Much has been said and written about Google Analytics 4 (GA4), but there is one overlooked message related to expectations.
Marketers who have been used to the outdated global Google Analytics platform for most of the past decade need to adjust. Their lives will be easier if the right expectations are set.
I recently had the honor of discussing this very matter with three GA4 professionals who were kind enough to give me their thoughts.
Here are some of the most important predictions as GA4 becomes your primary measurement platform.
1. The GA4 is not plug and play like the GA Universal
To be fair, Universal has never been quite “plug and play.”
There is some setup (goal conversions, events, filters, enhanced ecommerce tracking, etc.), but nothing like GA4.
Planning and setup can take more time than Universal.
Analytics expert Alan K’necht of K’nechtology said:
“Google followed the 80-20 rule. They noticed that 80% of users were using only 20% of their reports and canceled the other 80%. “Sorry if that was what people were using. Now you need to create a custom report.”
2. Everything happened (so get used to it)
In GA Universal, a normal site might have five to 15 site actions set up to be considered an “event” (completed video views, gallery views, unchecked downloads, etc.).
In GA4, everything is an event, and you might get used to it, too.
- View page = happened.
- Session start = happened.
- First visit = happened.
- he moved = happened.
- click = happened.
- start the video = happened.
- download file = happened.
- Video progress = happened.
- Video completed = happened.
- Subscribe to newsletters = happened.
- Provide the contact = happened.
- View search results = happened.
- You got the idea. Everything worth telemetry is an event.
3. Don’t expect reliable data comparison for apples year-over-year
Remember when using Universal for one year and GA4 for the next.
If you have both platforms (GA Universal & GA4) running side by side today, you will notice that the numbers do not match.
One of the reasons for a file leaked The push to get everyone on GA4 and track data by July 1, 2022, is very important for marketers. can You have annual numbers in July 2023, because there will be a full year of data that is similarly measured.
Anna Slater, Head of Analytics at NordicClick Interactive, advised:
“To be clear, marketers have to Start Rely on Google Analytics for accurate numbers – they are meant to be measured trends – Universal was like that, and so was GA4.
(Disclosure: The author also works for NordicClick Interactive.)
It’s also no surprise that the numbers from the GA4 don’t match what you see at Universal.
K’necht added, “There has never been a 1-to-1 ratio of analytics data between products. Each one uses different algorithms and calculations. History repeats itself.”
4. You can do a lot with the GA4 (from Universal), but there is a catch
Simply put, what’s important is that it’s more complex.
For example, it is:
- More complex to set up and verify tracking.
- More complex to generate basic reports.
- More complex to manage.
- More complicated to use.
“Google has moved its analytics product from something easy to use by everyone but with limitations to a product more for analytics professionals that offers more customization and flexibility.
Unfortunately, however, this takes its use out of the hands of most small businesses that wanted to do the analytics themselves.”
5. Annotations are missing from the GA4 interface
Annotations are one of Universal’s most useful and beloved features — and for good reason. Within the platform, you can document an abnormality (high or low), so it’s easy to remember long after it’s happened.
For now, it would be very important to maintain a separate list for document annotations until Google adds this feature again (to GA4).
Of course, this could have been added back at any time, but as of this post, it hasn’t been.
6. Small site? Welcome to the world of “Ataba”
If you have a small amount of data and try to run a report for a narrow date range, you will likely hit the “threshold”.
Simply put, Google does not want you to be able to identify any individual via GA4 in person.
For example, if you have a small e-commerce site that receives less than ten requests per day, you could potentially identify an individual user by taking their order. And Consider when they were on your site, where they went, what was in your cart, etc.
Threshold in GA4 (when Google signals on me) is a huge pain for “standard” reporting.
Custom explorations seem to show the data better. However, this data will only be available for up to 14 months (depending on your data retention settings) – therefore, it would be beneficial to keep the data for a longer period of time through the data warehouse.”
