5 Limitations of Google Analytics 4 that Only Make It Better
As a digital marketer, you rely on data and analytics to gain insights into your website traffic and user behavior. Google Analytics has long been an industry standard for providing that website data, and the recent update to the tool brings some significant changes. This platform owns over 29.62% of the Web Analytics Software Market.
While critics argue GA4 falls short in many areas, what if these perceived flaws actually contribute to its improvement over time?
By understanding these constraints now, you’ll be better equipped to leverage GA4 as it evolves. So, let’s look into them!
1. The Sample Size Problem: Why More Data Isn’t Always Better
Despite collecting more data, GA4's sample size may lack statistical significance, emphasizing that bigger data doesn't always equate to accuracy. Data must be meticulously filtered and segmented for meaning. While GA4 offers a broad metric range, focusing on pertinent ones aligned with business goals is essential for impactful insights. Patience and expertise are crucial to extracting value from abundant data; however, proper analysis unveils nuanced customer interactions.
The platform's growth via machine learning and user-driven improvements enhances its capabilities. GA4's perceived flaws present growth opportunities, encouraging analysts to harness it for valuable insights. By prioritizing key metrics and accurate data interpretation, the tool’s ambitious potential can be realized despite challenges, making it a promising avenue for exploration.
2. Attribution Models: Last-Click Isn’t Dead Yet
Google Analytics 4 predominantly employs last-click attribution, which highlights the final conversion touchpoint but neglects earlier interactions. This approach can significantly underestimate the impact of channels like social media, display ads, and email marketing, particularly for businesses with intricate sales cycles. While GA4 offers data-driven attribution and customizable models, it lacks the automated machine-learning prowess of tools like Adobe Analytics.
The persistence of last-click attribution underscores room for enhancement, urging Google to prioritize advanced and automated attribution options. As GA4 evolves, a shift toward multi-touch attribution becomes imperative for a comprehensive understanding of channel influence on customer journeys and conversions.
3. Custom Dimensions & Metrics: Flexibility vs. Standardization
Custom dimensions create new attributes to associate with hits, sessions, or users. For example, you could create a “Loyalty Level” dimension with values like “Basic,” “Silver,” and “Gold” to segment users. Custom dimensions expand GA4's analytics capabilities and provide flexibility where standard metrics fall short.
While custom dimensions offer more flexibility, they also reduce standardization. Two properties may use custom dimensions for the same purpose but with different naming conventions or values, limiting comparability. There is also a risk of creating too many custom dimensions, obscuring important insights in a sea of niche metrics.
4. Real-Time Reporting: The Quest for Immediacy Meets the
Need for Accuracy
The immediate insights offered by real-time reporting are invaluable for optimizing digital strategies, yet pursuing real-time data can compromise accuracy. Google Analytics 4 addresses this challenge by employing session stitching, combining hits for a comprehensive view, and overcoming issues like caching and cross-device tracking that affect accuracy.
GA4's machine learning and data stitching capabilities provide a broader perspective, bridging real-time and historical data for improved accuracy. While real-time data is crucial, it doesn't always tell the whole story; the tool’s blend of real-time insights and automated data refinement works towards a holistic view.
The balance between immediacy and completeness is important, and GA4's focus on data quality through machine learning and stitching aligns these needs, benefiting marketers and customers alike. Real-time reporting offers responsiveness, but GA4 acknowledges the value of patience and accurate data.
5. Machine Learning & AI: Why Google Is Playing the Long Game
While GA4 currently offers basic AI and ML insights, it's evident that Google has a long-term strategy. Although the AI and ML capabilities are not as robust as some industry expectations, its foundation on Google Cloud and access to advanced ML APIs indicate future growth. Despite lacking predictive analytics and automated insights, for now, GA4's connection to Google's data resources and computational power implies forthcoming improvements in AI-driven customer journey understanding and optimization.
While GA4 may not fully meet advanced enterprise needs presently, its longevity and alignment with Google's ML expertise make it a valuable investment, particularly for small to midsize businesses.
Google Analytics 4, an evolving platform, thrives on feedback-driven refinement by Google. Recent statistics reveal that nearly 9 million websites have adopted and either fully transitioned to or started using the tool.
Acknowledging its current limitations serves as a springboard for advancement rather than flaws. Participate actively in the GA4 community, offer constructive feedback, and maintain an open, positive outlook to influence its trajectory. Today's constraints are tomorrow's expanded capabilities.