Privacy has been a big concern for consumers over the last few years and users' awareness of their privacy online has been increasing. The result of this has been changes in the law like GDPR in Europe and ITP. As we move into a cookieless world, Google has created GA4 with privacy front-of-mind.
Google will officially sunset Universal Analytics on July 1, 2023. This means if you use Google Analytics and haven't switched over to GA4 by that time, you will no longer receive any website data and could lose access to your historical data for good.
360 Universal Analytics properties with a current 360 order (Google Analytics 4 or Universal Analytics) will receive a one-time processing extension ending on July 1, 2024.
Google Analytics 4 doesn't just offer more of what Universal Analytics offers. It's built differently to align with current and future needs for reporting and privacy. Here are some of the differences and benefits. Event-based: Universal Analytics is session-based, while GA4 is event–based.
In the case of GA4, both the web and app data use the same schema. Whereas in the case of GA3, this is not the case. Because of this reason, GA4 provides much more robust and reliable cross-device and cross-platform tracking than GA3.
Limited Metrics and Reports
One of the drawbacks of GA4 is that it has a different way of handling data compared to UA. While UA focused on sessions and page views, GA4's measurement model is purely event-based.
Page changes based on browser history events: GA4's enhanced measurement by default measures page changes based on browser history events ; UA does not. This will cause higher pageviews in GA4 than UA and can lead to discrepancies.
GA4 is event based. Instead of creating a new session when a user returns to a site, GA4 records all events they complete. This allows Google to more accurately deduplicate users and emphasizes what users actually do on your site, rather than just caring that users get there. The second difference is the reporting.
GA4 has an entirely different data model as compared to UA. Instead of being based on sessions and pageviews like in Universal Analytics, the GA4 measurement model is based exclusively on events. Since the data is collected and processed differently, some once-familiar metrics are now gone.
In a significant development, Google Analytics 4 is deemed legal in Europe following the recent adoption of the EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework by the European Commission. The news comes amid warnings from the Swedish Authority for Privacy Protection (IMY) concerning potential surveillance risks associated with GA4.
Universal Analytics measures screenviews in separate mobile-specific properties, whereas GA4 combines both web and app data in the same property. If you are tracking both web and app data in your GA4 property, be sure to take the additional app traffic into consideration when comparing pageview metrics between the two.