Editor’s note: One still can Threshold avoidance By selecting the ‘Device-Based’ reporting identity with the screenshot below. In most cases, this option works great, and if you don’t have a user login on your web app, device-based is the better option to go.
7. There will be less free Google stuff
The previous point mentioned a 14-month data availability limit, so they obviously don’t want to offer free data storage indefinitely.
Hence the limit is 14 months of live interactive data. Instead of storing it indefinitely, they gave us a free (but smaller than paid) version of BigQuery. Here you can keep your data until it is full.
For most companies, this will be several years’ worth of data, but if you need more space, you can upgrade to the paid version.
Editor’s note: Also, you can’t create multiple filtered views – it’s now a paid feature.
8. The bounce rate is available now, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay attention to it
Initially, it wasn’t part of GA4, but there seemed to be enough feedback that convinced Google that it should be included.
It’s back but scaled very differently than it is at Universal. It’s 100% minus the new “engagement rate” metric.
For example, if you had an engagement rate of 76%, you now have a bounce rate of 24%.
“I’ve been warning my clients for over five years that bounce rate shouldn’t be a KPI — taken out of context, it’s a meaningless number.
I was happy when Google removed it from GA4. But they heard the complaints and came up with something and called it “bounce rate”.
9. Make friends with BigQuery and SQL (or at least be friends with a friend)
Let’s say your site is experiencing data sampling (even if it isn’t), and you want to increase flexibility in terms of generating and analyzing reports. In this case, you should familiarize yourself with BigQuery and SQL.
While this is beyond the need or ability of most small and medium-sized businesses, large companies will now be able to take advantage of BigQuery, fetch data from other sources (contact management software, for example) and combine the data to get a complete picture rather than just a window on the side. Web only in Universal Analytics.
Inigo Belosio (also of NordicClick), who ran his share of GA4 implementations this past year, said, “The good news is that GA4 connects to BigQuery natively and for free — unlike UA — and SQL is a relatively easy programming language to learn.”
Pelusio added, “Unfortunately, most of these concepts are unknown to most marketers, so I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with them because your ability to tap into the potential of GA4 may depend on them as your site grows.”
K’necht concluded, “Using BigQuery would also allow hashing on larger amounts of data without the problem of data sampling that occurs when using UA or GA4 on its own, and fortunately, there are tools such as Google’s DataStudio that can be used to simplify this effort.” Create various reports and dashboards.
10. You’ll need to level up your analysis skills (or bring in a resource that already exists)
K’necht said, “In the end, Google has closely aligned its analytics product with Adobe Analytics, a tool that is not for the faint of heart or untrained users.”
He added, “If you plan to continue using Google Analytics (GA4), it’s time to either take a course in configuring and managing GA4 or engage a vendor to handle it for you.”
Editor’s note: The Google Data Studio connector is already available and really helps make data analysis easier. So one can learn GDS to create beautiful reports from analytics data.
11. Meet your new friend: data modeling
Data modeling in GA4 is finally here and has the potential to help close the data loss gaps of those sites most affected by users who opt out of any cookies.
Although there are some basic requirements to qualify, websites (particularly those subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) [General Data Protection Regulation] and other privacy systems) began testing this modeling feature.
Bellosio explained, “For example, it may be able to account for a decrease in user traffic which, in some cases, can be very noticeable as we’ve already seen with many customers affected by regulations, browser privacy updates and operating system (for example, iOS). “
12. Finally – Set appropriate expectations with stakeholders
Many of the metrics that stakeholders may have used with Universal will change once they start using GA4.
Make sure you set their expectations in the following:
- What has changed.
- Why did you change.
- What metrics should they pay attention to.
- What they gained with this new look to their web analytics.
I hope that is useful.
GA4 will continue to evolve, so make sure you stay on top of everything!
- Should you switch to GA4 now? What you need to know
- Getting Started with GA4: These 4 tips will get you up and running
- Learn GA4: 17 of the Most Important Teaching Guides and Resources
Featured image: metamorworks/Shutterstock