Decoding GA4 Metrics: Active Users vs. Total Users

2023-10-17 | Article | Insights

GA4 brings a plethora of metrics to the table, each serving a unique purpose in assessing website performance. Two vital metrics in this area are Active Users, and Total Users.

What are GA4 Active Users?

Active Users, as the name suggests, represent the number of users engaged with your website or app within a specific timeframe. An active user is any user who has an engaged session or when Analytics collects:

  • first_visit or first_open event
  • engagement_time_mscec from a website or Android app
  • user_engagement event from an iOS app

This metric is automatically populated. Often you will find the metric Active Users as Users in the GA4 Report. Please be aware that Users in the GA4 report are not Total Users, nor can they be compared to Universal Analytics Users.

What are GA4 Total Users?

Total Users represent the overall number of users who have visited your website or app over a specified period, considering both new and returning users. Google defines the metric like “the number of unique users who triggered any event”. That means that a user is counted, if the user at least triggered one event. This metric is automatically populated.

How does GA4 consider an Active User?

An Active User is defined as an individual who has engaged in a session or initiated an automatically logged event (as listed above) within GA4.

In GA4, an engaged session is also identified when a user actively interacts with the website or app for a certain duration, which is 10 seconds by default. That means if a user spends more than 10 seconds on the site without initiating any events, it is regarded as an engaged session . If you want to change the default engagement settings, you can adjust it in the Data Stream settings.

To identify engagement, GA4 collects the user_engagement event.

If a user spends less than 10 seconds on the website without any interaction, the session is categorised as a non-engagement.

What is the difference between Users in Universal Analytics vs. GA4

In Universal Analytics, there are two user metrics:

  • Total Users
  • New Users

In GA4, there are three user metrics:

  • Total Users
  • Active Users
  • New Users

While Universal Analytics focuses on Total Users in most reports, GA4 focuses on Active Users in reports. GA4 calls the metric Active Users in the reports Users. This is slightly confusing because Universal Analytics also shows the metric Users in the reports.

Active Users in GA4 Reports

You can locate the Active Users metric within various standard GA4 reports, including Traffic Acquisition, Pages & Screens, Demographic Details, Technical Data, and more. In the screenshot below you can see a metric called Users , but when you hover over the sign, you will see that it is referring to Active Users .

In Exploration Reports, Active Users are shown as Active Users . Here you can compare Active Users with Total Users and you will discover that these numbers are not matching. This is correct since Active Users do not equal Total Users .


In conclusion, understanding the concept of Active Users in GA4 is necessary for evaluating user engagement. By expressing the potential of Active Users, you can fine-tune your approaches to traffic acquisition, engagement, and exploration.

Do you need more Info?