Google Analytics User Tracking
is Less Accurate in 2023

GA4 vs UA: What's Lost in The Big Downgrade Understanding GA4's Default User Tracking Settings

Instructions on how to run a referral report in Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics is a widely-used analytics tool that allows businesses to track website traffic, user behavior, and other important metrics. However, despite its popularity, user tracking accuracy in Google Analytics is becoming less accurate in 2023. In this article, we will explore the reasons for this decline.

How Google Analytics 4 is Less Accurate:

1.) Increased use of ad blockers, cookie blockers, and other privacy-enhancing technologies

Ad blockers are browser extensions or applications that prevent ads and tracking scripts from functioning properly. They also prevent the triggering of activities such as website to website referrals, which can limit the ability of Google Analytics to track user behavior accurately. In many cases webmasters are seeing unexplained increases in direct visits and declines in referrals from previously high converting referrers. According to a 2021 report, ad blocker usage increased to 38.8%, reaching a total of over 1 billion active users worldwide and the adoption rate continues to grow each year.

Cookie blockers are tools or extensions that allow users to control and restrict the use of cookies on websites. These tools enhance user privacy by blocking or limiting the deployment of cookies in web browsers. This can have an impact on Google Analytics referral tracking because Google Analytics relies on cookies to track and attribute referrals.

When a user clicks on a referral link and visits a website, a cookie is typically set to track that referral source in Google Analytics. However, if a user has a cookie blocker enabled that blocks or restricts cookies, it can affect the accuracy and completeness of referral tracking in Google Analytics.

By blocking or limiting cookies, users may prevent Google Analytics from properly attributing referral sources, leading to incomplete or inaccurate referral reports. It's important for website owners and marketers to be aware of the potential impact of cookie blockers on referral tracking and to consider alternative tracking methods, such as implementing first-party cookies or utilizing other tracking technologies, to ensure accurate referral data in Google Analytics.

In addition to ad blockers, VPNs and secure browsing technologies such as HTTPS also limit the ability of Google Analytics to track users. VPNs can mask a user's IP address, making it difficult to track their location or identify them as a unique visitor. HTTPS encrypts data sent between the user's browser and the website, making it harder to intercept and analyze.

2.) Changes in consumer behavior and data collection regulations

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of privacy concerns and are more cautious about sharing their personal information online. This has led to the introduction of data protection regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). These regulations require businesses to obtain explicit consent from users before collecting their data, which can make it harder to collect accurate tracking data.

3.) Limitations of cookie-based tracking

The end of cookies is expected to have an impact on referral tracking. Cookies are commonly used to track and attribute referrals by storing information on a user's device when they click on a referral link. With the increasing privacy concerns and changes in web browser policies, the use of third-party cookies is currently being phased out.

As a result, alternative methods are being developed to track referrals effectively. One approach is to rely on first-party data, where websites directly track referrals through unique identifiers or codes embedded in the URL. This method allows websites to maintain control over their own data and track referrals within their own ecosystem.

The phasing out of third-party cookies will indeed have an impact on referral reports in Google Analytics. Currently, Google Analytics relies on cookies to track and attribute referrals from external websites. When a user clicks on a referral link and visits a website, a cookie is set to track that referral source.

With the changes in web browser policies and the decreasing support for third-party cookies, the accuracy and completeness of referral reports in Google Analytics may be affected. As more browsers block or limit the use of third-party cookies, some referral sources may not be properly attributed, leading to incomplete or inaccurate data in the reports.

4.) Issues with data quality

Inaccurate or outdated data can significantly impact decision-making, and it is becoming increasingly challenging to maintain data quality in the face of changing user behavior and data collection regulations. Data cleansing and validation processes are necessary to ensure that the data collected is accurate and up-to-date.

5.) Increasing use of mobile devices and the impact on user tracking accuracy

Mobile devices have become the primary means of accessing the internet, with over half of all website visits coming from mobile devices in 2022. However, tracking users across different mobile devices can be challenging due to the fragmentation of mobile platforms and operating systems. Google Analytics' mobile tracking capabilities are also limited, which can result in inaccurate data.

6.) The challenges of tracking users across different platforms and devices

With the rise of cross-platform usage, where users switch between their desktops, laptops, mobile devices, and other platforms such as smart TVs and voice assistants, tracking users across different platforms and devices is becoming increasingly challenging. Google Analytics' cross-platform tracking capabilities are limited, which can lead to inaccurate data.

7.) The impact of data privacy scandals on user trust and willingness to share data

Data privacy scandals such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal have eroded user trust in the way businesses collect and use their data. This can lead to lower willingness to share data, making it harder to collect accurate tracking data.

8.) The limitations of Google Analytics' attribution modeling and its impact on accuracy

Google Analytics' attribution modeling assigns credit to various touchpoints in a customer journey, such as ads, social media, and email campaigns. However, accurate attribution can be challenging in multi-touchpoint customer journeys, which can result in inaccurate data.

9.) The role of AI in user tracking and its impact on accuracy

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly important in user tracking, as it can help to identify patterns and trends in user behavior that may not be visible through manual analysis. However, AI-based tracking also has its limitations, such as the risk of overfitting and the need for high-quality training data. The accuracy of AI-based tracking also depends on the quality of the data it is trained on.

What can businesses do to adapt to the changing landscape of user tracking?

