Universal Analytics vs Google Analytics 4

We already know that GA4 is a lot different than UA we got used to. In this article, I discuss the differences I found and think need a bit of attention if you just starting with GA4 or learning in deeper.

Conversion Tracking

In Universal Analytics we have goals which we connect either to one of the events we have created or based on other settings, like a destination. In GA4 basically, everything is an event and to create a conversion, we need to create an event first and mark it as a conversion.

How to migrate goals from UA to GA4

  • First, understand goal setting.
  • —>>> If the goal is based on the GTM event; you can use most probably the same trigger and just create a new tag for the GA4.
  • —>>> If the goal is based on the event from the code, you need either to cooperate with a developer or add this event through GTM
  • —>>> If the goal is a destination, simply add this as a page view event in GTM.

In any case, wait 24 hours and mark this event as a conversion in GA4.


In GA4 you have a lot of things you can customise. Starting from standard reports where you can delete or add dimensions and to Explore section where you can create reports from scratch.

Everything is an event

Yes, GA4 is based on events while UA is based on hits. You can check the official Google documentation on it. This might be confusing, but we will get used to it! Do we have a choice? 🙂 And, honestly, after almost 2 years of using GA4 is not something that surprises me. Just give yourself time to adjust.

Event Settings

In UA we have Category / Action / Label settings we can add to any event. In GA4 all of them are gone, but do not be stressed; there are even more options to track the data. With the GA4 event, we must have the name of it and any custom dimensions we need. For example, Form ID, Page Path and etc.
Just do not forget to add custom dimensions to GA4 and not only leave them in GTM settings.

New Acquisition Report — First User Default Channel Group

This one I like the most! You can now not only see from which channel the conversion happened, but you can see from which channel the user first came to your website. Does the user convert from direct traffic? Now you can prove that the organic channel was the previous step of this conversion.

New Metrics

When the GA4 was launched, there was no Bounce Rate at all, but they in the end added it. Be aware that even though the Bounce rate exists in GA4 the calculation is different from UA. You can check official Google documentation on it. Furthermore, in GA4 there is a new metric called ‘Engagement Rate’ which is sometimes called reversed ‘Bounce Rate’.

Active Users

If you have already started collecting data in GA4 and compared it with UA, you might find that you have fewer users in GA4 vs in UA (not always, but common case). This is due to the fact that GA4 collects data only about active users, while UA collects data about all users. I have seen this, especially with articles ranking in the ‘Feature Snippets’. GA4 shows a much lower number of users because they do not engage with the content and just read the answer and turn back to other websites.

Quota Limitations with Looker / Google Data Studio

This one might be a pain for a lot of marketers because you need not only to update the GDS for your clients but need to find a way to work with quotas. There are some workarounds with it like storing your data in Google Sheets first or using paid connectors, but it is not as straightforward as it is with UA.

BigQuery Free Integration

To finish on a positive note, the last one on my list is that you can use BigQuery for free with GA4 while in UA it was possible only for GA365 accounts. Yes… you can think that you might not need it and do not want to learn it or on the other hand if you have used it already, it might be a great way to explore the data even further.

This is not a final list of differences between Universal Analytics and Analytics 4. I might add more in the future. So your comments and suggestions are welcome! And if you need help with understanding GA4 or migration from UA, please, do get in touch.

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