Google Universal Analytics is being turned off in July 2023, as they move everyone to their new beast – GA4. Google have also been sending people emails lately to say they’re automatically moving you over to GA4 this month (March) if you haven’t moved yourself already.

The change over – technically – should all be quite smooth. But I’m expecting some clients to get a shock, as their stats may change radically, leading to panic about dipping search results or faulty GA4 implementations. The real reason though is that GA4 uses quite different metrics – or a different measuring set of rules – to Universal Analytics… but it sometimes calls those new metrics the same name as the old ones. 


Universal Analytics measured 2 types of users: Total Users and New Users. Meanwhile GA4 measures 3 types: Total Users, New Users and Active Users. You can read more about these types in Google’s docs but the main thing you need to be aware of is that when you just flick into your Analytics and cast a glance at your Users total, once you’re in GA4, this is going to be the total of your Active Users. The term “Users” is changing to show you Active Users in GA4, whereas “Users” showed you Total Users in Universal Analytics.

An Active User is defined by whether they’ve had an “engaged session” (which means they stayed on your site 10 seconds or more, viewed more than 1 page, or had at least 1 conversion – but you can edit how this is defined in your GA4 settings), or when GA4 logs a first_visit event (meaning they’re a new visitor to your site), or GA4 logged the engagement_time_msec event – which means they did anything on your site, no matter the length of their visit.

Bounce rate

Lots of people aren’t bothered about bounce rate, but if you are, it’s important to know it’s changing. The reason people weren’t bothered about it, is because it could be very unfairly pessimistic. We use to have quite a high bounce on various pages where people would find a “how to” guide via Google, come to our site, spend a few minutes reading it, (find it very helpful!), and then leave. That would count as a bounce as they hadn’t visited any other pages. It wouldn’t matter if they were on that page for 10 minutes, fully engrossed in the amazing words of wisdom, it’d still be a bounce in Universal Analytics.

Bounce rate in GA4 is more hidden than it used to be (in fact it wasn’t even in GA4 at launch) and it’s now based on people who spend less than 10 seconds on your site and don’t engage with anything during that super short visit.


Another word that hasn’t changed across versions of Google Analytics – but is now measured differently. Previously, a session would end at the stroke of midnight, after 30 minutes of inactivity, or if a UTM changed. In GA4, the 30 minutes of inactivity standard is the same, but sessions don’t break with a change in UTMs or at the end of the day.


GA4 takes apps into account in a much more integrated way than previously, so if you’re running an app alongside your website, you should consider how your stats are changing due to that. 

These are just some of the changes that GA4 is bringing with it that be misleading because of existing terminology- but there are lots of other changes to, so if you use analytics a lot and want a hand understanding what’s going on, please do get in touch.