Google Analytics 4 vs. Universal Analytics

Written by: 
Molly Niemczyk

Google Analytics 4, or GA4, will soon permanently replace Universal Analytics; after July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics properties will no longer process data. It’s important for businesses to understand how the next generation of Analytics differs from Universal Analytics, or UA, so today, we’re walking you through some of the major changes.


Addition of the Active Users Metric

Traditionally, there have been two User metrics within Google Analytics: Total Users, and New Users. GA4 is adding a new primary metric called Active Users, which will replace Total Users as the primary metric. The definitions of Total Users and New Users are also changing slightly.

Total Users, which once simply referred to the total number of users, will now refer to the “total number of unique users who logged an event”. It will replace Active Users as the primary user metric.

New Users once referred to the number of users who interacted with a site for the first time. Now, it will refer to both this and new app launches.


Removal of Unique Pageviews

Universal Analytics only had two metrics. The Pageviews metric referred to every webpage that users saw, and – crucially – included repeat pageviews. The Unique Pageview metric, in contrast, excluded duplicate views.

GA4 will only have the Views metric, which counts total app screens or webpages viewed, and does include repeat views.


Redefining Sessions

A Session has traditionally meant the period of continuous time that a user engaged with a website or app. This is still the case, but the parameters surrounding what counts as a Session have changed.

UA’s parameters included a 30-minute period of inactivity and automatically created a new Session at midnight or when new campaign parameters were encountered.

GA4, while still keeping that 30-minute inactivity period, does not restart Sessions – or Session Starts – at midnight or when new campaign parameters are encountered. Additionally, it determines which Events come from which Sessions by generating a session ID that Analytics associates with subsequent Events.


Tracking Conversions

This is a major change that “may make it difficult to compare conversion counts,” according to Google.

Previously, UA allowed users to define a Conversion Goal, which was incredibly similar to what you might know as a Conversion Event, except that conversions were only counted once per session. For example, if a user were to sign up for a mailing list twice in the same session, this only counted as a single conversion.

In GA4, users can now track conversions by creating Conversion Events for certain actions. Each instance of this event will be considered one conversion, even if it happens multiple times in the same session. In other words, signing up for a mailing list twice will count as two conversions.



These are just a few of the changes coming to Analytics. We know it can be overwhelming, so here are a couple more resources to support you during this transition.

You can take a look at our blog to learn how you can make the switch over the GA4. Need more hands-on help with your setup? Relevance Advisors is here to help with GA4 implementation, dashboard creation, and more. Learn more about our Google Analytics 4 package here.

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