Google Analytics App + Web vs Universal Analytics

What’s the difference between Google Analytics App + Web and Universal Analytics? In this blogpost we will explore the differences between both versions of Google Analytics.

App + Web is not a simple upgrade to Universal Analytics. It’s a new version that comes with an event-driven data model aimed at collecting data from both web and app.

App + Web - Realtime overview

“Hey… wait. Our business doesn’t have an app!”

It might sound a bit confusing, but Google Analytics App + Web properties are also perfectly applicable to web only businesses.

In this post I will share 25 key differences between both versions. This to further educate you on the direction that Google is heading with Google Analytics.

Table of Contents

1. Data Model

The biggest change is that Google is moving away from the measurement model that was primarily focused on sessions and page views. They have definitely tried to make user metrics and dimensions more central, but a lot of times sessions remained on the foreground.

Here is a property level setting of Universal Analytics related to pushing user metrics in reports:

Enable User Metrics in Reporting

In Google Analytics App + Web this has dramatically changed as there is a strong focus on users and events. Every interaction, including page views, are categorized as events. You can add 25 custom parameters to each event, but be aware of limitations which I will discuss later.

2. Data Streams

In Universal Analytics (Google Analytics Standard Property) you need to create separate properties for Web, iOS Apps and Android Apps.

Well, that’s not 100% true because you can create roll-up properties that contain both Web and App data if you are on GA 360.GA 360 - Web and App DataHowever, as you can read this is far from ideal and only suitable for largest companies with high budgets.

Google Analytics App + Web (as the name already implies) is a complete new solution for integrating web and app data. Reports for this new property use a single set of consistent metrics and dimensions, making it possible to see integrated reporting across app and web like never before.

You can set up multiple data streams and see aggregated reports.

Two Data Streams

Keep in mind that you can only add data streams for “Apps” and “Apps and Web” properties. “Web” properties (standard / Universal Analytics) have views instead of data streams and a default view is created automatically when you create this “legacy” property.

At the time of writing, you can create up to 50 data streams per property which should be enough for most of you. 🙂

3. Google Analytics Code

Universal Analytics’ tracking code is based on UA-XXXXXXX. This is different from when you implement a Google Analytics App + Web property as it is based on Gtag with a measurement ID (G-XXXXXXXXXX).

A Google Tag Manager basic tag setup example is shown below:

Google Analytics Code differences

  • Left side: Google Analytics App + Web Configuration tag which includes a measurement ID.
  • Right side: Constant Variable created for the Universal Analytics tracking code.

4. IP Anonymization

The process of IP anonymization in Universal Analytics takes place within two steps in the collection pipeline: the JavaScript Tag and the Collection Network. These steps are explained below.

IP Anonymization Analytics

In Universal Analytics you have the option to implement this feature (not applied on default).

In App + Web properties Anonymize IP is automatically set and there’s actually no way NOT to anonymize the IP.

“When you anonymize an IP, it might negatively impact the city location data in GA. In my experience, there is no big difference in accuracy at the continent or country level.”

5. Cookies

The Google Analytics App + Web properties use not one but two cookies in order to perform the website tracking.

Google Analytics Cookies - App + Web

“_ga” cookie, nothing changed (compared to Universal Analytics), it holds the current user ClientID.

Cookie ClientID

“_ga_XXXXXX” cookies, we’ll find a new cookie for each of the Measurement ID’s that you’re using on your site.

Cookie MeasurementID

Cookie expiration time of both cookies is set to two years. The cookies are updated every time data is sent to Google Analytics.

6. Default Measurements

With respect to default or baseline measurements, there is a big difference between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics App + Web.

Where Universal Analytics only accounts for page views and screen views, you will find that Google Analytics App + Web offers many more possibilities.

Enhanced Measurement - Google Analytics App + Web

In addition to page and screen views, you have the option to automatically integrate:

  • Scrolls
  • Outbound clicks
  • Site search
  • Video engagement
  • File downloads

Read my post on Enhanced Measurement in Google Analytics App + Web to learn more!

7. Event Tracking

In Universal Analytics, we are all used to Event Tracking and its role in measuring many different interactions on a website. Page views are an exception and not counted among events. Events are categorized by Category, Action and Label.

