SEO

Why you should give Google Analytics 4 a chance

Why you should give Google Analytics 4 a chance

When it comes to Google Analytics 4, there is a lot of hate out there.

I understand. It’s a new product that looks, feels, and functions differently than what we’ve come to expect from Universal Analytics.

And, as several readers have pointed out, it still lacks features. [I used to work at Google and helped lay the groundwork for Google Analytics 4]

Having said that, I’m here to provide an unpopular opinion: GA4 is a fantastic tool. Not only that, but it is far more resilient in the future (think privacy, cookies, and scaled data models).

I’ll be posting articles over the next several months that will walk you through the ins and outs of important features, teach you how to set up/analyze/customize, and much more.

But first, I wanted to address some of the larger picture concerns that GA4 is now dealing with. So, let’s take a look at some of the most common criticisms and counter-arguments for why you should go all-in on Google Analytics 4.

Complaint 1: Universal Analytics is just fine, no need to rock the boat

In fact, Universal Analytics is almost ten years old (it was launched in 2012), and it is built on the same code base as Classic Analytics (ga.js, circa 2007) and Urchin Analytics (urchin.js, pre-2005 acquisition by Google).

This codebase and product are out of date. Most of the software you use has undoubtedly experienced substantial modifications and upgrades over the years, and your Analytics tool should as well.

Universal Analytics was just not designed for the internet we have today. It will struggle with increased privacy restrictions, cookie loss, and other issues. We require a tool that is designed specifically for today’s and tomorrow’s internet.

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In terms of privacy, GA4 has recently implemented various new data protections and no longer retains IP addresses. This is fantastic news.

Is it the answer to all of our GDPR concerns? No, most likely not. But it’s a step in the right way, and the GA team is obviously working hard to develop restrictions and solutions that will operate within the law while allowing GA customers to continue to use Google Analytics as they see appropriate.

These new options may be found by going to Admin > Data Settings > Data Collecting > Location and device data collection.

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Complaint 2: GA4 has a lot of missing features

In contrast, GA4 is improving by the day. Is it flawless? No. But, isn’t perfect the enemy of good?

GA4 has continued to add new features and improve since its original beta release in 2019, and the rate of innovation is increasing. Here are just a handful of the items that have come out in the last several months:

  • Rollups and sub-properties (Only 360 consumers)
  • GMP connections are now available to all clients at no cost.
  • Hoo woo! New ! There are more campaign criteria to be added!
  • Landing Page dimension – yessss!
  • New privacy settings – more granular controls
  • and there is a long roadmap to come…

Focusing on one element that is particularly essential for SEOs: GA4 now includes a landing page dimension! While there is no built-in landing page report, you may simply create one utilizing the new customization tools discussed in the following point.

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Complaint 3: The New UI is awful, I can’t find anything in there!

 

Contrary: Don’t like it? You can modify it!

 

For the first time in Google Analytics history, you can now customize not just the left-hand navigation but also the reports themselves.

This is something that digital analysts have been clamoring for for years, and it was possible to accomplish in SiteCatalyst (what is now Adobe Analytics) since at least version 14, if not before (for context, SiteCatalyst v14 launched in 2009).

Here are a few examples of how you may customize the UI and reports:

  • Do you dislike the report’s graphics? I really despise the scatter plot visual, therefore I’ve deleted it from the majority of my reports.
  • Want to create a report collection in the navigation especially for the marketing team so they have a quick and easy method to access essential reports? You can do it.
  • Are some report metrics or dimensions irrelevant to your business? You can get rid of them.

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Complaint 4: I hate the new data model. Sessions should rule everything!

Contrary opinion: The new data model is really rather good. Universal Analytics relied on sessionization, which caused several problems with data scalability and caused things like UI sampling.

GA4, like many other product analytics solutions, employs an events and parameter data model. In this approach, everything is an event, including pageviews. This data model provides far more flexibility and organization.

In Universal Analytics, for example, an event was a one-of-a-kind combination of three dimensions (category, action, and label). You may wind up having hundreds or even thousands of these events, and if the implementation. was done over time or by more than one individual, the structure or hierarchy of the event data was likely inconsistent.

This data model is condensed into suggested and custom event and parameter names, and the events themselves are differentiated by the values gathered, allowing for a far more streamlined and structured implementation.

I asked Simo Ahava, a digital analytics expert, what he felt about the new data paradigm. He stated:

“What I appreciate best about GA4’s data format is how open-ended it is; there’s a flexibility to it that UA never had,” Ahava added. “UA was always hampered by prescriptive semantics.” Events have to be categorized, actioned, labeled and valued. This resulted in a fairly static data table with technical debt and a sampling issue that worsened as your data gathering became more sophisticated.

“With GA4, you have the choice to pick what to gather and how to collect information, and it appears that the data model reset makes the platform quicker, more scalable, and more responsive to requests,” Ahava noted.

Google Analytics 4 is a radical change

The current version of Google Analytics has become extremely familiar to all of us. I cannot promise that the changeover will be flawless.

GA4 is a whole new technology that you will need to invest in and master. But I’m confident that once you do, you’ll love the new things it brings to the table and how it will help you scale for the future.

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