GA4 vs Universal Analytics: Traffic Acquisition in Google Analytics

Team TypeStack
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Table of Content

In this blog we will walk you through traffic acquisition in universal analytics versus Google Analytics 4. There are a lot of different ways to acquire traffic, and Google Analytics is a great tool to help you see which ones are working best for you.

Let's now look at how traffic came to a particular site in the last 28 days. We will cover three things here, one how to access these reports in both universal analytics and GA4, some key differences in metrics, and three how we start to think about events and conversions and where we see that information. 

Traffic acquisition

First, how do we get there? Within universal analytics, go to the acquisition reporting bucket, then all traffic and channels. You can then select time, there are some default ranges you can choose from or select a custom range. SInce we are showing you how to check traffic acquisition for 28 days, you can select the same. You will see total users and where they came from, in universal analytics. 

In GA4, to go to acquisition on the left side of the screen and then traffic acquisition. You could have this show your default channel grouping. You may see a discrepancy in numbers between universal analytic and GA4.

Now let's look at some metrics. You can actually change how the data is displayed from the default channel grouping, to look at the source medium report which will show the source of traffic and the medium. For example, instead of just seeing organic search, You will see Google organic and other organic traffic sources. 

GA4 or Google Analytics 4

The biggest differences in metrics in universal analytics and GA 4 is, things

like bounce rate, pages per session and average session duration, are all gone in GA4. So in GA4 we no longer have these session based metrics 

What GA4 has instead are event-based metrics, and they are engaged sessions. Engaged sessions the number of sessions that lasted longer than 10 seconds, or had a conversion event, or had two or more screen or page views. So with GA4, the whole data collection model is shifted to being based on aggregating these different events rather than just recording everything that happens in a given session. GA4 is really looking for user engagement. The average engagement time per session is what Google says is user engagement during the session. That is the time that a user is actually completing an event or their screen, which is the primary screen that they're viewing. 

Event/Conversion in traffic acquisition reports

The last thing we will discuss is events or conversions that we can see within these traffic acquisition reports. So in universal analytics you can look at scroll depth. For example you have set up a 75 scroll depth tracking event, which means if the user makes it 75 of the way down the page an event will be triggered and tracked in

universal analytics. What's great about universal analytics is all the events that we want to set up, for the most part these have been set up in Google tag manager, and then sent over into Google Analytics. 

It's really easy to set them up once you know how to do it in GA4. Scroll depth is a default in GA4. It is set to a 90 scroll depth, so if you wanted to track 75, we can't really do it. 

So there's the comparison between GA4 and universal analytics, both could track the same website but give you different data and some different ways to look at it.