Differences between Google Analytics and Universal Analytics


Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is Google's newest analytics tool that is soon to be replacing their old one, the Universal Analytics (UA) or as many others know it as Google Analytics 3 (GA3). The users of UA are facing challenges adapting to GA4 as it is a completely new product meaning there will be significant changes on how they use the tool as well as the implications it will bring to day to day activities. This article will assess the differences between GA4 and UA, and how GA4 stacks up as a content analytics tool.


  • Features of Google Analytics 4
  • Differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4
  • The Problem with Google Analytics 4
  • Is it worth the effort to migrate to GA4?
  • Conclusion

The new analytics tool is also not compatible with third party software like Adobe Analytics, Adobe Marketing Cloud (AMC) and others which means publishers will have to make changes to their existing setup in order to be able to switch to GA4. Understanding the implications of these changes is needed so they can prepare for any impact on their website traffic and revenue.

In this article we will give an overview of their new features and benefits but also look at some of the drawbacks of Google's new analytics tool and how it impacts publishers.

Features of Google Analytics 4

GA4 brings new features that can help publishers gain more control over their performance, with better insights of their data. Here are some of them:

  • GA4 has been rebuilt from the ground up, making it fast and easy for you to analyze your data.
  • GA4 is built on the same data processing platform as Google Ads and offers deeper insights into user behavior across devices and browsers.
  • GA4 is built on a new architecture that leverages the power of the cloud to run reports faster than ever before, allowing you to identify trends before they happen and make informed decisions based on real data rather than estimates or averages.
  • GA4's powerful new analytics library helps you analyze multiple data sources at once—such as web pages, AdWords accounts, YouTube channel performance, etc.—so you can quickly spot opportunities for improvement by comparing performance across channels/products in one place instead of manually comparing each individually (which can be time-consuming!).

Differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 In short, Universal Analytics is a Javascript library that you embed in your website. Google Analytics 4 is a server-side library that integrates with your website.

That's really the major difference between these two analytics tools: where their code lives and how it interacts with your website to collect data.

The other differences are more about what each tool can do and less about how each tool works:

  • Events replace session based data model. In Universal Analytics, events are used instead of pageviews as the unit of measurement for sessions (an event is completed when a web session ends). This makes it easier to break down individual user actions into meaningful segments like "purchase" or "signup" instead of just showing all interactions as one lump sum at the end of a session time period. With GA4 you have no choice but to use sessions; they're not interchangeable between platforms (UA uses events while GA4 uses pageviews).
  • Engagement time replaces bounce rate in Google Analytics 4 reporting view. This is because engagement time quantifies how long users spend on site before leaving by looking at all available engagement metrics rather than just one, like bounce rate which only looks at whether visitors clicked off your site after viewing one pageview during their visit (e .g., if users look at two pages within ten seconds then leave without clicking anywhere else on site then this counts as 1 bounce even though those two clicks took place within 10 seconds). The new engagement metrics include 'average duration per visit' which measures how long someone stays on site before leaving, compared against “average visits during the same period last week/month” etc.; whereas bounce rate only measures whether visitors clicked off after viewing only one pageview during their visits (e..g., if users click through three pages within 5 minutes then leave without clicking anywhere else on site then this counts as 1 bounce even though those three clicks took place within 5 minutes). The inclusion of these new engagement metrics brings Google Analytics closer towards being able to measure actual visitor behavior

The Problem with Google Analytics 4

Despite introducing new features that might be of benefit for publishers, GA4 also comes with disadvantages. Here are some of them:

  • GA4 is not compatible with other GA tools. You can't use this product to access your historical data and compare it to new data in order to make decisions about the future of your business. This is a problem as it’s important to track back to past data in order to make accurate predictions about how things will work out when taking specific actions.
  • Extensive reimplementation is required to set up GA4. It's going to take a long time before you can actually use this tool for anything productive, so we recommend that you wait until Google has worked out some of its kinks before implementing it at all
  • Conversions will follow a different method, as they will now be classified as events. To be able to differentiate these two, users now will have to manually set the events to conversions.
  • AMP is not supported by GA4, which means if your site uses AMP, then you'll lose all of this crucial information when transitioning to Universal Analytics.
  • GA4 isn't content analytics and it’s not yet stable

Is it worth the effort to migrate to GA4?

GA4 is a content-first approach to analytics. It means that Google has prioritized how users interact with your website over other factors like pageviews or sessions. This allows Google to show more relevant data and also allows for better user experience on mobile devices. For example, if someone spends 10 seconds on a specific page, it's not necessarily because they were looking at an ad but rather because they were interested in reading an article or watching video content. On the other hand, the change from one platform to the other can be difficult as publishers have to spend time adapting to the new tool and learn how to incorporate it into their day to day activities. This means that publishers have to spend time learning about it and as a result they are also wasting morey as they could have spent their time on something that is profitable instead. Many publishers consider swapping to other platforms and analytics tools that will fit better their company purposes and needs. For this, we recommend using Spiny.ai, a business analytics tool that presents, monitors and analyses data all in one place. It also provides solutions and recommendations based on current performance so publishers can focus on content creation.


Ultimately Google Analytics 4 is an improved platform in comparison to Universal Analytics. However, it falls far short of servicing the needs of digital publishers, especially in regards to proper content analytics.

While GA4 offers new features and presents data in a way that helps improve your website, there are many limitations with GA4 that need to be kept in mind before upgrading. Considering how GA4 is going to integrate in your marketing plan will allow you to make a choice between going ahead with the change or swapping over to an analytics tool that will better fit your needs and goals.

Overall, a tool like Spiny.ai is far better suited for digital publishers looking for better audience, revenue, author and content analytics.

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