Use a variety of tracking methods

Businesses should use a variety of tracking methods to ensure that they are collecting accurate data. This can include a combination of cookies, fingerprinting, and other tracking methods. It is also important to track user behavior across different devices and platforms to get a more comprehensive view of user behavior.

Focus on data quality and validation

Data quality and validation should be a top priority for businesses. This can include implementing data cleansing and validation processes, as well as regularly auditing data to ensure that it is accurate and up-to-date.

Consider alternative analytics tools

While Google Analytics is a popular tool, businesses should consider alternative analytics tools that may be better suited to their specific needs. This can include tools that focus on specific types of data, such as social media analytics or mobile analytics.

Utilize Server-Side Analytics

Server-side analytics refers to the process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data about website or application usage on the server rather than relying solely on client-side tracking. By implementing server-side analytics, organizations can gain deeper insights into user behavior, performance metrics, and other valuable data points. This approach offers several advantages, including enhanced privacy and security, as user data is processed and stored on the server side rather than being exposed to potential vulnerabilities on the client side. Server-side analytics also allows for more accurate data collection, as it captures information directly from server logs and eliminates the impact of ad blockers and other client-side limitations. Furthermore, server-side analytics provides flexibility in data processing and integration, enabling organizations to combine and analyze data from multiple sources to generate comprehensive and actionable insights.

Stay up-to-date with data privacy regulations

Businesses should stay up-to-date with data privacy regulations and ensure that they are obtaining explicit consent from users before collecting their data. This can help to build trust with users and ensure that businesses are collecting data in a responsible and ethical manner.

In conclusion, the accuracy of user tracking in Google Analytics is becoming less accurate in 2023 due to a variety of factors, including the increased use of privacy-enhancing technologies, changes in consumer behavior and data collection regulations, and limitations of cookie-based tracking. Businesses should adapt to the changing landscape of user tracking by using a variety of tracking methods, focusing on data quality and validation, considering alternative analytics tools, and staying up-to-date with data privacy regulations. By doing so, they can continue to collect accurate data and make informed decisions about their online presence.

GA4 vs UA: What's Lost in The Big Downgrade

Google Analytics has been a cornerstone tool for businesses to measure website performance, track user behavior, and make data-driven decisions. With the release of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), Google promised a more advanced and future-ready analytics platform. However, as businesses transition from the familiar Universal Analytics to GA4, they discover significant differences and challenges that can make this transition difficult. In this article, we will explore the changes in metric measurement and highlight some of the negative aspects of GA4, shedding light on why businesses might find this switch difficult.

Navigating Changes

Navigating Changes in GA4: The Metric Puzzle Unveiled

As businesses transition from Universal Analytics to the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4), they're encountering more than just a shift in the interface. One of the standout negative changes that users are grappling with involves how metrics are measured. This difference in measurement can be confusing, potentially leading to a misinterpretation of website performance. Let's analyze a well-known example:

Metric Measurement Discrepancies

Among the notable shifts from Universal Analytics, one area causing considerable confusion is the change in how metrics are measured in GA4. This alteration can introduce uncertainty, especially when comparing data across the two platforms.

Time on Site vs. Average Engagement Time

In Universal Analytics, "Time on Site" was a go-to metric for understanding user engagement. It wasn't uncommon to see average durations stretching across several minutes, indicating a healthy level of interaction. However, the introduction of GA4 brings a notable transformation with the introduction of "Average Engagement Time."

The catch? GA4's Average Engagement Time often reports durations significantly shorter than its predecessor—frequently in the range of 2-3 minutes for the same pages. This change may provide the false impression that user engagement is at an all-time low. In reality, it's not a decline in engagement but rather a shift in how the metric is calculated.

The discrepancy lies in the methodology behind these metrics. While both aim to measure user interaction, the complexities in calculation make direct comparisons challenging. The change in terminology and measurement can potentially skew perceptions, leading users to believe there's a decline in website performance when, in fact, it's a difference in the lens through which we view user engagement.

Understanding that metrics like "Average Engagement Time" are not directly equivalent to the familiar metric "Time on Site" can prevent unnecessary panic and foster a more accurate interpretation of user behavior.

Limited Historical Data:

One of the notable drawbacks of GA4 is the absence of easy access to historical data from its predecessor, Universal Analytics. This means businesses face a hurdle when comparing their past and present performance. Imagine trying to assess how your website or app performed last year compared to now—it's like trying to connect puzzle pieces without having the full picture.

Complex Event Tracking:

GA4 comes with advanced event tracking capabilities, but this has introduced complexity that businesses find challenging. Setting up and configuring event tracking in GA4 requires a bit more effort, especially for those who are used to the straightforward approach of Universal Analytics.

E-commerce Tracking:

For businesses involved in e-commerce, GA4 introduces a more complex setup for tracking transactions and revenue. Unlike the simpler process in Universal Analytics, GA4 demands additional effort to ensure accurate tracking.

User Privacy Regulations:

As privacy regulations such as GDPR and CCPA take centerstage, GA4 has implemented compliance features. While this is a positive step for businesses looking to respect user privacy, it comes with a trade-off. Stricter tracking restrictions mean fewer identifiable users in your analytics.

The GA4 Dilemma: Navigating the Impact of Ad Blockers and Content Blockers

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) brings many changes to the table, but not all of them are warmly welcomed by users. In this blog post, let's explore a specific challenge GA4 faces concerning ad blockers and content blockers and break down the basics in simple terms.

