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GA4 vs UA Metrics

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

GA4 vs. UA metrics

In the last article, we introduced you to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). We also broke the news that Google is upgrading its analytics platform to the new GA4. While you can continue to use legacy UA platforms for your ongoing operations, you must remember that you will eventually have to move to the latest platform.


Google has already deprecated the UA platform, only continuing to provide the services until July 4, 2024, when all access to UA APIs and properties will cease. All new data processing by UA has already been stopped.


So, the sooner you get used to the shiny new GA4, the better it will be for your business. And the transition need not be chaotic. In fact, transitioning to GA4 benefits your business more than the UA platform, given its intuitive user interface, advanced features, and ‘web + app’ property model.


While most updates only bring some advancements to existing features or add new features to the toolset, the GA4 upgrade is more than an update. It presents a complete transformation of the data models you use and how you deal with analytics. Transitioning could require a reset in how you approach and think about analytics. And the part it impacts the most starts with the metrics.


One of the key differences between UA and GA4 is how metrics are handled. From the available metrics and how numbers are calculated to their presentation and reporting, you will find quite some new stuff in GA4.

Let us decode some of the basic differences and nuances with the GA4 metrics so your transition is all the more efficient.



The New Metrics in GA4

GA4 presents three new metrics, all related to engagement in its reports.


Engaged session

This metric reports the number of sessions that satisfy any of the following conditions:

  • Session duration exceeds 10 seconds

  • A conversion event during the session

  • Two or more page views or screen views

Average engagement time per session

This metric reports the overall time a user spends interacting on your page, whether scrolling, clicking items, or any other interaction.


Engagement rate

Engagement rate presents the percentage of engaged sessions compared to the total number of sessions.

This metric has replaced some metrics, such as average session duration, bounce rate, and session metrics.


Difference in Metrics Between GA4 and UA

Earlier, we mentioned how bounce rate was one of the metrics replaced by engagement-related metrics in GA4. But you might be surprised to find that GA4 actually does have a bounce rate metric. But it is very different from the one you are used to with UA.

In GA4, the bounce rate is the inverse of the engagement rate. So, it can be considered a derivative calculation of engagement rate and is quite different from how it is calculated in UA, where the bounce rate is the number of single-page sessions.

Similar to bounce rate, there are many metrics that, while named similarly to that of their UA counterpart, might have differing metric calculations. The major reason there are such differences is the stark difference in how GA4 operates. The UA used a data model predominantly composed of sessions and pageviews. In contrast, the GA4 uses a different data model and collects information based on events.

Here is a breakdown of some of these differences:


Users

GA4 provides three user metrics: Total Users, Active Users, and New Users. The new additional metric introduced is the Active Users, which presents the total number of engaged users or new users.

While UA metrics usually focus on the Total Users metric, GA4 centers around the Active Users metric.

The way user metrics are calculated differs, too. While the numbers could be close, they are achieved by different ways of calculation. GA4 uses a user ID, whereas UA uses a client ID. Regarding filters, GA4 has limited control over the users you can exclude from tracking compared to UA.


Page views

Page Views are now renamed as Views in GA4. While Views are quite similar to Page Views, the filters you set up could impact the results you get.


Sessions

The way sessions are calculated differs quite a bit in GA4. For instance, UA is used to increment session counts if the session exceeds past midnight. But GA4 considers it to be the same session. GA4 also provides additional session estimates based on the number of unique session IDs.


Conversions

While UA only counts one instance of conversion no matter how many times the user triggers the conversion event, GA4 counts every instance of conversion event.

GA4 also condenses the goal types into conversion events rather than continuing support for the 5 goal types previously supported by UA.

So, you might not be able to duplicate the reports you used to get in UA regarding goals with GA4.


Session acquisition metrics

These metrics will probably have slight differences given the way GA4 allows for attributed conversions to update up to 7 days.


Event count

As GA4 is modeled after event collection, it collects more action and interactive events than UA. Hence, the metrics presented also differ to a greater degree.


Average session duration

GA4 sends events every 10 seconds during the session. The total session duration is calculated from this data. This is quite different from the way session duration is calculated in UA. UA calculates session duration by summing up the time difference between two page views or actions.


Page View Per Session

GA4 replaces the pages per session with views. Since the session count metric values differ between the two platforms, this metric, which is dependent on the session count, also differs between the two platforms.


Removed Metrics in GA4

GA4 has removed the Unique Page Views metric. Instead, you could go through the session metrics to help you get the similar insights you derive from the unique page view metrics.

GA4 utilizes event parameters to replace the functionality of custom metrics available in UA.

Your Turn

So, this was a brief round-up of the differences between GA4 and UA metrics. There is a difference between GA4 and UA metrics because of the way data is collected and processed. Hence, it is important to align ourselves with the new metrics put forward by GA4.

That said, stay tuned for more insightful posts on GA4. And, if you are having trouble transitioning to GA4 or need any technical assistance, we are here to help. Contact us to learn more.


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