, there are some key differences between the two systems to understand.

What are the differences between Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Universal Analytics (UA)?

One of the biggest differences between these two systems is the way they measure performance data. Universal Analytics is based on a page view data model, whereas Google Analytics 4 is entirely event based.

This means the two will track interactions on your website differently and it explains why you might see differences between the two reports. For example, page views will not match between UA and GA4 because of how they measure data. Also, a basic GA4 setup will track more engagement metrics than Universal Analytics can, such as clicks and file downloads.

Google Analytics 4 can also use more machine learning and predictive insights than Universal Analytics. For example, with enough data to train the predictive models, you can get insights such as purchase probability, churn probability and predicted revenue from your GA4 setup.

Where do you view bounce rate in Google Analytics 4?


As GA4 has moved on from the page view model, some metrics are no longer available. One of these is ‘bounce rate’ which is not included in Google Analytics 4.

Previously in Universal Analytics, bounce rate was used to determine how many users left a page without interacting. This was calculated by UA measuring if a user interacted with the page, for example, by clicking on another internal link on the page. This meant as a metric it could falsely report a page as having a high bounce rate when, in reality, there was nowhere for a user to navigate to by design.

As an alternative, we recommend looking at ‘Engagement Rate’ in GA4. This metric is calculated by dividing the number of engaged sessions by the total number of sessions. For a user to be counted as an ‘engaged session’ they need to meet at least one of these criteria:

  • The user session is greater than ten seconds
  • The session has at least two pageviews
  • The session includes at least one conversion event

This is a much more accurate measurement than bounce rate as the criteria for engagement is far higher.

Events are different between UA and GA4

Previously, events in UA were set up using the values: Category, Action, Label and Value. These four criteria passed the event details into UA and allowed you to filter this data into your reports.

GA4 works by recording the event parameters. There are four categories of events you can choose from including: automatically collected events (ad_click), enhanced measurement events (page_view), recommended events (add_payment_info) and custom events tailored to your KPIs.

As everything in GA4 is event based, upon these changes we recommend reviewing your event and conversion tracking now to make sure you’re still tracking everything you need to before July.

When does identifiable user data expire in Google Analytics 4?

With the rise of privacy conscious legislation, such as GDPR, Google introduced data control tools into their analytics systems to allow you to remain compliant with data laws and to manage deletion requests.

With Universal Analytics, you could set identifying user data to expire anywhere from 14 to 50 months or to never expire. With Google Analytics 4, these options have been significantly reduced. You now have the option of user data expiring in either 2 months or 14 months. This will impact any data that is associated with cookies, unique user identifiers or ad identifiers.

The key difference here is that GA4 is far more privacy focused than UA because of features like this and IP anonymisation.

Cross-Domain Tracking Is Easier in GA4

While cross-domain tracking is possible in Universal Analytics, the process is far simpler in Google Analytics and more stable.

To set this up in GA4, both websites you want to track must have the same GA4 code present. After this it’s as easy as adding the second domain to the data stream in the tag settings.

With everything configured in GA4 it’s easier to test your setup and see what’s been done. This is made even easier with the new GA4 ‘DebugView’ that allows you to test your analytics integration in real time outside of Tag Manager.

What reporting options are available in Google Analytics 4?

Ultimately, the same reports you get from Universal Analytics are available in Google Analytics 4. There may be some changes to the data because of the models each system uses, but you should be able to replicate most of your reports.

Website performance is still split into the two main sections of Acquisition to see how users get to your website and Engagement to see how they interact with your website.

Each section can combine data with events, page titles and page urls to allow you to review performance, similarly to how you do now.

However, some key differences to note are segments and filters behave differently in GA4, so any reports that rely on these features will need to be updated before the deadline.

The deadline for switching to Google Analytics 4 from Universal Analytics is still the 1st July 2023. While data in Universal Analytics might be available beyond this date, this is no guarantee. To have as much data as possible for performance comparison, it’s important to set up a GA4 account as soon as you can. Contact us if you need any assistance with this or further clarification.

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