Understanding Ad Blockers:

Firstly, let's talk about ad blockers. An ad blocker acts as a shield for internet users who dislike unwanted web advertisements. It's a tool—usually an ad remover extension—that, when activated, prevents advertisements from displaying on web pages. In simpler terms, it's like having a magic shield that wards off those pesky pop-ups and banners, creating a smoother and ad-free browsing experience.

What do Ad Blockers do:

Ad blockers work by identifying and blocking scripts and elements on a webpage that are associated with advertisements. They act as gatekeepers, ensuring you can enjoy your online activities without being bombarded by unwanted ads. From a user's perspective, it's a relief; however, for website owners and marketers relying on user data to guide business decisions, it can be a challenge as it impacts the true visibility and effectiveness of measuring success of their ads and website features.

What is a Good Ad Blocker:

When choosing an ad blocker, users often look for one that effectively blocks ads without slowing their browsing experience. A good ad blocker is like a trustworthy companion that quietly does its job without causing any disruption. The top ad blockers include Adblock Plus, uBlock Origin, AdGuard, etc. These might be helpful for the average user but ad blockers may block more than just advertisements as they look for scripts to stop working. This can cause dysfunctional experiences in a webpage that uses many scripts, and users don’t always know what their ad blocker is doing behind the scenes of it operating in their browser.

What are Content Blockers in the GA4 Context:

Now, let's connect this to GA4. GA4 relies on tracking codes to gather data about user interactions on a website or app. However, ad blockers and content blockers can interfere with these tracking codes, limiting the data that GA4 can collect.

As businesses transition to GA4, they find themselves in a landscape where the effectiveness of their analytics is affected by users' web ad blockers and content blockers. It's a delicate balance between user preferences for an ad-free experience and the need for businesses to gather data for meaningful insights. In the evolving digital ecosystem, businesses and marketers must navigate these challenges strategically to make the most of GA4's potential.

Data Privacy and Compliance Differences

In this chart, we highlight the differences related to data privacy and compliance between UA and GA4.

Aspect Universal Analytics (UA) Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
User Privacy Regulations Compliance Some compliance features Enhanced compliance features for GDPR, CCPA, and more
Identifiable Users Higher identifiable user count Fraction of identifiable users due to tracking restrictions
Handling of Tracking Restrictions Less affected by ad blockers, tracking system blockers More affected by ad blockers, tracking system blockers, and JavaScript blocking
User Consent and Data Collection Less emphasis on user consent Strong emphasis on explicit user consent for data collection

Usability Concerns with Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) holds the promise of advanced analytics, but for many users, it comes with challenges that make the transition from Universal Analytics (UA) less than smooth. In this section, we'll simplify and explore the usability concerns that businesses are struggling with when it comes to GA4.

Lack of Intuitiveness:

The first hurdle businesses face is the lack of intuitiveness in GA4's report settings and layout. Performing smooth, straightforward tasks, like creating an Explorations report, involves a multi-step process that might leave new users scratching their heads. There is such a high barrier to entry that it urges the need to have staff on hand that has learned the officially recommended methods to build reports otherwise only overly generic data is all that can be easily seen.

Missing Annotations Feature:

GA4 bids farewell to the Annotations feature present in UA. Annotations were like digital post-it notes, helping users track events and changes efficiently. Their absence in GA4 makes troubleshooting and collaboration more challenging.

Sharing Issues:

Sharing reports in GA4 comes with its own set of challenges. Users can't limit specific recipients and shared reports lack flexibility in adjusting date ranges.

Limited Search Functionality:

GA4's search functionality takes a massive technical hit by lacking the ability to use regular expressions (regex). This limitation makes it harder to filter data effectively based on URL patterns, which was a handy feature in UA. This specific search functionality is a basic standard to almost any modern software, it is absurd that such a basic feature would be unavailable in an updated version of Google’s analytical software.

Challenges with URL Changes:

If a website decides to switch up its URL structure, GA4 users will face immediate issues with previously configured audience settings and the joining of the past and present data.

Time-Consuming Mistakes:

Errors in audience creation can lead to wasted time, forcing users to discard work and start afresh.

A Difficult User Interface:

GA4's user interface can be difficult to use with long dropdown lists and the need for multiple steps in selecting dimensions, segments and numerous values.

Limited Time Series Charts:

GA4's Time Series charts only show data at the day level, lacking the flexibility to view data at the week or month level.

Editing Reports for Basic Dimensions:

Simple dimensions, like the Landing Page in a Traffic report, now require report editing, adding an extra layer of complexity and time consumption.

Replaced Segments with Comparisons:

GA4 replaces Segments with Comparisons, but the new feature lacks preset options and doesn't allow users to save custom comparisons for future use.

Complex Filter Application:

Applying filters to both dimensions in a report with a secondary dimension involves navigating multiple interfaces, making it less intuitive for users. Again, not having the ability to use regex, also known as regular expressions, creates this cluttered interface while still making further challenges to target specific data attributes.

Metric Limitation:

GA4 limits the number of metrics, potentially requiring frequent report edits and adjustments.

Custom Chart Creation:

Visualizing data changes, such as monthly traffic, now demands exporting data and creating charts externally, adding an extra step to the process.

