Google Analytics 4 hasn’t exactly got off to the best start with marketers.
In fact, it’s getting pretty awkward — some advertisers are so disappointed with the new program that they’ve even been hosting funerals for its predecessor, Universal Analytics.
But what is it about GA4 that’s got the world of digital marketing so riled up?
We recently asked our readers in a GA4 readiness poll what problems they were facing. Here’s a list of the most common complaints.
1. User interface
GA4’s user interface was hands-down the biggest issue our readers reported. The UI was described as “slow”, “laughable” and a few other adjectives we’re opting not to publish.
Independent sales and marketing contractor, John Erikson, told us:
“When on selecting segments/dimensions in GA4, instead of the ability in Universal to select/deselect one or more segments in a single list and click ‘apply’, you have to open customization or add comparison, click add filter, select a dimension from a long dropdown, then select dimension value from another dropdown, then apply (and you can only select one).
“Granted it is only a few seconds difference, but when you look at many different patterns every day, it becomes frustrating to repeat those excess UI moves over and over when you used to do it faster.”
“That same dropdown structure is used in creating/editing GA4 reports. The dropdown lists are long and it is hard to find what you are looking for. You can type in partial names and more quickly find them once you know them, but initially it is very hard to scroll through them all and find what you want.
“Also, you can only select one so it is hard to look at multiple dimensions/values. I don’t know the answer to fixing this, but I do find it clumsy to use.”
2. Data lag
Another major concern for marketers has been the delay of same day data on GA4.
Advertisers have stressed that they need the ability to monitor performance constantly and are confused as to why the new analytics platform doesn’t appear to have this function.
Ron Weber, Sr Director at Actian, explained:
“The data latency is a joke, taking 12-24 hours to report on what is happening prevents this from being an actionable tool.”
“I wish I wasn’t backlogged for the past few years and thus could/would have realized this before.”
“Maybe Google will just move the computing power from UA -> GA4 so that this will change? [praying]!”
3. Data discrepancies
Marketers raised concerns about discrepancies on GA4 too. Differences in information had resulted in some worrying that the data being served therefore couldn’t possibly be accurate, resulting in people questioning if they can trust GA4.
One marketer, who wished to remain anonymous, told us:
“What I find problematic is the discrepancy between GA4 API and the respective Looker Studio Connector. Dimensions that are present in the API and even per default in the GA4 reporting interface are apparently missing in the Looker Studio connector, e.g. Landing Page dimension.”
“The Google Team seems to work on that, because at least the landing page dimension is now present. But that also means that I have to minus two days before UA data collection comes to an end – then adjust and check my numerous reports again and again.
“I am as ready as the tool is, but I certainly do not look forward to working solely with GA4. I am also thinking about looking for alternative tools to GA4.“
4. Hard to use
Marketers across the board have been reporting that GA4 is incredibly difficult to use. Even seasoned advertisers are finding it challenging trying to navigate their way around the new platform.
SEO and marketing consultant Jason McDonald told us:
“GA4 is a disaster. It is so much harder to use than UA, and completely non-intuitive.”
“It is nearly impossible to drill down by clicking as was possible than UA.
“It is the Windows Vista of Google Analytics, and all the cognoscenti are afraid to say publicly that it is garbage. But everyone knows it is garbage.”
5. Lack of resources
With so many marketers struggling as they try to figure out GA4, many are questioning why Google hasn’t provided more educational resources explaining how the new tool works.
The marketing team at Storis told us:
“I found most of the answers that I was stuck on from taking private courses through SMX or finally getting to a knowledgeable Google team member.
“Their documentation really lacked especially where there were major functional changes or gaps. I kept trying to figure out how to replicate things that weren’t brought over.
“Also, many of the people on Google’s own team aren’t up to speed making support calls confusing.”
6. No basic option
Some advertisers explained that marketing doesn’t wear a one size fits all hat. While some of the more complex settings may suit some, other professionals, such as bloggers, would just like access to basic tools on GA4 and are wasting time and money trying to understand features they don’t need to use.
