on November 3, 2022 (last modified on November 15, 2022) • 16 minute read
Google Analytics 4 is almost here, and it’s changing the way we approach Google’s analytics platform. The interface is different, the metrics have changed, the overall learning curve is rather steep, and to top it all off, it’s not compatible with Universal Analytics.
To put it mildly, GA4 is making people nervous. While it’s not an insurmountable obstacle, switching to GA4 is not a smooth process, and even some experienced marketers are having trouble getting used to it, making them hesitant to make the final switch.
Data from our own platform bears this out. Databox customers have 78,000 Google Analytics Universal accounts connected to Databox, while only 7,900 of them have connections to GA4.
In order to help people address those concerns, we talked to 41 marketers and agencies. Over 60% of respondents are dual tagging, 26.83% have completely switched to GA4, and lastly, 12.20% still haven’t made the jump.
This article will cover the concerns shared by companies that have made a complete switch, those who are dual tagging, and those who still didn’t migrate to GA4.
Before we dive into types of companies, let’s take a look at some common concerns that seem to be universal across the board. No matter if the companies switched or not, there’s a common thread we’ve identified when talking to them.
The biggest one is just how different GA4 is compared to its predecessor. Everything is different and it will take time to relearn some of the basic steps that have become standard procedures in UA.
For example, Nick Leffler of Loclweb says that GA4 data is not as in-depth or easy to read. “Not only will it be more difficult for new users, it’s difficult for those who know all the terminology and analytics jargon. I’m very concerned about losing valuable analytics and always switch back to Universal Analytics after failing to find what I need in GA4.”
The new interface has the potential to frustrate people making the switch. Many marketers said that the GA4 interface is confusing and that the interface change, as well as the change in terminology, were unnecessary.
“We have been using GA for over 10 years. The GA4 interface is confusing and very unfamiliar. The interface change and the change in terminology feels unnecessary. Marketers already are mostly spread pretty thin on their time and having to implement new tags and tracking across all of our clients sites seems overwhelming. Also, the need for the change, I feel, has not been communicated well by Google.”
Founder and Lead Strategist at Brandlift Digital Marketing
This is a recurring theme. The new process is complex and isn’t as intuitive as the old one. In addition, GA4 is not compatible with UA and users will lose their historical data. Gosia Hytry of Spacelift says that’s the main reason people should stick with dual tagging. “Use double tagging until you have collected at least one year of data about your traffic. At the time, you will no longer be able to use Universal Analytics due to excluding 3rd party cookies; you will have enough data build up in GA4.”
Related: What Is Google Analytics 4 and How Will It Help My Reporting?
There’s actually more to differences between UA and GA4 than just the interface. The biggest changes are in the available metrics and the ways they are tracked. For example, in Google Analytics 4, you can only track events (instead of sessions) which doesn’t allow for the transfer of historical data. While you won’t lose your UA data, you won’t be able to keep tracking it in the same way.
In words of Steve Rose from Money Transfers, “GA4 is a completely new tracking & measuring system that focuses on tracking events instead of sessions, not just a new interface (on which UA is based). Although setting up the GA4 property is effectively the same as starting a new data collection campaign, you won’t lose your current UA property. The data can simply be processed in parallel rather than being connected and continuous.”
Therefore, Rose’s advice is to implement GA4 as soon as possible and consolidate your data because GA4 isn’t a continuation of one UA property data but rather a new beginning. “This will ensure that when UA no longer offers the readers with that much observable data (due to the lack of 3rd party cookies), you have had enough historical information throughout GA4 to look back on.”
This mostly concerns differences between platforms which will make it difficult to learn everything again and the lack of compatibility that makes it impossible to simply import the UA data into GA4.
Related: Google Analytics 4 Metrics Tutorial: Everything You Need to Know Before You Transition to the New Platform
This is the second-largest group of respondents with just over a quarter of our sample saying they have switched to Google Analytics 4.
Muhammad Farasat Khan of WPAstra commented that the UI and the new process of reporting are fairly complex. His main concern is just that complexity and the effort it will take to overcome it. The old methods people got used to now need to be learned anew. In fact, companies sometimes have to spend additional time and resources taking training from experts to help them get ahead.