Custom Chart Creation

Getting Through the Privacy Maze: GA4, User Privacy, and Regional Variations

User privacy regulations play a crucial role in shaping the landscape. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is no exception, and it's changed to align with privacy regulations like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act). Let's break down what this means, keeping it simple.

GDPR: The European Wave of Regulations

Imagine GDPR as a set of rules for the digital seas, and Europe is the captain steering the ship. GDPR is all about user data rights and privacy. It says, "Users have the right to know what data you're collecting and why." GA4, being a global tool, has to follow these rules. Businesses using GA4 must ensure they have clear policies and ways for users to say, "I'm okay with you tracking my data."

GA4 and Privacy

GA4 has put on its dancing shoes to comply with these regulations. It's like a polite guest at your party—respecting the rules and ensuring it doesn't overstep boundaries. Compliance is crucial, and GA4 aims to provide businesses with tools to respect user privacy while gaining just enough insights to give the software some value.

Regional Twist: California vs. Others

Now, here comes the interesting part— many different places have different rules! It's like having different game rules for soccer at every field. Take California, for example. They have a set of rules called CCPA, which are stricter than others.

CCPA: The Californian Tide of Privacy Protection

Now, picture CCPA as a special set of rules for California saying, "Californians have the right to tell businesses not to sell their personal information." For GA4 users operating in California, this means providing users the option to say, "Hey, I don't want my data sold."

California’s rules (CCPA) are more demanding compared to some other states. This means businesses operating in California have to be extra careful.

Data Limitations and Tracking Troubles: The Challenge

Because of these stricter rules in California, businesses might face limitations in collecting certain data types. It's like having a treasure map with a few parts missing—you won't get the whole picture. Accurately tracking users becomes a bit like a tricky game, and businesses need to navigate carefully to follow the rules.

GA4 is adapting to ensure user privacy in the ever-changing landscape of regulations. However, the regional differences, especially the stricter rules in places like California, add a layer of complexity for businesses. It's like learning a new dance with specific steps for each place, but in the end, everyone is aiming for a harmonious and respectful rhythm between data insights and user privacy.

Navigating Tracking Restrictions: A Closer Look at GA4's Challenges

In exploring the negative changes in Google Analytics 4 (GA4), one pressing issue is how various companies wrestle with tracking restrictions. Specifically, these challenges include the hurdles posed by adblocker applications that limit the functionality of tracking mechanisms.

Adapting to Adblocker Hurdles

The rise in popularity of adblocker applications poses a considerable challenge to companies relying on tracking mechanisms. These applications, designed to enhance user privacy by blocking certain scripts and trackers, inadvertently hinder the functionality of tracking tools like GA4. Companies either accept the understanding how their data is missing a sizable amount of their users, given the popularity of adblockers, or use custom approaches like hosting their site in AWS and measuring hits with cloud resource logging.

Impact on User Tracking

The consequence? User tracking becomes less accurate, affecting the insights businesses can gather about their online audience. As adblocker usage continues to grow, the efficacy of traditional tracking methods diminishes, creating a hurdle for businesses relying on these insights for decision-making.

Strategies for Overcoming Adblocker Challenges

To address this, companies are exploring various strategies. Some are experimenting with alternative tracking methods that are less susceptible to adblockers. Others are investing in refining the user experience to encourage users to opt-in to tracking voluntarily.

The Call to Adapt

In the face of these challenges, businesses using GA4 must adapt. This involves not only acknowledging the limitations posed by adblockers but actively seeking innovative solutions. Companies are encouraged to stay agile, test alternative tracking approaches, and remain vigilant in pursuing accurate user insights. Many companies are trying new brands of website tracking software and choices generally depend on industry, company size, valued metrics to collect/track, or cost per month.

The Fraction of Visible Users

One of the major issues arising from the transition to GA4 is the decreasing number of identifiable users. This decline is attributed to various factors, including the rise of ad block tracking system blocking and JavaScript blocking by users concerned about online privacy. According to the article "Will Ad Blockers Kill the Digital Media Industry?" these trends are a significant challenge for data accuracy and business insight.

Here are two main methods users can hide from your tracking system:

Tracking System Blockers: Some users have set up roadblocks against tracking systems, making it trickier for GA4 to follow their digital footprints. Many adblockers are also tracking system blockers.

JavaScript Blocking: Users concerned about online privacy sometimes block JavaScript, a technology GA4 uses to collect data. This could be blocked by changing browser settings, using a specialized browser for security needs, or browser extensions that stop JavaScript from functioning.

Facing the Accuracy Challenge Head-On: What Businesses Can Do

Alright, so the party's not as lively as it used to be, but businesses can still make the most of the guests who haven't disappeared into the shadows. Here's how:

Understanding Privacy Regulations:

Imagine regional privacy regulations as the house rules. Businesses need to understand these rules to comply with them while making sure they can still play the game (collect data) within those rules.

Exploring Alternative Data Sources:

Businesses can explore other sources of data, like first-party data.

The challenge with GA4 isn't just about the transition—it's about adapting to changes in how users want their online experience. As businesses navigate this, understanding the rules, educating users, and having alternative plans are the keys to ensuring the accuracy of data insights in the evolving world of digital analytics.

Why Google Analytics 4 is Less Accurate:

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has brought a wave of changes, but users have noticed a hiccup regarding accuracy. It's like trying to hit a bullseye in darts, but the target keeps moving.

