Google Analytics 4 has impressed and fascinated our team at Data Driven. The changes that came along with GA4 have meant a lot of improvements, and there are more rolling out all the time.
But just because we love Google Analytics 4, doesn’t mean the platform is flawless…far from it.
There are some significant shortcomings at this stage in the game, and, especially if you’re new to GA4, you must be aware of them. There is still a lot of area for improvement and some workarounds are necessary in the meantime.
So, what’s lacking in GA4?
There are some issues with GA4 and a few key things are lacking. You can no longer set up views and certain reports are missing. But even though GA4 has flaws, workarounds are possible and there are many strengths to the platform too.
Today, we’ll discuss the issues we’ve found in GA4 and give you some workarounds where we can. So come with us to learn about GA4’s shortcomings and where you might need to make adjustments to your property.
The Good Stuff
There are many welcome changes when you look at GA4 as compared with Universal Analytics. First, the fact that we now have an app+web platform is huge. Also, praising the new layout, we love the fact that this is an event-based model.
Overall, we find GA4 to be more streamlined and easy to customize too. Another big improvement is that GA4 focuses on engaged sessions rather than just sessions, which gives you a more accurate view of your performance.
Also, as we move forward with our gripes, keep in mind that we’re not talking about all the changes and perceived “losses.” In fact, some of the most controversial changes are actually major improvements in our eyes.
For example, losing the bounce rate metric in GA4 upset many users. However, the new metrics of engagement rate and page value make up for this loss and provide a more comprehensive understanding of your performance. In short, this change was a good one, and there are many others that are very positive.
But, of course, while we’re very impressed with the new platform overall, it’s certainly not perfect. Some issues are present right now that might cause problems for you when switching over from Universal Analytics to GA4. In the next section, we’ll discuss some issues you’ll encounter when diving into this new platform and make suggestions for how you can work around them as you get your footing.
The Issues With GA4
As you know, we’re big fans of the new version of Google Analytics. But GA4 comes with some issues you should be aware of and know how to handle. Our experts have spoken, so here’s our list of gripes and some ideas on how to work around them:
1. No views: One cornerstone of Universal Analytics is the ability to configure views. By using views, you can have a place for testing and can clean up your data by filtering out internal traffic. You can also have a raw view and a view for anything else you need.
But, you’ll quickly notice that GA4 doesn’t use views. And, there may be no plan to add views to GA4 anytime in the future either. This is a big point of contention for a lot of users and will take some getting used to. But, luckily you can adjust for the loss of some of your favorite views, like the ability to filter out internal traffic. Check out our previous post on missing views in GA4 to learn how.
2. Limited IP filtering: On a related note, you also have limited IP filtering in GA4. You’ll notice you’re limited in how many IP addresses you can block, especially since GA4 doesn’t support RegEx.
3. No hostname filter: You can set this up in Google Tag Manager, but it’s not currently available in GA4. Google Analytics expert Fred Pike argues: “I think it’s way less critical in GA4 than GA3 since it’s much harder to spam a property using the Measurement Protocol. So the fact that I miss it may just be a reflection of old GA3 thinking.” Still, it can be a challenge, which is why you’ll want expert eyes on your Google Tag Manager account if possible.
4. Limitations on custom dimensions: There are also some limitations in GA4 that you might find frustrating. For example, GA4 uses custom dimensions to augment your reports. But, you can only use up to 50, and that can be a stop-gap for your business. Also, the lack of product-level custom dimensions in GA4 can be a frustration if you heavily depend on e-commerce. But there are a lot of ways to use your custom dimensions to cater to your needs. For more information on setting up custom dimensions in GA4, check out our previous post here.
5. New design: Some find the new design of GA4 more challenging to navigate. The simple menu layout makes it more difficult to tell when something new has been released or updated. Also, the report builder is overall less flexible. For example, you can’t adjust the column widths.
6. No recurring email reports: Another thing that really bums us out is the fact that you can’t set up recurring email reports in GA4. This can save you a lot of time and ensure your clients get their reports on schedule without having to do extra work. But while we miss regular email reports, you can set up other recurring alerts that will be sent to your email. Check out our article here to find out how.
7. Missing reports: You’ll also find some reports you loved in Universal Analytics are missing in GA4. For example, you no longer have a behavior flow report in the new interface. But again, there is a replacement of sorts in GA4. Here, we recommend using the path exploration report or the funnel exploration report. You can find more information in our previous article here.
8. Missing reports: You cannot add custom annotations in GA4. In UA you can add both private and shared notes on timelines. These help you further down the road to remember when certain events, both onsite and offsite, took place and affected your traffic, or user behavior on your site.
As you can see, our team has a healthy list of complaints when it comes to GA4, and it’s important you understand where you’ll need to make adjustments. This platform is very different from what you’re familiar with in Universal Analytics, and it’ll take time to get used to things even if there are some very good reasons why Google needed to move away from Universal Analytics.
But rest assured that even with its flaws, you’re dealing with a versatile and user-friendly platform. While there is much to explore, you can get started with your new GA4 property very easily through the setup assistant.
And, yes, learning Google Analytics 4 can be hard and there will probably be things you despise. But in the end, GA4 is a fantastic tool. While you’re waiting for other adjustments to be made, we strongly advise you to keep your Universal Analytics property and link it to your new GA4 property so you can get the best of both worlds and the most complete look at your data.
The Bottom Line
Google Analytics 4 is a welcome change to data analysis. From the app+web design to the event-based model, there’s a lot to love. But there are issues as well, and we hope to see at least some of them addressed down the line. The missing views in GA4 is probably the most frustrating issue, but it looks like we’ll likely be moving forward without them for the foreseeable future. We also see limitations with IP filtering and several other design and report flaws.
Still, Google Analytics 4 is at the forefront of data analysis, and the best way to work around the issues we mentioned is to get familiar with the new platform and customize it how you need.
Are there any other issues in GA4 that you’re having a hard time getting over? Let us know!