You Ask, I Answer: Biggest Mistakes in Google Analytics 4?

Kaylee asks, “What are the biggest mistakes you see people making with Google Analytics 4?”

You Ask, I Answer: Biggest Mistakes in Google Analytics 4?
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Christopher Penn 0:13

In today’s episode, Kaley asks, What are the biggest mistakes you see people making with Google Analytics 4.

I see so many.

Some of the easy ones not doing proper governance on your tags.

Because the default channel groupings, for example, that are built into GA four, you can’t change them.

Google has very specific requirements about how your stuff should be tagged.

If you don’t follow up, chunks of the application stop working.

Another one would be not understanding the difference between the events and conversions.

Events are any activity you designate that you want to keep track of conversions are things that presumably have some business impact.

They’re not the same thing.

It’s not a mistake people make because of their own volition.

But because of the way Google designed the application, there’s like four different places to do configuration and setup.

And you need to spend some time in each of them, which is kind of messy, kind of not optimal.

But it is the way it is.

But I think the biggest mistake of all, is wanting and trying to make Google Analytics 4 something it’s not right.

It is not an all in one analytics tool anymore.

The way Universal Analytics used to be Universal Analytics used to be a Swiss Army knife of analytics, you do your setup in it, you would deploy it, you would do your analysis, and you do your reporting in it.

One stop shopping.

Not great at any of those things, but not bad, right, but it got the job done.

Again, Swiss Army Knife gets the job done.

It’s not as good as best in class tool for any of those things.

But you also don’t need to carry around an entire toolbox.

Google Analytics 4, its overall architecture is a big departure from that.

Now, configuration, the bulk of configuration is expected to be done in something like Google Tag Manager, you can do Google Analytics 4 Without Tag Manager, but it’s not optimal.

It’s difficult to get as much flexibility as you want.

It is not compliant with a lot of things that consent managers.

So Google has made it very clear configuration, the bulk of configuration for your GA four is meant to be done in Google Tag Manager and then connecting it at those pieces to Google Analytics.

Google Analytics.

Google is designed to be a business intelligence tool, right to be an actual analysis tool.

What happened is the question is constantly trying to answer.

And it’s meant for you to go in there and do research, dig around, look at all the different pieces and figure out questions you want to ask it, and the answers you need to get.

Right.

So that’s that is its primary intended role.

And when you look at the design to look at the software, you look at the reports that are built in, you look at tools like explorer hub, it is abundantly clear, Google intends for GA for to be its own bi and analysis tool, kind of like you know, Looker, or Tableau or something really meant to be exploring your data and understanding it better.

It is not a reporting tool.

It is a mediocre reporting tool.

Google intends all of our reporting to be done the bulk of our reporting to non analysts to be done with Google Data Studio to distill down just what they need, and hand it to them with training wheels on it, essentially.

So that they can do a little bit of slicing and dicing, but they can’t screw up GA four, and they can’t screw up the rest of your analytics tech stack.

They’re just looking at their dashboard, and making decisions off of that.

And the biggest mistake people make when it comes to Google Analytics 4 is wanting it to go back to an expecting it to be that one stop shopping.

It is not one stop shopping.

It’s now a shopping mall.

It’s not a single store.

And we can certainly debate the merits of one system over the other one set of thought processes over the other.

There are a lot of people who like yeah, that’s the Swiss Army Knife approached isn’t really good at anything, but it’s not bad at everything.

And it’s a lot easier for people to sort of mentally understand whereas GA four is a intended to be a best of breed two point solution, right Tag Manager is intended to be a best of breed point solution, Data Studio and so on and so forth.

Christopher Penn 4:54

And that gives also it gives Google the ability to revamp Parts of the analytics process without so many dependencies within one tool by having those three core tasks split into three different tools, you can do a lot more maintenance, you can scale better, you can scale faster from a development perspective.

So for Google, it certainly is, is an upside to be apt to have those things be discrete entities.

But those would be my suggestions for the biggest mistakes people make with Google Analytics 4, it really is all about using it the way that Google has designed it to use.

And if you don’t like that, if you if it’s not working for you, it’s a good time to shop around for a different analytics tool, it’s good time to look at some of the alternatives that are out there, particularly open source alternatives.

I would say that, if the reasons you’re looking at leaving behind Google Analytics, are Reasons to Adopt an open source tool, you have to make a hard split anyway, at the dam recording, this is July the fourth, so in less than a year, 361 days, our data in the old Universal Analytics is going to come to a stop, no more data will be collected after that point.

And that data is never carried forward into Google Analytics 4.

So now, is the time to make a decision.

Are you going to stick with GA four? If so, get it up and running as quickly as possible.

Because otherwise you won’t have you over your data in you know, 361 days when when you have to make the switch.

Or if you’re not going to stick with it, now is the time to install your new solution again.

So you have almost a year’s worth of time to fact check your your new proposed solution to experiment test with it and figure out does it do what you wanted to do? My recommendation, if you’re going to part vendors, would be to look at the matomo system, which is an open source analytics tool that is similar to a little more similar to the way Universal Analytics functions.

Certainly much more similar to that then then Google Analytics 4 is not as robust, but it is open source, which means you run it on your own servers.

And then no one can take it away from you.

And because it’s running on your server, it’s running on your hardware.

It’s yours.

Obviously, you probably want to keep it up to date, keep it patched against security leaks.

But at that point, that’s your baby and and you can do with it whatever you like, and you’re no longer beholden to a third party that can capriciously just turn off your analytics on you.

Even with a fair amount of notice that still as turning off your analytics and turning off your data at some point in the near future.

When you run your own system, you don’t have the problem because as long as you keep paying your bills for your servers, it’s not an issue.

So that’s something to think about as you’re looking very hard at your analytic strategy.

Now’s the time to make those decisions.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on on the stakes.

Good question.

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