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Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: Metrics to Watch

Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics: Metrics to Watch

Written by enCOMPASS Agency

Recently, Google announced that it would be phasing out Universal Analytics, replacing it with Google Analytics 4. This change is something of a mixed bag for experienced analytic trackers: While GA4 boasts many of the same metrics that were included in UA, it also offers a few new ones.

As you seek to use GA4 more effectively, it’s worth spending a few minutes to orient yourself with the familiar and not-so-familiar metrics alike. Here’s a quick overview.

Carryover Concepts

To begin with, let’s highlight some of the metrics that GA4 has carried over from UA (some of them in slightly altered forms).


While UA provided a way to track users, it was a fairly straightforward measure, simply showing the total number of users within a specified time frame. GA4 actually splits this metric into two, allowing you to track both Total Users and Active Users.

Active Users is the primary metric, and the one you’ll see by default. Basically, these are the users who have had an engaging session on your website during the specified time period.

This number will likely be very close to the number of Total Users, though you may notice some slight variations from time to time.


In UA, a session was always defined as a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame. For example, a single session can contain multiple page views, events, social interactions, and ecommerce transactions. Sessions can be terminated for any number of reasons, including a session breaking at midnight or a 30-minute period of inactivity.

GA4 determines sessions via the session start event. It does not break the session at midnight or restart the session with a change of UTMs. It does, however, monitor for periods of inactivity, restarting the session if activity resumes once 30+ minutes have elapsed.

Since sessions are defined rather differently between UA and GA4, you can anticipate some notable discrepancies between your total session counts. This is an important consideration to keep in mind if you’re still using both platforms and wish to compare your session counts between the two.


The pageview concept is pretty much the same from UA to GA4. The one major difference is that, if you’re using GA4 to track both app and web pageviews, you should note that pageview and screen view metrics are consolidated under Views. But if you’re only tracking views on the web, then you should find that UA and G4A provide pretty much the same numbers.

Newer Concepts

In addition to these metrics that have been carried over from UA, GA4 also introduces a few new ideas.


Simply put, a Conversion in GA4 is any event that has been marked as such. In other words, you can simply toggle a button on or off to denote whether an event qualifies as a conversion or not.

This metric is somewhat akin to Goals, a metric from UA, but there are some significant distinctions.

  • In UA, goals were counted just once per session. So, for example, if a user filled out three forms during a single session, it would only register as one completed goal. In GA4, the conversion will be counted each time the event is satisfied.
  • UA allows you to create goals based on a number of factors, like destination and duration. GA4 only allows you to create conversions based on events.

Engaged Session

Here’s a concept that really doesn’t have any precedent in UA. Basically, Google defines an engaged session as “the number of sessions that lasted longer than 10 seconds, had a conversion event, or had at least two pageviews or screen views.” In other words, it provides an opportunity to assess higher-quality sessions.

Bounce Rate

Finally, it’s important to note that GA4 presents a new way to consider bounce rate, one that is somewhat but not totally distinct from the bounce rate metric in UA.

UA always defined bounce rate as the percentage of single-page sessions that yielded no interaction with the page. So, even if a user spent five minutes on your site and read every word of your content, it would be logged as a zero-second session if that user didn’t click anything or fill out a form.

GA4 offers a much more helpful bounce rate metric. It’s basically the opposite of the Engaged Session, mentioned above. Any session that doesn’t qualify as an Engaged Session is considered to be a bounce.

Keeping Tabs on Your Website Analytics

Website analytics provide an important way for you to make informed decisions about your marketing strategy. With the new GA4, we believe Google has made some helpful changes to how these metrics are monitored.

We’d love to answer any additional questions that you may have about Google Analytics, or about which metrics matter most. Reach out to our team at enCOMPASS Advertising Agency any time you’d like to talk.