As technology advances, businesses need effective tools to analyze data and make smart choices.
Google Analytics has been a popular platform for website owners to understand their website visitors, their customer lifecycle, and how they behave.
But now, there’s a new version called GA4 (Google Analytics 4), and people are debating whether it’s better than the old version, Universal Analytics.
Should you be using Google Analytics 4 too, then?
In this article, we’ll compare the features, advantages, and limitations, and suggest a different option for businesses looking for the best analytics solution.
GA4 vs Universal Analytics
When it comes to making data-driven decisions, we fundamentally rely on two essential tasks.
And to carry them out effectively, since it’d be practically impossible to do them by hand, we depend on the support of a reliable tracking tool.
To break it down, a data-driven process can be divided into two crucial parts.
First, we need to set up an event tracking system, meaning that we need to track and measure the engagement and the actions performed by users on search engines, ads, websites, or applications, essentially collecting every action users perform on the site.
Surprisingly, this essential path analysis functionality is not even built-in within the Google Analytics platform itself.
GTM acts as a powerful intermediary, allowing us to fire tags that gather the necessary information regarding the customer journey for Google Analytics.
It’s worth noting that while Google Tag Manager is not an integral part of Google Analytics, it plays a vital role in ensuring that we obtain the right information and user data accuracy within the system.
Skipping this step, and therefore not feeding the right information to GA, will then result in a less reliable data model and a lowered quality of our work.
Once the data collection part is done, the next step is to explore it, extract meaningful insights, and make sense of the information at hand.
This process involves diving deep into the data, and analyzing trends, patterns, and user behaviors, such as bounce rates, to derive valuable and actionable knowledge.
Ultimately, the goal is to uncover hidden opportunities, identify areas for improvement, develop predictive metrics, and make informed decisions based on the insights gained.
To analyze our data we relied for many years on Google’s proprietary tools and many of us started their careers using, and loving UA.
It’s now time to say goodbye to it and swap to GA4, and maybe you think that everything you need to know about Google Analytics 4 is that it’s better than UA.
But we should actually ask this question: is GA4 better than UA at all?
Google Analytics 4 is not for everyone
Transitioning from UA to GA4 has brought significant changes in the reporting capabilities of the application.
It has updated ways to track user actions and a more flexible way to create reports but, while it has some advantages like improved privacy features and better tracking across different platforms, it also has some drawbacks.
As a result, unfortunately, there’s been a substantial reduction in user-friendly features.
What used to be easily accessible and straightforward in Universal Analytics has now become quite challenging to locate in Google Analytics 4.
Initially, many of us held high hopes that Google would introduce more comprehensive reports to GA4 over time. However, just a few weeks before the deadline for discontinuing UA, we were left disappointed as no new reports emerged.
In the past, in our Analytics account we could readily access pre-made reports, making it much easier to dive into the tool and glean valuable insights without the burden of report creation.
Instead, GA4 adopted a new philosophy, placing the responsibility on users to create their own reports.
While this shift may offer some flexibility in reporting, it also comes with a downside.
It means that we now have to invest additional time in learning how to create these reports and determine what exactly we should include.
Who is GA4 really for?
These changes clearly prove that the Google Analytics 4 benefits are specifically tailored and geared towards a different audience compared to its predecessor, Universal Analytics.
It appears that GA4 is designed to cater to a more specialized group of users with advanced reporting needs and technical expertise.
This shift may leave many traditional UA users feeling left behind and ill-equipped to navigate the complexities of GA4’s reporting system.
Originally, Universal Analytics was developed with website owners in mind, providing them with insights to understand their website traffic.
This is evident from the names of the tools themselves since Google Search Console was called Google Webmaster Tools until May 2015, clearly targeting webmaster website owners.
However, Google Analytics 4 has undergone a significant shift in its target audience.
It now focuses primarily on data analysts, indicating a fundamental change in the tool’s purpose driven by the evolving needs of the market.
Since using GA4 has become more difficult for the average person compared to the user-friendly experience offered by Universal Analytics, this change poses challenges for individuals who are not data analysts or lack access to data analysts and is especially burdensome to small and medium businesses.
Consequently, those without a background in data analysis may find themselves in a troublesome situation when attempting to navigate Google Analytics 4 and make sense of its features and functionalities.
Should data analysts use GA4?
Some may think that the answer to why GA4 is better than UA may lie with its target users. Maybe, some may wonder, it’s actually better for some and worse for others.
Because of this, data analysts might think that GA4 would offer significant perks and might wonder how to switch to Google Analytics 4 as soon as possible.
However, the reality is quite different and GA4 is not an improvement even for data analysts.
Setting up reporting for our clients in GA4 can be a time-consuming task as this tool requires us to create our own reports from scratch.
This means investing more time and effort in figuring out how to navigate the reporting functions and figuring out exactly what we want to report on.
The process can be complex and overwhelming, especially for those who are new to GA4.
Furthermore, the insights we can derive from GA4 reports are relatively limited compared to other analytics solutions available in the market and this can hinder our ability as data analysts to uncover deep and meaningful insights from the data streams we collect.
If we have to invest time in learning a new reporting system, we should prefer to use a tool that provides a wealth of insights with the same amount of effort or even less.
To compensate for these limitations, data analysts are often forced to resort to using another software solution called BigQuery to obtain the answers they need.
However, utilizing BigQuery comes with its own set of challenges and expenses, as it is a paid software.
Considering the additional effort required to create reports and the reliance on external tools, it becomes evident that GA4 may not be the most favorable option for data analysts.
This is indeed a disappointing realization, and one can’t help but express some dissatisfaction with Google’s decision in this regard.
Should YOU stick with GA4?
My warm suggestion is DON’T.
After careful consideration, I made the decision to completely abandon GA4 in favor of a software called Funnelytics.
Not only that, but I’m also recommending all my clients to do the same.
The reason is simple: Funnelytics makes it incredibly easier to find answers to complex questions compared to GA4.
With Google Analytics 4, you would need to juggle between two different software (GA4 + BigQuery) and invest a substantial amount of effort to generate reports and run queries every week for your reporting needs.
In contrast, Funnelytics streamlines the process with just a single click of a button.
Once you set it up, you can generate weekly reports effortlessly by clicking the reporting button.
The best part is that you can set up as many questions as you want and receive the answers each week.
This level of convenience and efficiency is simply not achievable with GA4. Even Universal Analytics, which was famous for its easy-to-navigate user interface, cannot match the ease of use provided by Funnelytics.
Unfortunately, GA4 sacrifices this simplicity in favor of a more complex solution that promises better insights, but only if you have an overwhelming amount of data.
If you run a small or medium-sized business, I strongly advise against investing your time and resources into GA4.
Instead, you can gain superior insights by leveraging software like Funnelytics.
Because of this, I’ve personally started using it and believe it’s the better option for those seeking valuable insights without unnecessary complications.
If you want to know more about how I left GA behind and moved on with my clients to a better software, book a free call with me: https://leadsandconversion.com/start