What are the Differences between GA3 and GA4?

GA3 and GA4?

Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful tool that enables website owners to track and analyse user behavior on their websites. Over the years, Google has introduced various versions of Google Analytics, with the most recent being GA4. While GA3 (also known as Universal Analytics) has been a staple for many years, GA4 brings in new features and improvements that reflect the evolving landscape of digital analytics. In this article, we’ll delve into the key differences between GA3 and GA4 to help you understand the benefits of transitioning to the newer version.

Introduction to Google Analytics

Google Analytics has long been the go-to tool for businesses and website owners seeking insights into their online audience’s behaviour. It allowed tracking metrics such as page views, sessions, bounce rates, and more, providing valuable data for refining marketing strategies.

Here are we covered major differences between GA3 and GA4

Sr. NoGA 3 (Universal Analytics)GA 4
    1.  Universal Analytics supports five goal types: pages/session, duration, destination, smart goals, and event goals.  GA 4 only supports conversion events. It may not always be possible to use GA4 conversion events to precisely duplicate some UA goal types.  
  2.  GA 3 Uses Measurement based on sessions and page views    GA4 uses a measurement model based on event and parameter  
    3.  In GA4, tracking is set up through a measurement ID and the tracking ID will start with G    In GA3, the tracking ID is used and the tracking IDs start with UA.
    4.  In GA3, users can only set one condition for a conversion.  GA4 allows for multiple conditions, which can create conversion actions with higher intent.  
    5.  GA3 combines new and returning users in the ‘New Users’ metric.  GA4 added the metric ‘Returning Users’ to clarify the distinction between new and returning users.  
    6.  GA3, users must follow the category-action-label-value schema.  GA4 captures the four categories of events: automatically collected events, enhancement measurement events, recommended events, and custom events.  
  7.  In GA3, data retention doesn’t expire.  In GA4, there will be a maximum of 14 months of data retention.  
    8.  In GA3 comes with attribution modelling capabilities through multi-channel funnels and attribution reports.    In GA4, the capabilities will only include model comparison and conversion paths. The implication of this is more limited modelling in GA4.  
    9.  In GA3, users can use custom dimensions and metrics to add information to collected data.    In GA4, event parameters are used instead.
    10.  GA3 requires a third-party Google Tag Manager (GTM) Debugging Tool.    GA4 has built-in debugging features, allowing you to be less dependent on 3rd party platforms like GTM.  
    11.  With a focus on engagement, GA3 Uses page views and bounce rate metrics.    GA4’s reporting set of engagement metrics that more accurately measures and tracks users’ engagement with your app or site.  
  12.  In GA3, users can import report templates from 3rd parties.    In regards to GA4, reporting templates are built-in and adjustable.
Differences between GA3 and GA4
Differences between GA3 and GA4

The Emergence of GA4

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) represents a significant shift in how data is collected and interpreted. Unlike its predecessor, GA4 focuses on event-based tracking, giving a more comprehensive view of user interactions across the website.

Tracking Methodology

GA3 primarily relied on tracking pageviews and sessions. In contrast, GA4 focuses on events. Events in GA4 can include anything from clicks and video plays to downloads and scroll depths. This shift provides a richer understanding of how users engage with content.

Event Tracking and Flexibility

GA4’s event-based tracking offers unparalleled flexibility. It allows website owners to define custom events that align with their specific business goals. For instance, tracking interactions with embedded social media posts can provide insights into the effectiveness of social strategies.

User-Centric Approach

GA4 places a strong emphasis on user-centric analysis. It introduces the concept of “user ID,” enabling tracking of individual users across devices and platforms. This feature is especially valuable for understanding the user journey comprehensively.

Enhanced Cross-Platform Tracking

GA3 struggled to track users across different devices seamlessly. GA4 addresses this by automatically tracking user interactions across websites, mobile apps, and other platforms, giving a more holistic view of user behavior.

Improved User Journey Analysis

GA4’s analysis tools empower website owners to visualize user journeys more effectively. The enhanced funnel analysis lets you identify drop-off points and optimize conversion paths efficiently.

Customizable Reports and Analysis

GA4 allows users to create custom reports without relying on predefined templates. This flexibility is particularly useful for businesses with unique data analysis needs.

Data Retention and Storage

GA3’s data retention policies were rigid, often leading to data loss. GA4 offers more customizable data retention settings, ensuring you retain the data you need for as long as necessary.

Integration with Google BigQuery

GA4 seamlessly integrates with Google BigQuery, enabling advanced data analysis and exploration. This integration opens doors to more complex queries and data transformations.

E-commerce and Enhanced Reporting

GA4 provides improved e-commerce tracking features, making it easier to understand the user journey from product view to purchase. The enhanced reporting helps businesses refine their online sales strategies.

User Privacy and Data Retention

With growing concerns about user privacy, GA4 is designed with data privacy in mind. It allows you to configure data collection settings, respecting user preferences and compliance requirements.

Transitioning from GA3 to GA4

Transitioning from GA3 to GA4 may seem daunting, but it’s essential for staying ahead in the digital analytics landscape. Google provides resources and guides to assist in the migration process.

Benefits of Embracing GA4

Embracing GA4 offers numerous benefits, including deeper insights, improved tracking accuracy, and more customization options. It empowers businesses to make data-driven decisions that align with their goals.


Q1: Is it mandatory to switch from GA3 to GA4?

While not mandatory, transitioning to GA4 is recommended to leverage its advanced features and insights.

Q2: Can GA3 and GA4 be used simultaneously?

Yes, you can use both versions simultaneously. However, transitioning to GA4 is a step towards future-proofing your analytics setup.

Q3: Does GA4 respect user privacy regulations?

Yes, GA4 provides features to help you comply with user privacy regulations and preferences.

Q4: How complex is the migration process from GA3 to GA4?

Google offers guides and resources to simplify the migration process, but it might require some adjustments depending on your current setup.

Q5: Can I still access my historical data after transitioning to GA4?

Yes, GA4 allows you to set custom data retention policies, ensuring you retain historical data as needed.

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