Event Tracking - Universal Analytics

In contrast, in App + Web properties everything is an event (including pageviews).

Event Tracking - Google Analytics App + Web

Also, App + Web events don’t come with the same structure. They work with so-called custom parameters. Here is great guide from Simo Ahava explaining this in all depth.

8. Engagement Tracking

In Universal Analytics, there are several ways to track “engagement”. You can think of the bounce rate metric, time on site and number of pages per session.

There has been a lot of discussion around the way engagement is tracked in Universal Analytics. Is the bounce rate metric really meaningful for analysis and optimization? It definitely delivers some insights in my opinion, but it is not ideal.

Google Analytics App and Web comes with a different approach to engagement tracking:

  • Engaged sessions
    • Users that are on the site/app for at least 10 seconds. If a user is on the site for less than 10 seconds, they are defined as a bounce.
  • Engagement Rate
    • Engaged sessions per user.
  • Engagement time
    • Time in the foreground within apps. Engagement time diagnoses screen sleep time, or captures the time in the foreground for a mobile device, to determine how a user is engaging with your content. This was previously only available to Firebase users.

Let’s wait and see whether these metrics are more useful for the regular Google Analytics user!

9. Sampling

One of the pains in Universal Analytics is sampling.

Default reports are not subject to sampling. However, ad-hoc queries of your data (e.g. after segmentation) are subject to the following general thresholds for sampling:

  • Analytics Standard: 500k sessions at the property level for the date range you are using.
  • Analytics 360: 100M sessions at the view level for the date range you are using.

In App + Web, the standard reports are always unsampled. In my experience, you can apply data comparisons, secondary dimensions, filter your reports and everything will continue to be unsampled.

In this insightful blogpost, Charles Farina has pointed out how sampling affects custom reports / analysis section of Google Analytics App + Web.

Google Analytics App + Web - Analysis section

Here is what Charles found out through testing:

“In general, anything you do in Analysis that replicates a standard report will be unsampled. Sampling can occur in a few different situations that I was able to observe. The main occurrence of sampling in Analysis is anytime you are exceeding 10 million events and the report you created is not a pre-existing standard report. For example, the cohort analysis will load unsampled for a property I was using with 100 million events, but as soon as I added the date dimension, it returned 10% sampled data (10/100m). Another area, where I observed sampling being triggered in certain situations was when my date range exceeded the last 60 days.”

10. Historical Data Limit

In Universal Analytics there is no historical data limit (if you set it not to expire as shown below).

Universal Analytics - User and event data retention

This is different from the new settings in Google Analytics App + Web, where you can query at most 14 months of data in the UI.

Google Analytics App + Web - User and event data retention

Good news! If you are a bit more technical and use Google BigQuery, you can work around this. In BigQuery an unlimited amount of data can be stored.

11. Ecommerce Measurement

One of the great features of Universal Analytics is Enhanced Ecommerce.

Enhanced Ecommerce - Universal Analytics

Ecommerce reporting is now also available in Google Analytics App + Web which is great!

E-commerce App + Web

Here is a support guide from Google explaining the Data Layer as well as Custom JavaScript variable implementation.

Ecommerce (App + Web) Developers Guide

You might also want to look into this Ecommerce App + Web guide to learn how to implement it!

12. Session and User Analysis

In my opinion, segments belong to the top three features of Universal Analytics. In the last ten years I have probably set up and explored 1000+ different segments. They are so useful for deriving insights and optimization.

And yes, they are still there in Google Analytics App + Web. And even more powerful!

Google Analytics App + Web - Audiences

You create an audience by setting conditions based on the dimension, metric, and event data you collect from a property. After you create an audience, it accumulates users who meet the conditions from that point onward.

By linking your App + Web properties to your Google Ads account, you can use the audiences you create from your website and app data as remarketing lists in Google Ads.

When you create a new audience, it can take up to 24-48 hours for the audience to accumulate users.

They have become even more powerful after this recent update.

New predictive capabilities - GA App + Web

Explore the possibilities and test them, the best way to understand how powerful they are and to start leveraging them for your business!

13. Custom Metrics

Custom Metrics belong to one of the useful, but underused features of Universal Analytics. They allow you to store additional (numeric) data that is not captured on default in Google Analytics, e.g. cart value, list and sale price, % read ratio (blogpost) and much more.

