You’ve been hearing for months that the shift from Google’s Universal Analytics (UA) platform to the new version, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), will be a big change. Does that mean that the key data points you rely on to measure your website’s performance are going away? Not at all – but there will be some key differences. Let’s explore a couple!

A Good User Is an Engaged User

One important thing to understand about GA4 is that the new platform provides much more insight into who uses your site, and how they use it. While UA data is centered around sessions and the actions that happened during a visit, GA4 focuses on users. The new platform can more easily connect user activity across devices, platforms, and sessions.  


Both versions of Google Analytics collect data about Users, or essentially, unique visitors to your site. However, “Users” means something different in each platform.

  • In UA, the primary user metric is Total Users. Knowing how many users visited your site is undoubtedly a useful metric, especially when comparing results over time or against other sites. GA4 includes Total Users, too, though the data will be slightly different (more on how numbers may differ in an upcoming article).
  • In GA4, the primary user metric is Active Users. Google defines the Active Users metric as the number of distinct users who visited your website or application. Active users are website visitors or app users who have engaged sessions.

And while we’re sharing GA4 vocabulary, an Engaged Session is a session that lasts longer than 10 seconds, has a conversion event, or has at least 2 pageviews or screen views. While it’s good to know the total number of people visiting your site, it’s even more valuable to understand the number of people who came to your site and actively used it.

Bounce Rate

How the user engages with the landing page has become more important than simply knowing that they left it.

In UA, Bounce Rate is perhaps the best metric to look at if you’re trying to understand user engagement. It measures the percentage of single-page sessions that included no interaction with the page. Put simply, it’s the percentage of people who came to your site and quickly exited. 

Initially, it seemed Google was planning to drop Bounce Rate as a metric in favor of data points related to engaged sessions. As the internet has evolved, single-page visits are a less meaningful measure of disengaged users. Well-designed landing pages (or apps) may provide users with a more meaningful experience, regardless of where they enter and whether they click through to another page. It may be, too, that users who ‘bounce’ come back as engaged visitors. Our relationship with technology is more complex than ever. 

While Google does intend to keep Bounce Rate in GA4, the way it’s defined has changed. The new calculation is based on the percentage of sessions that were not considered Engaged Sessions.  

While the new focus on engagement is a shift in how many of us think about website performance, it also provides powerful new insights. It will be easier than ever to identify our best users, enhance their web experience, and create audiences to use in marketing campaigns, to name a couple of examples.

At Union Street Media, our marketing strategists are especially looking forward to bringing deeper insights to our real estate clients and having more actionable data to work with. 

This is the second in a series of articles in which we’re sharing our knowledge about the 7/1/23 switch from Universal Analytics to GA4. Next up, we’ll discuss conversion and event tracking, and share some of the things we’re most excited about in the new platform!

This is the second article in our series on Google Analytics 4. If you missed the first, you can read it here.