4 Ways the New Google Analytics 4 Sucks (and 5 Ways It Rules)

ga4 sucks blog cover

If you rely on google analytics, you need to be thinking about Google Analytics 4. The current version of google analytics (universal) recently announced its plan to stop collecting data in July 2023. We are a digital marketing and Google Analytics 4 agency here to tell you why some people feel like the mandatory switch to the new Google Analytics 4 sucks – and how to navigate its benefits as a marketer.

While this new measurement tool that Google has released is an exciting turn away from its predecessor, Universal Analytics, the opportunity brings a need to invest time and resources to unlock its full potential.

google analytics graph showing number of users and sessions

GA4 Migration Services: Unlock the power of Google Analytics 4 Before You Lose Out. As Universal Google Analytics sunsets, Google Analytics 4 represents a significant change in the digital marketing landscape. 

To get ahead of the fast-approaching deadline for migrating to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), we’ve been diving head first into the new tool to understand the good, the bad, and the ugly. First, let’s debunk the backlash before we break down why it’s worth it to start using it sooner rather than later.

Debunking The Backlash Against the New Google Analytics

Change happens fast when you’re working in the digital marketing industry. The rollout of Google Analytics 4 is a considerable change to take seriously and with urgency. Begin change management early to fully understand and leverage the ways GA4 is different from Universal. The product is so new that long-time veterans in the industry are still grappling with the foundational questions like what is GA4? and how does it compare to Universal analytics?

Early on, we’re finding that few companies have experience using GA4 – or even have their new analytics properties fully set up. So for many, even basic questions about it from stakeholders are difficult to answer now. This lack of resources, by and large, is why Google Analytics 4 sucks.

There are not yet many resources like case studies around how marketers can activate the tool to drive success. So, how can anyone expect buy-in from stakeholders unfamiliar with this new digital analytics version? We can tell you from early conversations with different businesses that this lack of resources and use cases, in addition to the evolving nature of the tool, are significant obstacles to adopting GA4.

google analytics 4 user interfact

4 Ways Google Analytics 4 Sucks

As an agency with expertise in GA4 implementation, here is what you should know about some of the challenges and limitations of the move to Google Analytics 4.

    1. You Could Lose Your Year-Over-Year Data If You Delay
    2. New Mental Models Require Your Time To Learn And Explore
    3. Settings and Definitions Are Changing… Even As We Speak…
    4. Weaving In Your Historical Data Can Take Some Elbow Grease

1. You Could Lose Your Year-Over-Year Data If You Delay

“Tyranny of Urgency” is a term I like to use to describe what google digital marketing agencies and teams will work together to try and avoid. The phrase comes from a booklet by Charles Hummel but is a business classic. It describes the phenomena of urgent tasks or requests getting in the way of what’s truly important.

Since Universal Analytics will stop collecting data in July 2023, people who rely on google analytics for year-over-year (YoY) reporting will need to track their current key performance indicators in GA4 by July 2022. That is, if they want to maintain year-over-year reporting in the tool. If you miss that deadline, you will have a reporting gap in data collected for YoY metrics until 365 days after completing that work.

2. New Mental Models Require Your Time To Learn And Explore.

GA4 is an inherently different tool, so everyone will need to approach this tool with a beginner’s mindset. Differences in the questions that analytics can answer for you mean that you will need to teach and enable others within your organization about how it works. That takes time.

You may need to rethink and rebuild your reports.

That takes time.

The user interface of google analytics has changed.

That takes time to learn.

screenshot of google analytics dashboard

Google analytics 4 natively integrates with Big Query. There are implications there, which can take time to become curious about.

While dealing with new and novel things is fulfilling to many in the industry, it can be tough to get excited by the mandatory change if you feel strapped; It’s not easy if you’re up to your eyeballs in work that you should have done already. A solution might be getting additional resources to help like a digital analytics partner, but guess what? That takes time to justify.

In the end, there is no escaping it. Someone will need to put time into this migration.

3. Settings and Definitions Are Changing… Even As We Speak…

We are getting weekly updates from Google Analytics 4 experts, who give us more details about the tool’s advantages. But, of course, the devil always lies in the details, so we must understand the new definitions around GA4 metrics and react to fresh updates from Google as we integrate them.

Here’s an example: several in the industry have noticed issues reporting on custom dimensions with “high cardinality.” Cardinality means the number of potential options for a value.

After noting this issue, Google added a statement acknowledging the situation with custom dimensions with over 500 potential options; however, we have no guidance on whether (or when) they will do anything about it.