Another big issue people who have switched to GA4 are citing is the lack of features in GA4. Universal analytics has been around for a long while and people are used to its functionality. Google Analytics 4 still isn’t feature-complete and it’s still somewhat buggy. ErikEmanuelli cites the fact that some data has been switched from ‘Unique Visitors’ to ‘Pageviews.’ “This seems to be a common issue with GA4 at the moment, so it’s something that needs to be fixed before more people make the switch. Overall, I think the biggest concern with switching to GA4 is that it is still a very new platform and there are bound to be some teething issues,” Emanuelli concludes.
Related: Where Are My Views In Google Analytics 4? Everything You Need to Know About Filtering Data in GA4
Even people who aren’t concerned at all admit that there are some issues with the current implementation of GA4. While Alex Birkett of Omniscient Digital praises the events-first model as a more logical and simple way of understanding data collection, he still says there are some lacking features in GA4. Still, Birkett is confident that they’ll be ironed out over time.
To better understand how your website performs in terms of customer conversion and acquisition, you probably use Google Analytics 4 to learn how people are finding your website, what your most profitable traffic sources are, and how successful specific marketing campaigns are in attracting website visitors. You may have to navigate multiple areas and reports within GA4 to get the data you want though. Now you can quickly assess your website performance in a single dashboard that monitors fundamental metrics, such as:
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This is the largest group of respondents, with over 60% of them saying that they’re dual tagging with both UA and GA4. let’s see what they have to say.
Lack of support for custom dimensions, metrics, and goals and a general dearth of customization options is a major sticking point cited. Another is the steep learning curve and particularly the inability to create drill-down reports. Dorka Kardos-Latif of Copyfolio says that the concept of not having a straightforward way of reporting landing pages makes the whole process much more complicated. “I also really miss the ability to click on a row in a report, so that GA would show me the results filtered just for that, with the ability to then change the Primary Dimension and add a secondary dimension. That ability allowed us to get much deeper into the data, which is something I miss from GA4.” Kardos-Latif concludes.
Please note this by connecting your GA4 account to Databox, creating drill-down reports won’t be an issue anymore. Browse through our template library to download a free template for GA4 or contact our customer success team via chat to learn more about our free GA4 performance analysis dashboard setup.
With so little time left until UA stops collecting data, some marketers wish they started the transition process sooner. Ideally, you would want to have a year of data in both UA and GA4 in order to make the necessary comparisons and extrapolate how new metrics and data collection work compared to the old ones. With UA shutting down in July of 2023, there’s not that much time left. The marketers we surveyed confirm this.
“My biggest concern in switching to GA4, for my business and for others, is not doing it sooner. If the switch is made, or at least running both simultaneously, this month September , that would mean gathering less than a year’s data in GA4. An additional challenge in doing this is having the in-house team implement this or finding a company to outsource this task and to implement using best practice. I’m not sure if majority of digital marketers and developers have been fully trained, or even familiar with GA4.”
SEO and Webmaster Tools Specialist at RedLettersPH
Another challenge is finding competent people who know how to handle GA4 to either train in-house staff or outsource those duties to. As Aspacio confirms, the majority of digital marketers and developers probably haven’t been fully trained to use GA4.
Agencies clearly need help with the migration. In some cases, that requires setting up company-wide training and transitioning all processes from Universal Analytics to GA. For Lauren Walter of Online Optimism, the whole process is rather daunting as most staff in the company need to have at least some level of familiarity with GA4. “Not only do our staff need to learn GA4, but many of our processes will need to be updated as well, such as how we onboard new clients, set up client reporting, and understand our results.” Starting the transition as early as possible while you still have access to both UA and GA4 is definitely the way to go.
Other marketers are concerned of how complete GA4 will be by the time the switch is forced.
“Right now many are dual tagging, allowing data to be stored, but still using Universal. With features, metrics, etc. being released often, it still feels very much like a beta project. What makes continual updates difficult from an agency standpoint is being able to help educate our clients on what the changes mean, why their data is different now, and what to expect moving forward. I do anticipate the learning curve worth it all once it’s live and running however, as the capabilities for tracking are much more in depth.”