Monthly Reports: A Tricky Task for GA4:

Imagine you want to get a monthly report to see how your website is doing. In the old version, Universal Analytics (UA), it was like setting an alarm—you just did it. But in GA4, it's a bit like dancing. You must involve another tool, Data Studio, just to schedule a simple monthly report. It is making things much more complicated than they need to be.

Rise of Privacy-Enhancing Technologies:

Picture the internet as a big, bustling city. Now, imagine some people want some privacy, so they use tools like popular ad blockers and cookie blockers. These tools are like invisible shields that block ads and tracking scripts. GA4 relies on tracking, and when these shields are up, it's like trying to count people in a crowded street when some are wearing invisible cloaks. It can lead to GA4 missing some data points, making its tracking less accurate.

Ad Blockers: These are like shields against annoying ads, but they unintentionally block GA4 from seeing user actions.

Cookie Blockers: These tools give users control over cookies, those temporary browser files that help GA4 track referrals.

Cookie Blockers and Referral Tracking:

Cookies are like digital name tags that help websites recognize you and where you’ve been. But some people don't like wearing these tags, so they use cookie blockers. With cookie blockers, GA4 might not properly attribute where users are coming from, creating gaps in its tracking accuracy which affects the paid referral industry the most.

Changing User Behavior and Data Regulations:

Imagine you have a favorite coffee shop, and one day, you notice they're trying to remember your favorite orders. But suddenly, there are new rules about what they can try to remember or learn from others, and you're not as keen to share what you like. This is similar to changing user behavior and data protection regulations. People are more aware of their privacy, and regulations like GDPR and CCPA are like new rules for businesses. GA4 has to navigate this changing landscape, and it might miss some data points as users become more cautious about sharing their online behavior.

Cross-Platform Tracking Challenges:

Imagine you're playing a game that switches between your phone and computer. It's like trying to keep track of your score on both devices. GA4 has a bit of trouble when users switch between different devices. It's like the game loses track of your score, making it challenging to get a complete picture of user behavior across platforms.

GA4 might face challenges, but with the right strategies, businesses can adapt and ensure their insights are as close to the bullseye as possible. It's like refining your aim in darts—practice makes perfect, even in analytics.

Cross-Platform Tracking Challenges

The Drawbacks: The Not-So-Perfect Side of GA4

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has emerged as a powerful tool for businesses to gain insights into their online performance. However, like any technology, it has its drawbacks. In this blog post, we'll delve into some of the negative impacts users have experienced with GA4, focusing on one prevalent concern – poor usability.

Usability is Poor – but hang in there!

One of the foremost issues users encounter with GA4 is its less-than-ideal usability. Navigating through the settings and layout can be a head-scratching experience for many. Unlike its predecessor, Universal Analytics, GA4's interface lacks the intuitive design that users have come to expect. This can be particularly frustrating for those accustomed to the user-friendly nature of earlier versions.

The settings and layout aren’t intuitive.

Users have expressed their dismay at the less-than-intuitive settings and layout of GA4. Transitioning from Universal Analytics to GA4 can feel like stepping into unfamiliar territory. Basic tasks that were once straightforward now require a learning curve. This steep curve can be a barrier for many users, especially those who don't have the time or patience to adapt to a less user-friendly interface.

Google needs to make some tweaks.

Acknowledging the usability issues, many users are eagerly awaiting improvements from Google. There is general agreement that Google needs to make some changes to improve the overall user experience, even though it is understandable that new tools may take some time to get used to. Feedback from the user community is crucial, and users hope that Google will actively address these concerns in future updates.

Fix the sharing of Explorations reports.

Sharing insights is a fundamental aspect of analytics, and GA4 users have raised concerns about the sharing capabilities of exploration reports. The process seems less smooth compared to previous versions, making collaboration and communication more challenging for teams utilizing the platform. A fix for the sharing functionalities is high on the wish list for many GA4 users.

Uncovering GA4's Challenges: Ignoring the Fundamentals

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has garnered attention as a robust analytics tool, but it's not all smooth sailing. Users are encountering some significant hiccups, especially regarding the absence of straightforward functions that were once staples in Universal Analytics (UA).

GA4 is missing the simplest functions

The transition from UA to GA4 has left users scratching their heads as basic functions have vanished or become needlessly complex. Let's break down some of the frustrations users have voiced:

Complexity in Basic Dimension Usage: Simple tasks like using basic dimensions, such as Landing Page in a Traffic report, now require extra steps. Users find themselves editing reports to incorporate these fundamental dimensions, adding a layer of complexity to what used to be straightforward.

Goodbye Segments, Hello 'Comparisons': GA4 bids farewell to Segments, replacing them with 'Comparisons.' However, these Comparisons lack preset options and the ability to save configurations. Users now face the inconvenience of recreating comparisons every time they need them.

Filter Frustrations in Dual Dimensions: Applying filters to both dimensions in a report with a secondary dimension has become a convoluted process. Users can't do it directly in the table; instead, they must filter one within the table and the other at the report level.

Metric Limitations in Report Editing: When editing a report to add metrics, GA4 imposes a cap of 12 metrics. This limitation forces users to repeatedly edit and reset reports, disrupting the flow of analysis.

Granularity Woes in Visualization: Formerly simple tasks, like visualizing monthly adblock traffic for the last year, now demand additional effort. GA4 lacks the direct granularity adjustment in charts, forcing users to download ad blocker data and create visualizations externally.

