Google Analytics 4: the good, the bad, and reasons to try it

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The latest analytics update: Google Analytics 4

There are valid reasons why negative attention has been directed towards Google Analytics 4. It’s a new product, and users have been familiar with Universal Analytics for ten years; that’s a long time, especially in the marketing technology world. There are areas to improve; Google Analytics is far from a perfect or finished article; hopefully, Google will take steps to improve the product gradually.

However, Google Analytics 4 does offer many benefits. With progress comes resistance, and part of that is the reason for the negative attention.  

What is Google Analytics 4?

To recap, In October 2021, Google shared that they would be making the most substantial evolution to Google Analytics that has ever been made with the announcement of the new product, Google Analytics 4.

Google Analytics 4 (or GA4) is an entirely new version of Google Analytics that enables marketers to track and analyze user interactions across websites and apps to better understand the user journey and experience.

There is a lot to learn as it involves a new way of using and analyzing data with Google Analytics for many marketers; this will significantly impact their jobs and businesses.

Google plans to phase out Universal Analytics in July 2023, the previous generation of Google Analytics. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize learning about Google Analytics 4 and how to use it.

What has changed with Google Analytics 4?

In summary, most of it. GA4 is built on a radically different data structure and data collection logic.

With GA4, the ecosystem is focused on users and events rather than sessions, as marketers have become accustomed to.

With an event-based model, every user interaction is processed as a standalone event.

This is a major change as in the past, with a session-based model, user interactions were grouped within a set time frame.

Switching from sessions to events offers significant benefits to marketers, for example, cross-platform analysis and an added ability to perform pathing analysis.

Using an event-based model, GA4 is more dynamic and better positioned to project user behavior.

What has been criticized with Google Analytics 4?

Here we look at some of the recent and common complaints about GA4 and address these concerns:

Universal Analytics works just fine; why did they need to change anything?

This is not a criticism of the new tool but a reflection of resistance to change. Universal Analytics has been around for ten years and uses the same code as Classic Analytics (from 2007); this means that it is old, and at some point (now), it was somewhat inevitable that Google would evolve the product.

Even though it has been an excellent service, much of Universal Analytics was not developed for how the internet operates today. For example, new privacy regulations, cookie loss, and so on. 

Google has made this change to develop a tool suitable for today’s internet and the future.

Google Analytics 4 is missing many features

GA4 had an initial beta release in 2019; since then, Google has continued adding new features and improvements to keep innovating the product. Here are some examples of recent changes made:

  • Sub-properties and rollups (limited to Google 360 customers) 
  • GMP integrations (free for all users)
  • New UTMs
  • Landing Page dimension
  • New privacy settings – offering more granular controls

Google Analytics 4 is improving. It is not perfect, but it already offers good benefits and is continually improving.

The user interface (UI) is very difficult to use

Again, this kind of feedback is expected after using a product for ten years. However, if you do not like the reports or navigation, you can customize this.

Below are some examples of what can be customized in terms of reporting and UI:

  • You can change the report graphics; for example, if you do not like the scatter plot graphic, you can remove it.
  • You can create a report collection in the navigation section and give access to the relevant team for easy access.
  • You can remove metrics or dimensions that are irrelevant to your business to simplify the reporting and focus on what’s important to your brand.

Sessions are the most important thing: the data should continue to be based on this

GA4 uses an event and parameter data model in line with other product analytics tools. With this approach, everything is considered an event, for example, a pageview. This data approach provides enhanced flexibility and structure. 

With Universal Analytics, users often observed hundreds or thousands of events because of how they were configured. In many cases, the implementation was conducted over time by more than one person, which produced inconsistency in the event data’s structure or hierarchy.

Google Analytics 4 streamlines the data model and distinguishes these events by the values collected, which results in a more streamlined and structured implementation.

Conclusion

Marketers, in many cases, have grown up with Universal Analytics, the current version of Google Analytics. It has become as familiar to many people who use the service as their front door. With all changes comes resistance, and there may be a learning curve and some pain. In gaining some new benefits and a new way to look at analytics, we may lose something. However, change in many scenarios is inevitable, and it is usually best to work alongside new product developments.

Google Analytics 4 is a different service from Universal Analytics, and it will take time to learn again. However, we recommend that marketers invest that time to take full advantage of the new offerings and identify ways the new service can support your brand’s online growth.

 If you have any questions about Google Analytics 4 or marketing analytics, please feel free to contact our expert team at info@relevantaudience.com for more information.

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