Why GA4 is a better tool than Universal Analytics (part 2)


In this article, we will continue exploring why GA4 is a better tool than Universal Analytics. While this may not directly impact your daily life as an analyst, it is still important to establish your viewpoint on the matter. Let’s dive into the reasons why GA4 outshines Universal Analytics.

Data Structure

One of the key advantages of GA4 over Universal Analytics lies in its data structure. While many people may have heard about this difference, they may not fully understand its implications. This is understandable, as it is a subtle distinction that only becomes apparent to very hands-on users.

For those using GA360 and deeply concerned about website performance, writing SQL queries becomes a daily routine. Let’s consider a simple question: “How many girls visit our landing page, where do they come from, and how many of them make a purchase?” Sounds easy, right?

To create this report in Universal Analytics, we would need to work with multiple tables:

  1. Get the session of the source.
  2. Filter for girl users.
  3. Retrieve the product information for the source and corresponding transactions.
  4. Join the first three tables using the correct keys and conditions.

Still sound easy? Not so fast. We have three different levels of data here:

  1. user level,
  2. session level, and
  3. hit level.

Finding the right keys to join these tables is not particularly easy for newcomers. Additionally, in practice, we often create temporary tables and subqueries to make the query more manageable and renderable. The resulting query can become quite long, with hundreds of lines needed just to answer this question.

Now, you may think that GA4 isn’t much easier either. But to answer the same question in GA4, we only need two tables:

  1. Map the source and girl information to the session.
  2. Map the product information to the session.
  3. Join the two tables using the session key.

We have reduced the number of tables from four to three. Does this seem like a significant improvement? Perhaps not on its own. However, every small incremental improvement eventually leads to a bigger impact. As conditions become more specific due to data impurities, technical debt starts to accumulate. More subqueries and temporary tables need to be created, resulting in a multiplied impact.


By simplifying the data structure and reducing the number of tables required to answer key questions, GA4 streamlines the analysis process and reduces the complexity analysts face when working with data.

While we only covers on the reporting bits of it, I think it’s already a big difference in GA4 that really speak for itself. This concludes part 2 of the article on why GA4 is a better tool than Universal Analytics. Stay tuned for part 3, where we will explore more advantages of GA4 and highlight how it addresses common challenges faced by analysts.