The simplicity users once enjoyed in UA seems lost in the complexities of GA4. These issues highlight the importance of refining basic functionalities to ensure a more user-friendly experience and maximize the potential of this powerful analytics tool. As users adapt to these changes, they hope for improvements that bring back the ease and efficiency they once had.

Uncovering the Web of Challenges in Data Accuracy

As we step into the dynamic world of data and analytics, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is at the forefront. But beneath the surface, there's a web of challenges impacting data accuracy, and we're here to untangle them for you in simple terms.

Limitations of Cookie-Based Tracking:

Cookies are like digital breadcrumbs that help track where users come from. But, like cookies that crumble, third-party cookies are phasing out. Google Analytics relies on these cookies for referral tracking, and when ad blocker browsers block or limit them, some sources may go unnoticed. It's like trying to trace someone's steps when they're wearing invisible shoes.

Issues with Data Quality:

Think of data as pieces of a puzzle. Keeping those pieces clean and up-to-date is like making sure the puzzle is complete and in the right order. Data quality processes are necessary to ensure the data collected is accurate. It's like putting the right pieces together in the puzzle.

Mobile Device Dominance:

Over half of website visits now come from mobile devices, but tracking users using different mobile ad blockers is like juggling different types of balls. It can be tricky due to variations and the limited tracking capabilities in GA4, potentially leading to inaccuracies.

Impact of Data Privacy Scandals:

Imagine you trusted someone, but they let you down. User trust in data collecting has decreased as a result of privacy issues. This can make users less willing to share data, and fewer data means less accuracy in tracking.

Attribution Modelling Limitations:

Attribution modelling is like giving credit to players in a team. But when the game is complex, like a multi-touchpoint customer journey, it is difficult to assign credit accurately, leading to inaccuracies in tracking.

AI in User Tracking:

AI is like a detective that can uncover hidden patterns in user behavior. But like any detective, it has challenges, like fitting the evidence just right and needing high-quality training data.

In this evolving world of data, it's not just about collecting information—it's about doing it accurately. These challenges are like hurdles in the data race. But with the right strategies and tools, businesses can leap over them and ensure their data reports are as accurate as possible. AI is relatively new in many industries, and often AI goes unchecked and when it is checked, it isn’t always right and generally needs more training.

Metric Measurement Differences

In this chart, we compare how common metrics are measured differently in Universal Analytics (UA) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

Metric Universal Analytics (UA) Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
Time on Site 9 minutes (average) Average Engagement Time: 2-3 minutes (average)
Bounce Rate Percentage of single-page visits Bounce Rate can be redefined based on engagement events
Event Tracking Relatively straightforward setup Enhanced event tracking capabilities, but more complex setup
E-commerce Tracking Simpler e-commerce tracking setup More intricate setup, requiring additional effort

Navigating the GA4 Maze: Solutions for a Smoother Journey

The transition to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has been like embarking on a new journey through uncharted territory. But fear not because where there are challenges, there are also solutions. Let's break down some of the negative changes in GA4 and figure out how to navigate this evolving landscape.

Understanding GA4 Challenges:

Picture GA4 as a shiny new car with a few bumps on the road. The negative changes, like a tricky navigation system and missing features, can make the ride less smooth. However, there are traffic signs and diversions to help you find your way around, so don't worry.

Solutions for Adapting to the Changing Landscape:

Use a Variety of Tracking Methods:

It's like having different tools in your toolbox. GA4 relies heavily on cookies, but with changes in privacy and technology, it's smart to use a mix of tracking methods—cookies, fingerprinting, and others. It's like having multiple sensors to ensure you capture all the right data.

Variety of Tracking Methods

Prioritize Data Quality and Validation:

Imagine your data is like a treasure map. To ensure you're following the right path, implement data cleansing and validation processes. Regularly audit your data to keep it accurate.

Consider Alternative Analytics Tools:

GA4 might be your go-to travel companion, but sometimes you need more buddies. Exploring alternative analytics tools specializing in specific areas, like social media or mobile analytics, is like having a friend who knows the ins and outs of each terrain.

Stay Informed About Data Privacy Regulations:

Privacy regulations are like the rules of the road. Stay informed about them to avoid roadblocks and ensure compliance with user consent requirements.

In the GA4 journey, challenges are like twists and turns in the road, but with the right strategies, you can make the ride more enjoyable. It's not just about adapting to change; it's about finding alternative routes and tools that suit the evolving landscape.


In wrapping up the exploration of the Negative Changes/Differences between Google Analytics 3 (Universal Analytics) and its successor, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), it's clear that while GA4 brings advancements, there are challenges to be mindful of.

One significant shift is the declining accuracy of user tracking in GA4. This dip is attributed to the rise of privacy-enhancing technologies, shifts in consumer behavior, and the impact of evolving data collection regulations. In 2023, the reliance on cookie-based tracking is proving less effective. To navigate this, businesses are encouraged to adapt their tracking methods. This involves a multifaceted approach, emphasizing data quality, validation, and keeping pace with alternative analytics tools.

Another area of concern lies in the usability of GA4. Despite its enhanced features, the platform's user interface poses challenges. Marketers and users encountering issues are urged to provide feedback to Google. Such collective input could drive improvements, making GA4 more intuitive and efficient for businesses.