Also, you could “promote” certain events and measure them as well with a custom metric. This is a great strategy to analyze them across certain dimensions. Here is a great example of Yehoshua Coren.

awesome-custom-report-e1450208469445

Let’s take a look at Google Analytics App + Web properties. The traditional concepts of Event Tracking, Custom Metrics and Custom Dimensions are not there anymore. Now we need to get our head around events and applying custom parameters.

Here is an example on Simo Ahava’s blog:

Numeric Custom Parameter example

As we have discussed before, page views are part of the events categorized under Enhanced Measurement.

In the screenshot above you can see:

  • Event name: page_view.
    • Custom parameter (num): readability_median_grade.
    • Custom parameter (num): readability_reading_time.

It means that Simo has defined extra numeric values (via custom parameters) to add more details to the page views (blogposts) captured in Google Analytics.

This is the new way on how you can send extra numeric data to Google Analytics. And it is not limited to page views, but can also be applied to ecommerce events or other events that are important to you.

14. Custom Dimensions

Custom dimensions are very useful as well and as mentioned they are available for Universal Analytics. You won’t find them anymore in Google Analytics App + Web properties.

In App + Web these custom dimensions are replaced by User Properties. You can find them in Google Analytics under the “configure” tab.

User Properties Example

You need to work with your developer (or have JavaScript knowledge yourself) to set up the rest of tracking via Google Tag Manager.

Google Analytics App + Web Configuration - User Properties

You can define User Properties either via “Fields to Set” or directly via the “User Properties” field. Keep in mind that there is a limit of 25 user properties in Google Analytics.

15. Views

Views are directly related to the Google Analytics account structure.Google Analytics Account Structure

A view or reporting view is a subset of an Analytics account property that can have its own unique configuration settings. The concept of “reporting views” is (currently) not available in Google Analytics App + Web.

You can work with data streams, use filters and build audiences, but there is no way to set up specific views with unique settings in the admin section of Google Analytics.

16. View Filters

Not surprisingly, view filters are currently not available in Google Analytics App + Web. This is quite logical as view filters are stored at the account level, but work at the view level.

In App + Web properties you can apply filters, but they are directly created in the reporting environment, similar to standard table filters in Universal Analytics.

Filters in Google Analytics App + Web

17. Regular Expressions

I am a BIG fan of regular expressions. They are incredibly powerful in many cases!

In Universal Analytics you can literally apply them everywhere.

So I became a bit disappointed after applying them as a table / reporting filter in Google Analytics App + Web. The medium “email” should be returned here, but no results come up.

RegEx in App + Web - no resultIt looks like they are available in App + Web properties, but not in all places yet.

As an example, you can apply them when creating audiences.

Create Audience - matches RegExI recommend – if you are familiar with regular expressions – simply trying it out in Google Analytics App + Web. Undoubtedly, they will become more widely available in the new version in the future.

18. Standard Reports

You will be a bit disappointed if you heavily rely on the standard reports in Universal Analytics.

App + Web no longer comes with the ABC reporting structure that you find in Universal Analytics.

ABC reporting - Universal Analytics

And the number of standard reports in Google Analytics App + Web is much lower compared to Universal Analytics.

At the time of writing there are only four standard reports available.

Google Analytics App + Web - Standard ReportsEach report consists of several “cards”. And behind most “cards” there is a detailed report with an even more comprehensive view of the user.

Also, I expect this section to grow over time.

19. Custom Reports

Another great feature of Universal Analytics are the so-called custom reports. And as you might have guessed, they are not available anymore in Google Analytics App + Web properties.

However, there are two new features/areas that are awesome to mention in this respect. The first one is called “Analysis” and this is a fantastic area to explore your data in great depth. This feature was previously only available in GA 360 and you now get if for free!

Google Analytics App + Web - Analysis

Here you can create reports and analyze user behaviour in any angle you would like. The options are (almost) endless.

And then there is Google BigQuery! Google BigQuery is Google’s cloud data warehousing solution and it is available for free in Google Analytics App + Web. We will discuss the advantages in the last part of this blogpost.

20. Funnels

Funnel analysis – not the limited Google Analytics goal funnels – were previously only available in GA 360.

