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Google Analytics 4:  Unveiling the Best and Worst Features

On July 1st, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will officially become the law of the land, and Universal Analytics (UA) will stop processing data. As with anything new, there are pros and cons. And so it is with GA4. In this post, we’ll explore what – in our opinion – are the three best and three worst features of GA4, shedding light on its strengths and areas where improvement is needed.

The Best Features of GA4:

  1. Event-Driven Data Model: GA4 uses an event-driven data model, which focuses on capturing and analyzing user interactions as events. What’s more, events can be built within GA4 using rules. Previously, UA relied on developers coding the site or tagging via Google Tag Manager.
  2. Audience Segments: These no longer have to be built as a permanent audience. There are comparison tools on every reporting page and virtually any combination of dimensions up to five conditions can be built on-the-fly.
  3. Enhanced User Privacy: GA4 puts a stronger emphasis on user privacy and data protection. It includes features like granular data controls, automatic data deletion after the retention period, and built-in consent management tools, helping you adhere to privacy regulations and build trust with your users.

The Worst Features of GA4:

  1. Changing Default Attribution Settings: Instead of having attribution as a reporting view, models have to be changed within the attribution settings. The default model is data-driven, which on the surface seems appropriate. However, this makes numerous assumptions about the client’s goals and KPIs and hides a feature that was previously front and center.
  2. Google Ads or Campaign Views: There are no default views in GA4. The data is still available and can be found, but it takes digging or creating custom reports. In UA, the defaults were a quick and easy way to see snapshots of performance. In general, GA4 provides limited reporting and customization options. Users will find this frustrating and challenging.
  3. Year-Over-Year Data: It doesn’t exist unless you export it from the corresponding UA profile. This was a huge oversight on Google’s part. While savvy marketers won’t have an issue with this, your average analytics users are going to lose some very valuable insights with respect to trend analysis.

Clearly, this is not an exhaustive list, and each user will find certain features helpful or frustrating. Certainly, there will be learning curves and migration challenges that are not atypical for any new technology. If you’ve put off jumping into the deep end of GA4, now is the time. Happy swimming!  

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