Eb Gargano from Productive Blogging told us:
“One of the things I have observed is that many bloggers and online businesses have been totally losing their minds over GA4 – wasting days (and in some cases weeks) stressing over this, when their time could have been much better spent elsewhere.”
“The truth is most bloggers and online businesses need only a simple setup and an understanding of the basic reports. But no one is saying that, and online business owners are being scared into believing they need to spend lots of money on expensive courses and a lot of time creating multiple custom reports.”
“I think it’s a real shame there isn’t a ‘GA4 Lite’ for users who only need basic data.”
7. Lack of features
Another common complaint from marketers responding to our poll was the lack of features GA4 has to offer in comparison to Universal Analytics.
Marketers seemed particularly bothered by the removal of attribution features.
Elizabeth Rule, account manager and local SEO analyst for Sterling Sky, told us:
“I’ve been using GA4 as much as possible the past month to get used to it, but honestly it just feels like a clunkier version of GA3 with fewer features that I actually want to use.
“I find myself wanting to go back to GA3 every time I use GA4 – and it’s not because I’m just too used to it. Some of the features I use every day are missing or extremely complicated to find in GA4.”
8. Difficulty recreating reports
Clients and marketers alike have desperately been trying to recreate reports in GA4 that they previously relied upon when using Universal Analytics.
Unfortunately, it seems for many that this task has proved far more difficult than it should have been.
Tom Demers, co-founder and managing partner of SEO and PPC agency Measured SEM, told us:
“Clients are frustrated with recreating their existing reports in GA4, particularly for specific edge cases, recreating dashboards in third-party reporting tools – including Looker Studio.”
“There is also a lot of work around recreating events / goals within GA4 (and confusion around not seeing those events in certain reports).”
Marketers also complained that they were struggling to simply create reports in GA4 — an issue that didn’t impact them when they were working with UA.
According to many marketers who took part in our poll, Google has made many unnecessary changes when it comes to building reports, making their workload more difficult.
Eric Bushaw, search engine optimization manager at G5, told us:
“In time, I think GA4 will enable greater insights than UA did.”
“With that said, some of the seemingly arbitrary changes to how reporting can be done are frustrating.
“Eliminating views, restrictions around how custom segments can be used, and other seemingly unnecessary changes are going to make life difficult for us once UA is really gone.”
Several marketers contacted Search Engine Land to report bugs within GA4, claiming many features weren’t working as intended. Issues being flagged included syncing issues with Looker Studio Dashboard and AMP new script not working.
SEO consultant John McAlpin told us:
“The platform still has a lot of bugs, and we find ourselves spending more time figuring out why attribution is not properly labeled and why the data is inconsistent.”
Dig deeper: Find our GA4 coverage here
Marketers have found the enforced migration from Universal Analytics to GA4 tough, so it can be reassuring to know this challenge is being felt across the industry.
But regardless of how difficult the adjustment has been, search marketing expert Kayle Larkin told us it’s important that marketers get on board with Google’s latest analytics program as it will likely be around for a long time. She said:
“There’s an age-old saying that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”
“People use the internet in completely different ways than in 2012, and I see GA4 as Google’s answer for future-proofing website analytics. The industry needs a free option.”
“Marketers need to pause for a moment and think about what information is really useful and helpful – what they need to know.”
“Himanshu Sharma said it well on LinkedIn: ‘It is important to remember that we are not in the business of data retrieval. We are in the business of data analysis to improve ROI.’”
“Either way, you need to understand your data and how that supports your marketing initiatives.”
Larkin went on to explain that change within any platform and any industry can cause people to panic. But as time passes, confidence and familiarity increases, causing attitudes to change. She concluded:
“Everyone was mad when Facebook updated their interface and ‘couldn’t find anything’. It was ‘horrible’ and ‘the end of Facebook.’”
“Because we use Facebook daily, that was quickly forgotten, and no one even remembers what the old interface looked like.”
“The response to the GA4’s interface – you see the same reaction when any platform changes its interface. People do not like change.”
“But GA4 is so customizable, and with LookerStudio — there are a lot of options for getting the reports to visualize information and insights in a meaningful way.”
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