And now, with the extra option to upgrade to open funnels, they are available for free in Google Analytics App + Web. You can find this area via Explore > Analysis > Funnel Analysis.

Funnel Analysis - Google Analytics App + Web

Extremely powerful to analyze a subset of your users across a wide range of actions/events on your website!

21. Segment Overlap

“Segment overlap” analysis is only available for GA 360 customers in Universal Analytics.

In Google Analytics App + Web properties everyone can benefit from this analysis.

App + Web - Segment Overlap Analysis

It’s a great analysis technique that visualizes the relationship between multiple segments of users.

Here are three examples of what you can do with this analysis and report:

  • Include up to three segments to compare visually and via table to find out what the overlap of users is.
  • Breakdown this overlap by a desired dimension.
  • Create a segment or audience from a desired overlap/breakdown to action on.

22. Pathing

We all remember the behavioral flow and user flow reports of Universal Analytics. Let’s be honest, in most cases they don’t deliver great insights.

Now, in Google Analytics App + Web, there is a far more refined analysis technique available: Path analysis. (previously only available to GA 360 customers)

Path analysis is a new technique in the Analysis section of Google Analytics App + Web that allows users to explore the paths that visitors take on their websites and apps.

Path analysis - Google Analytics App + Web

You can set up a path analysis from a starting or end point, very powerful! And the possibilities are literally endless.

Here are a few examples:

  • Apply filters and/or segments to your path to narrow down the subset of users you want to analyze.
  • Customize each step to be either an event or a page/screen view.
  • Add up to 10 steps max and expand all available paths where desired.
  • Explore pathings across sessions (!)

Here is quick example with one page filter applied on “STEP + 1”:

Path analysis - example Enhanced Measurement

You can find this new analysis technique under Explore > Analysis > Path analysis.

23. User Explorer

You can find the User Explorer report both in Universal Analytics as well as Google Analytics App + Web. However, they are located in a different section.

Universal Analytics

Navigate to Audience > User Explorer.

User Explorer - Universal Analytics

Read this guide to learn more about this User Explorer report in Universal Analytics.

Google Analytics App + Web

Navigate to Explore > Analysis > User Explorer.

User Explorer - Google Analytics App + Web

Here is a support doc from Google to learn more about this new User Explorer report/analysis.

As expected, the exact details in both reports are different. We have moved from a session to user (and event) focus in Google Analytics App + Web.

Note: Client IDs appear in the report by default for properties that aren’t enabled for User-ID.

24. BigQuery Integration

As mentioned earlier in this article, the BigQuery integration is now available for free in Google Analytics App + Web! Previously it was a paid feature in Universal Analytics.

I have mixed feelings on this one…

From one side this is amazing news as it allows us to really go deep on the analysis side and explore the data in certain ways where the UI is (currently) lacking. BUT, do you have the (internal) knowledge (e.g. SQL) required to take advantage of this enormous set of raw data? And do you expect to integrate, analyze and optimize on data from all kind of sources?

Online Metrics - BigQuery

I believe there are many companies out there not being able to take advantage of this new (free) integration. And they might not be able to work around the limitations of the interface. But that concern will be addressed by Google.

One reason (there are many) why you probably want to set up an integration with Google BigQuery:

“In Google Analytics App + Web we collect events with associated parameters. In the UI we need to enable each custom parameter that we want to report on and there are currently strict limits. 50 Text parameters and 50 number parameters can be enabled per event and per project. Because of these limits, you probably won’t see all of your customized data in the UI. Therefore, Google BigQuery to the rescue as these limits don’t apply here!”

25. Other Integrations

Universal Analytics is known to integrate with a wide range of Google Analytics products.

I am sure all these integrations will become available in Google Analytics App + Web as well, but some are not available yet. Here are a few tools that are not yet integrated:

  • Search Console
  • Display & Video 360
  • Search Ads 360

Again, this is an area where Google is working on and this should hopefully soon be resolved.

I realize this was quite a long post (over 3,000 words), but I hope it was useful to read!

Now it is your turn! I am sure there is more to say about this topic. What are your thoughts on key differences between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics App + Web?

One last thing… Make sure to get my automated Google Analytics Audit Tool. It contains 25 key health checks on the Google Analytics Setup.

Get Free Access to The Google Analytics Audit Tool

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