Determining an event tracking plan becomes a big challenge with that ambiguity. And it just adds more complexity to the migration process, knowing we might have to revisit some sections if we see updates.

4. Weaving In Your Historical Data Can Take Some Elbow Grease

One major thing that sucks about GA4 is that it isn’t going to contain the data you have potentially been gathering for over a decade in Google Analytics Universal. So, unfortunately, out of the box, you might not be able to ask questions over long periods like you may have grown accustomed to.

Ga4 is a blank slate, but for many companies, it’s crucial to have a historical perspective. The global pandemic has caused much disruption for some businesses regarding their baselines. If you are interested in what happened in 2019, you will miss out on having that data.

It is possible to migrate data from Universal Analytics into GA4, but it’s another thing that takes time and resources to achieve. You may be thinking that given all this, your organization will need some Google Analytics 4 help. You’re probably right.

ga4 custom definitions

Augurian has focused on Google Analytics 4 agency services for institutions looking to succeed in this transition. Below we’ll explain why you and your team should get excited about the change.

5 Big Benefits of GA4

Once you understand how to use GA4, you’ll hopefully share our excitement about the future of measuring web traffic and success in the future. To date, the most prominent benefits we see are around how the tools can answer questions related to time, the fact that it natively integrates with Big Query, the increased actionability from predictive modeling, new metrics, and the flexibility of the UI.


1. GA4 is much better at answering time-related questions

One of the foundational promises of GA4 was that it had a “more flexible data model.”

Unfortunately, when you initially hear that phrase, it can be challenging to understand what that means in reality. In the past, Universal Analytics was hamstrung by its data structure. Some metrics and KPIs, for technical reasons, couldn’t be related to each other, making it difficult to answer specific questions.

One tangible feature that GA4 solves is questions relating to time.

GA4’s data structure allows you to answer questions like, “what is the average amount of time it takes a user to convert from a visitor to a purchaser?” based on their consumption of certain content. It’s advantageous for digital marketers to know whether a particular video or case study tangibly impacts that time-to-purchase system-wide. Learns like that can be used to optimize the user journey in ways Google Analytics historically couldn’t.

This type of tool benefit is one example of why it’s essential to take a beginner’s mindset to GA4 – and not simply try to “check boxes” when it comes to implementation. Engaging with digital marketing stakeholders who understand the capabilities of this tool will be critical to your company leveraging it to its fullest potential.

2. GA4 Natively integrates with BigQuerybigquery

BigQuery GA4 integration may be the most exciting benefit discovered in our early exploration of GA4. Google Analytics 4 integrates with Google’s BigQuery data warehouse product. The specific feature that makes this integration interesting is that data passes between the two systems seconds after it’s collected in GA4. The implication is that you can potentially power some new and novel marketing automation strategies that can strategize toward your customers’ behavior in real-time.

Google Analytics 4, like Google Analytics Universal, allocates a unique ID to users who visit your website.

Google Analytics 4 has new features that allow you to assign this ID to specific users based on whether they log in – and can help tie that data together to tell a cohesive story around their customer journey.

augurian property settings

Let’s paint a picture here. Imagine you have a specific user ID, and you can tie that user ID to a customer’s email in BigQuery. If you can do that part, you will have the foundation to trigger marketing automation based on that user’s specific actions. This marketing automation could put them in an audience to receive specific ads, website content, or direct mail.

It could trigger them to receive a tailored email based on the website sections they do or do not visit. Or it could trigger a note for your sales team, so they can understand that the user looked at particular products and potentially start a call or request to follow up.

In addition to the marketing automation, the insights available through data analysis also improve greatly. So while it’s still early, we see business marketing leaders beginning to think of BigQuery more like a customer data platform. Which is an exciting opportunity for many institutions both in the medium and long term.

3. GA4 has predictive modeling you can actually use.

GA4 leverages AI and machine learning for clients with enough data to create audiences with much practical value for paid media and CRO teams. These predictive metrics include “visitors who are 90% likely to purchase” or “customers who are XY% likely to churn.” While we can’t say precisely how these audiences are determined, we know it’s based on the events and goals you set in the system.

These metrics give digital marketers new levers to consider when it comes to optimization. For instance, being able to zero in on the more likely-to-churn audience could provide considerable value to someone conducting an A/B conversion rate optimization test with the aim of reducing customer churn. Google’s CRO tool, Google Optimize, can also be easily set up to leverage GA4 audiences directly – a test that wasn’t possible with the previous universal analytics.

suggested audience settings

The audiences relating to customer purchase probability are also easy to take action on. For example, many companies leverage retargeting to continue to reengage prospective customers after their initial visits. In addition, these audiences allow you to test how to allocate those retargeting dollars more effectively.