Transitioning from Universal Analytics to GA4 is undeniably a pivotal move in digital analytics. While GA4 aligns with privacy regulations and introduces new features, it brings challenges related to metric measurement, historical data limitations, and compliance with user privacy regulations. Businesses must carefully weigh these factors and formulate strategies to ensure data accuracy.

The journey from Universal Analytics to GA4 is a balancing act. It demands an awareness of the evolving digital landscape, metric changes that have similar names, a readiness to adapt tracking methodologies, and a willingness to provide feedback for platform improvements. While challenges exist, navigating them with informed strategies ensures businesses can continue using the power of data-driven insights in the dynamic world of digital analytics.

Understanding GA4's Default
User Tracking Settings

With the arrival of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), webmasters and marketers have been excited about the new things it can do. But, there's a problem that some GA4 users might not know about until finding this article. GA4 has a default configuration after creating a GA4 property, that keeps user data for only two months. This default setup is a trainwreck. It causes a lot of data to go missing over time, especially in reports that use user data older than two months, leading to highly inaccurate results. Data expiration will create a misleading impression that things looked bad a few months ago, but the recent months seem like a major improvement. It leads businesses to look at datasets that are not user-specific until this setting has been changed.

Marketing and web-based technology leaders have a need to understand this incredibly impactful default configuration issue as it can destroy efforts to make meaningful scientific insights from their Google Analytics reports. In this article, we'll talk about this issue in GA4 and explain more why it's a problem and how to change it for better future analysis.

Universal Analytics

The Shift from Universal Analytics to GA4

In digital marketing, staying ahead is a must, as online data tracking is always changing. Moving from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is one of these changes, and it's a big step forward in how we track and understand data.

While digital marketers and webmasters are looking forward to the new features that GA4 offers, they are also preparing for a new set of problems.

GA4's Default Configuration: The Two-Month Data Limit

When GA4 was introduced, it brought a lot of cool features for tracking data, measuring events, and understanding how people use websites. It was an exciting step forward, but what caught many people by surprise was the limitation of the default settings.

The main problem we have identified is the two-month data limit that GA4 sets by default. With Universal Analytics, you could look at data as far back as it was collected. This allowed you to see long-term trends, understand how people's behavior changed over time, and figure out the impact of your marketing efforts. But in GA4, by default, it only keeps data for two months, which is quite different and not necessarily a good thing outside of short-term reporting.

The user data limit in GA4 has some important consequences for people who use it. One big problem is tracking custom events, like when someone clicks on certain things on a website or fills out a form. These are important to understand how users interact with a site, especially things that GA4 doesn't track automatically. But, with the default settings, you can only see this data for the most recent two months. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to track how these custom events are doing over a longer period. It also requires more work to look at the history and compare data, which is crucial for understanding how website changes, user technology (browser, desktop/mobile, etc), marketing campaigns, or shifts in user behavior have worked out over time.

For digital marketers and website owners, having access to historical data is super important. It helps them make smart decisions and plan their strategies. Businesses that depend on seasons, like holidays or special events, need this data to see trends and maximize peak times. But with the default setup in GA4, they're dealing with incomplete information, meaning they might miss out on important valuable insights.

Limiting data in GA4 makes it hard to see how user behavior changes over time. These changes usually happen slowly, so you must track them longer to understand them and adjust your strategies. But with the default settings, it's easy to miss out on valuable insights and chances to improve your online presence and digital plans.

Navigating Data Challenges

The Implications of the Two-Month Data Limit in GA4: Navigating Data Challenges

Digital data is crucial for making smart decisions, improving strategies, and improving users' experiences. But as digital marketers, website owners, and data experts switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), they're running into a big problem with far-reaching effects. We explore one of the most significant implications of this limitation: the incomplete data available for custom-configured events.

Custom Configured Events: The Backbone of User Interaction Tracking

Custom events are the key to understanding how people interact with websites. They let us track specific actions that GA4 doesn't keep an eye on, such as clicks on certain parts of a site, filling out forms, watching videos, and more. Custom events are important for understanding how people behave on a website, and they help us figure out if different parts of a site, marketing campaigns, and strategies are working well.

With Universal Analytics, we could look at data from as far back as when it was collected. This lets us dig deep into the data to get valuable insights. But with GA4's default settings, which only keep data for two months, we end up losing a lot of the historical data we relied on for understanding how well custom events are doing.

The Challenge of Incomplete Insights

One big problem with GA4's default data settings is that it’s difficult to study custom events over long periods. With only two months of data available, it’s nearly impossible to track the success of custom events over longer periods. This means we end up with only part of the picture, and we can't figure out how well these events are doing over the long run.

For example, think about a business trying to see how well a new feature on their website uses custom event tracking. These events help understand how much users are getting involved with the feature over time. Because of the limited default data range in GA4, businesses can’t tell if user engagement with the new feature is getting better or worse over time. The two-month data window may not be enough to see the whole picture. It's like trying to understand a story with only a few pages; you miss the bigger picture.

Historical Comparisons: A Key to Informed Decision-Making

Reviewing past data is important for making smart decisions and improving strategies. It's like comparing how well things are going over time, which helps us see if there are any patterns or trends or if changes in marketing campaigns are making a difference. But with GA4's default settings, which only keep data for two months, it's difficult to compare data from the past. This makes it tough for businesses and marketers to determine how well their marketing efforts and website changes work in the long run.