Director of SEO at Sure Oak
The smallest sample of 12.2% is of companies that are yet to switch to GA4 in any capacity. Some intend to start dual tagging soon, while others are daunted by the whole process and are likely to delay the migration until they feel they’re ready to take that step.
Few companies have in-depth knowledge of GA4 and its capabilities (especially since it’s technically not done yet) and are reluctant to commit to the change or dedicate resources to dual tagging just yet. For example, Tommy Landry of Return On Now admits that the system is better for cross-platform metrics and scaling up data in the wake of cookie blind spots. However, GA4 changes a lot, and it requires more hands-on development assistance in setting up all important events including conversions. “It’s a steep learning curve, and the time is now to get our websites on both GA4 + UA to ensure we have overlaps to compare data,” Landry concludes.
Madison Tong of My Supplement Store says that the company is going to do some training soon to get more information and learn how to use GA4. “We have so much knowledge on Universal Analytics, so we are nervous about switching to GA4 because we are less knowledgeable on what it is capable of.”
We talked about all the problems people have when it comes to migration from UA to GA4. Now we’d like to share some tips on how to make the process easier.
This is a simple way to get started. All you have to do is create a new GA4 property and link it to your existing UA property.
Since Google wants to encourage UA users to switch to GA4, they made the process fairly easy. From the Admin menu of your existing UA property, click on the “GA4 setup assistant” option under the property tab. From there, you’ll be able to create a new app+web property.
The setup wizard will guide you through the rest of the process, but keep in mind that you’ll need to configure GTM along with your GA4 property to get any use out of it. While you can transfer your tags by clicking the box, there will be customizations you’ll need to transfer, and perhaps you’ll need to install new tags altogether.
After you’re done, you can either continue using GA4 as a standalone or start dual tagging until you get the hang of it.
Dual tagging is currently the most popular option, and with good reason. It allows you to keep your Universal Analytics implementation in place while you build out your Google Analytics 4 implementation. You can build a historical record (and your skill base) in GA4 while continuing to depend on UA until you’re ready to switch over.
Here are some steps you need to go through:
Additionally, you’ll still need to add gtag.js or Google Tag Manager to your pages in order to start sending your data to GA4.
This is also a valid choice if you’re overwhelmed by the number of changes or don’t have the time/resources to dedicate to the migration. There are a lot of new features, and updating existing processes, learning new protocols, and training staff to use GA4 can be a daunting challenge.
Professional assistance can make all the difference as you can hire experts who can help you set up your GA4 properties or train your staff in how to use GA4’s new features. Depending on the number and type of UA properties, the migration can be lengthy and complex, and having a professional guide you through the process can make the whole thing go smoothly.
You’ll still need to allocate some time and resources to it, but it’s definitely easier than scrambling and figuring it all out on your own.
There’s less than eight months left until GA4 is supposed to come fully online and marketers are scrambling to learn as much as they can about the new platform. As you’ve seen, there are still some unaddressed concerns when it comes to the migration, ranging from the steep learning curve of GA4 to the fact that it’s still not fully feature-complete.
Out of all companies interviewed, 40% think that switching to GA4 takes some time, 27% find it hard, and 27% find it easy.
Almost everyone is having at least some issues with the migration. The change in the data-collection method has upended a lot of things and many marketers are still struggling to make sense of it all as it requires a change in mindset.
While GA4 has excellent capabilities at an advanced level, most small and medium businesses will struggle with getting everything the platform is capable of — at least until they really get the hang of it.
The whole process seems overwhelming but it really doesn’t have to be — if you know where to turn for help.
If you’ve already taken the plunge but have a difficult time making sense of your data, our product experts team can help you build reports to better understand who your audience is, how different website segments perform, where website conversions happen, and much more. Our team will guide you through the process and show you the ins and outs of Google’s new platform. You can learn more about our free GA4 performance analysis here.
All you need to get started is to create a free Databox account and tell us what you need. We’ll simply take it from there. 🙂
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