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GA4: The good, the bad and the ugly

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3 weeks ago

3 weeks ago

Measurement

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The release of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) promised a new era of data measurement and analysis. With an enhanced user-centric approach, it was designed to give a more holistic view of user interactions across different platforms and devices. In turn, this would lead to more personalised marketing strategies and better customer experiences. So the theory goes…

But, as with any new technology, there are challenges and drawbacks to consider. To say GA4’s rollout hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing is putting it mildly. Many users have faced challenges transitioning from Universal Analytics to GA4 – what’s a financial marketer to do?

At The Dubs Agency, we decided to leverage contacts built from 25+ years of industry experience. Below, the views of those in the know offer their take on GA4, which research shows is currently used by more than 14 million websites globally.

GA4: The good

Jon Morgan, Founder and CEO of San Francisco-based consultants Venture Smarter, says despite user teething problems, GA4 is worth the time investment.

“The focus on events and user engagement metrics provides a richer understanding of user behaviour, helping businesses tailor their strategies more effectively.

“Plus, the integration of machine learning and AI capabilities offers advanced insights, making it easier to uncover trends and opportunities. It’s like upgrading from a standard map to GPS navigation – more precision and a better overall experience.”

SEO expert Deepak Shukla points to the enhanced user privacy features of GA4.

Shukla explains, “GA4 is built with user privacy in mind, providing more powerful controls for data collection and administration. This includes features like enhanced consent mode, which helps enterprises deal with rules like GDPR more effectively.”

Ian Lockwood, a Digital Marketing Director explains, “Some of the Explorations (particularly funnels) are far more powerful than anything in Universal Analytics (UA), along with the ways to define segments/audiences. And the Engagement Rate provides a more meaningful measure than the Bounce Rate (still available in GA4, albeit only by customising reports).”

Marketing expert, Grace de Cruz adds, “One of the best new features of GA4 is the ability to view app and web data within the same property, which was previously siloed, allowing businesses to get a much more complete view of a user’s journey.”

Digital entrepreneur Udemezue John says, “GA4 offers a future-proof approach to website and app analytics. Its event-based model provides deeper user engagement insights, and privacy features address evolving regulations. Additionally, cross-platform measurement and built-in predictive capabilities are valuable assets.”

GA4: The bad

Ian Lockwood may be supportive of some features in GA4, but the expert questions the “thought process” behind the development of GA4. “GA4 feels like an unnecessary and poorly-executed rebuild of Google Analytics,” he says, adding: “I can see the sense of moving to event-based data for everything and perhaps the legacy infrastructure of UA was getting too creaky and expensive to maintain, but it feels like Google really didn’t try too hard to give us a smooth transition.”

Andrew Frith, Media Director at The Dubs Agency adds, “For those previously comfortable in Universal Analytics, moving to GA4 was met by many with resistance, as having to adjust to a completely new interface and way of doing things just didn’t feel good.”

“ For those previously comfortable in Universal Analytics, moving to GA4 was met by many with resistance, as having to adjust to a completely new interface and way of doing things just didn’t feel good. ”

Furthermore, some features available in Universal Analytics aren’t directly transferable to GA4 – like custom reports and certain dimensions – requiring marketers to adapt their tracking methods and reporting processes.

Marketers accustomed to session-based data might require time to adapt to the event-driven model.

Frith adds, “For advanced users, GA4 offers new opportunities but for the average less technical user or newcomer to analytics, GA4 can be quite a daunting learning curve.”

Erman Küplü, co-founder and CEO of Analyzify, agrees, “The transition process hasn’t been seamless for everyone. Some users have reported challenges with data migration and adapting to the new interface.”

“Moving from Universal Analytics to GA4 can be difficult for enterprises, particularly those with complex tracking installations or considerable historical data,” explains Shukla. “The discrepancies between data models and reporting interfaces may necessitate extensive modifications and reconfiguration.”

GA4: The ugly

While GA4 offers advanced tracking capabilities, marketing expert Nathan Chen from Silverstone Technologies flagged the potential for concerns about data privacy and compliance if marketers don’t tread carefully.

“With increased emphasis on user privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA, marketers need to ensure their data collection practices align with these regulations when using GA,” says Chen.

“Failure to comply with data protection laws could result in legal consequences and damage to a company’s reputation. It is crucial for businesses to prioritise data privacy and implement proper consent mechanisms when utilising GA4 for analytics.”

In a month when Reddit finally went public, it felt appropriate to give some of the last words to users of the social media platform – who are rarely short of a few things to say on any given topic. Taking to r/marketing, one user wrote this savage missive:

“They wanted to make an analytics that works well for apps, too. They sacrificed the most important functionalities for websites for that.

“Imagine car manufacturers suddenly decided their cars should work as boats now, too, and they sacrificed trunks for that.

“Very few people need boats and most get a standalone vehicle for that. The manufacturer doesn’t care. Everyone is now suffering from the compromises resulting from it.

“That’s exactly why everyone is angry at GA4. We want our f’ing trunks back.”

So, what can finance marketers do?

If this sounds too doom-and-gloom, there are some ways finance marketers can use GA4 to their advantage—if they’re willing to stick with the new programme.

Chen advises, “GA4 introduces a more user-centric approach to analytics, focusing on individual user interactions across platforms, which can lead to more personalised marketing strategies and improved customer experiences.”

As Search Engine Land put it, you could persist with GA4 by “rolling up your sleeves and making the most of what GA4 has to offer”.

They add, “Ultimately, I still think GA4 will be a useful platform that will be a necessary touchpoint for marketing teams – particularly if the platform can incorporate insights on SGE as Google expands that footprint.”

All things considered, it remains key to keep your GA4 expert on hand, especially if Google Analytics is your source of truth for your finance brand’s data. Reach out to The Dubs Agency and we’ll be able to guide you through the latest developments, including how changes can be used to your advantage as a sophisticated, full-funnel marketer.

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