So, does it make sense to focus on only customers with a 90% chance of purchasing? 

Maybe, maybe not, depending on the industry. You could argue that they were going to purchase anyway.

Does it make sense to exclude prospects with a 10% chance of purchase?

Probably, but worth a test too. The fact that these audiences can exist in the first place means it’s a question we can now test and answer for individual marketing programs. It isn’t clear whether Google will add additional metrics in the future.

So far, here are the system’s predictive metrics:

  • Churn Probability
  • In-App Purchase Probability
  • Predicted Revenue
  • Purchase Probability

4. GA4 has new metrics.

Speaking of metrics, GA4 has new ones that enable stakeholders to tell better business stories. While Google has added many metrics, the two immediately intriguing new categories live in the User and User lifetime section. In the user section, we particularly like the new engagement metrics that articulate repeat visit percentages over a specific time. Examples include DAU/WAU, DAU/MAU, WAU/MAU, PMAU, and DAU.

  • DAU = Daily active users
  • WAU = Weekly active users
  • MAU = Monthly active users
  • PMAU = Paying monthly active users

These metrics are an expression of rates. So DAU/WAU articulates the percentage of daily active users compared to the number of weekly active users. Fluctuations in these metrics might speak to the level of engagement with your content and allows you to measure how different marketing levers impact that number.

If you started a retargeting or email marketing campaign, you could expect that number to rise. Removing substantial sections of your website or enhancing your paid media targeting may – or may not – impact those metrics. It’s an excellent quantitative metric that speaks to website and visitor quality and didn’t exist before.

The user lifetime section is relatively straightforward but allows for more confidence in determining user value and creating valuable audiences for targeting or CRO purposes. Among others, metrics in this section include lifetime value (LTV), lifetime sessions, and lifetime user value as percentages relative to customer base.

lifetime value graph

The user lifetime section allows you to ask questions like: Are my most frequent users the users driving revenue? Maybe, but maybe not. Often you’d expect that visits would lead to revenue gain, but perhaps your most frequent visitors are your competitor’s sales reps. Depending on the answer, you may focus on including or excluding that group.

Another nice thing about LTV metrics is that for e-commerce businesses. Before, you frequently had to measure paid media performance based on the sales generated in that session. In reality, you are likely driving more ROI since that user will more likely come to the website and purchase in the future with less assistance from an advertising client. Discovering true lifetime value could be transformative for companies in e-commerce spaces without a strong grip on these metrics.

5. GA4’s UI is more flexible, reminiscent of Google Data Studio

The last main benefit of GA4 is that its user interface (UI) is much more flexible. At first, this can seem like a drawback; the UI is a bit clunky until you become familiar with it. But after you get your bearings, it opens up a newfound ability to generate specific reports.

Path analysis and custom funnels, once exclusive to expensive products like GA360, now can be done for free as long as you can work in the user interface. Theoretically, we should expect this to open up digital analytics to be more helpful to stakeholders.

For instance, IT considerations can build their own technical website performance report. Paid media marketers can build their own specific reports for their ad platforms. And people in charge of conversion rate optimization can build their own reports. You don’t have to rely on Google to have thought about you when they built out the UI.

universal analytics screenshot

Universal Analytics is Sunsetting.
Find traction and get ahead of the mandatory migration into Google Analytics 4. Teams that will win in the future will be the ones who have done the research and put in the work to get ahead. Get in touch to start today. Explore Augurian’s GA4 Migration services.

The New Google Analytics Sucks Without an Agency to Help You

As you can see, challenges and opportunities are presented to the industry as universal analytics retires.

Augurian is a digital marketing agency and industry leader in engaging and building GA4 properties to maximize the value digital marketing teams can bring to an organization.

ga4 migration banner

We help digital marketers drive success for their organizations with Google analytics among other tools. Call us today to discuss your specific situation and needs for GA4 migration, customization, or activation. We go beyond turning on the lights to approach the process with a strategic lens that leverages our deep experience in assisting organizations to onboard GA4. Connect with us, today!

Thanks for reading, and happy migrating! Here are a few more articles to explore:

Google Analytics 4 Services

Website Analytics Agency

Director, Services at Augurian
Derrick Turner is a Partner and Director of Services at Augurian. Derrick has a passion for digital media and has seen how effective it can be when managed by the right hands. A digital marketing veteran, Derrick has executed successful campaigns across many industries. He has an interest in connecting strategies, teams, & platforms together to support business objectives.
Derrick Turner
Explore Our Latest Digital Marketing Tips