For example, think about an online store that does marketing campaigns all year round. They use past data to see if these campaigns are making a difference. They want to know if more people buy things during the holiday season than the rest of the year. Or if changes they made to their website design or how it works made people use it more over several months. But because they can only see two months of data, they can't answer these questions properly.

Tracking User Behavior Changes

User behavior changes over time. It's really important to understand how these changes happen over a long time so we can adjust websites and marketing to fit what people need. But GA4's default settings make it harder to see these changes. It's not just about seeing the big picture; it's about watching how people slowly change their behavior and making things work better based on that. Because we can't look at long-term data, businesses might not see important things that could improve their websites or validate the effectiveness of change.

Inadequate for Seasonal Businesses

For businesses that operate seasonally, looking at data from the past two months doesn’t provide enough information to plan marketing campaigns effectively. For example, the tourism and fashion industries, along with businesses focused on various holidays, require specific data to address their marketing plans. They need data from the past year or years to see if there are seasonal patterns, especially during the busiest times, and to make good plans for their marketing. But with GA4's default settings, these kinds of businesses are in a really tough spot.

For instance, a travel agency relies on historical data to plan marketing campaigns and adjust pricing strategies for the holiday season, aiming to attract vacationers. With only two months of data, they need help to assess past trends and make data-driven decisions for the upcoming season.

Missed Insights and Opportunities

Businesses gather a large amount of data over time, providing insight into previously unknown information. However, because of GA4's data limits, this important information might stay hidden. Businesses might miss the chance to see patterns, connections, or unique things people do that could help them succeed.

Think about an online store that's been watching how customers behave and what they buy for many years. In all this data, there might be the answers to questions like, "Why do people who spend a lot keep coming back to buy more?" or "Are there new trends that other businesses haven't noticed yet?" But with GA4's settings, these answers might stay hidden, and businesses won't know how to make their products and plans better.

Data Analysis

Proactive Solutions for the Data Limitation Challenge

While the default two-month data limit in GA4 poses significant challenges, proactive solutions can help businesses and data analysts effectively navigate these limitations:

Solutions to Overcome the Data Limitation

While the default data retention setting in GA4 can be problematic, there are steps that businesses and data experts can take to fix it. By changing how long data is kept, using BigQuery, and exporting data, people can make sure they can see data from more than just two months ago. This helps with tracking custom events, looking at data from the past, and seeing how people's behavior changes. These solutions help businesses adjust and make their plans better, even when GA4's default settings are a challenge. It's like finding a way around a roadblock to keep moving forward.

Adjust the Data Retention Settings

The good news is that GA4 lets you decide how long to keep your data. By default, it only keeps it for two months, but you can change that to 14 months, 26 months, or even forever, depending on your needs. Here's how to do it:

  • Log in to your GA4 account.
  • Go to the Admin section.
  • Under the Property column, click on Data Settings.
  • Adjust the data retention settings the way you want.

When you make this change and keep your data longer, you can get around the default limitation. This means you can look at data from the past, which is important for tracking custom events and understanding how things have changed over time.

Regularly Export Data

Another way to avoid data limitation is to export your GA4 data regularly. By doing this at specific times, you build a record of data from the past. This record lets you compare data from different times and look closely at it. But there's a catch—it's not automatic. You have to do this yourself and manage the data carefully. It's like taking photos of your garden every month to see how it changes over the year. It's a good way to see how things are going, but you must remember to do it regularly.

Create a Backup Property

To get around the problem of only having two months of data in GA4, you can create a "backup property." Here's how it works: you make a second GA4 property that uses the same tracking code as your main one. This backup property starts collecting data right from the moment you create it. So, over time, you build up a history of data.

But there's a thing to remember: the backup property doesn't magically bring in old data from the main property. That's why it's a good idea to set up the backup property immediately. That way, you won't miss any important data because you'll collect it from the beginning.

Leverage Google BigQuery

If you're really into data and need to analyze a lot of it, Google BigQuery can be a game-changer. It's a data warehouse in the cloud. This tool lets you store and analyze huge amounts of data, including all the data you get from GA4.

Here's the deal: when you export your GA4 data to Google BigQuery, you can do some seriously advanced stuff. You can ask complicated questions, put data together from different places, and keep a long data history.

But here's the thing: this isn't for beginners. To make the most of it, you need to be an expert with data because it is a little complicated. But if you're a business that's serious about digging into data, it can be a goldmine.


Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is like a digital toolbox with a few extremely complex multitools for understanding your website or app's performance. It comes with new and improved privacy-centric features which isn’t that exciting for marketers. So, don’t forget—the default setting in GA4 only keeps data for two months. This can be a problem, especially for those switching from Universal Analytics or anyone who wants to analyze data from even just a few months ago.

The good news is we have solutions for this challenge. You can change the default data retention settings to keep data longer, or you can regularly export your data. Another smart move is to create a backup property that starts collecting data from the beginning. And for those really into data analysis, there's Google BigQuery, a tool for digging deep into data. Last but not least, you can try other brands of tracking software to see if it meets your needs better.

Being flexible and ready to adapt is essential for digital analysts and businesses. GA4 has some potential, and by using these solutions, you can ensure you have the historical data you need to make smart decisions and uncover valuable insights. Understanding and staying informed about GA4's default settings are crucial for making the most of this analytics platform.