Beyond the Buzz: Google Analytics 4

The end is near! Of Google Universal Analytics, that is. At least, that’s what Google claims, one year after launching its latest web & app analytics solution GA4. So, should you say adieu to Universal Analytics once and for all? Before you hop onto the GA4 train, here’s what you need to know.

Sam Van Renterghem
Sam Van Renterghem

Google’s new data analytics solution

Originally released in 2019 as “App + Web”, Google Analytics 4 (or GA4 for short) is the latest iteration of Google’s data analytics platform. The successor to Universal Analytics (UA) brings three important changes to the table that are shaking up the data analytics landscape.

The holy trinity of GA4

  1. A flexible, event-driven data model
  2. Whereas Universal Analytics was mainly session-based, GA4 adopts an event-driven model in which all hits are events. This allows for more accurate reporting and ensures that additional information can be passed to Google Analytics with each interaction.
  3. A unified, customer-centric approach
  4. GA4 applies a customer-centric approach to measure customer behavior across all your websites, apps, and platforms. This provides you with a better understanding of how your customers interact with your business, from acquisition to conversion and retention.
  5. Machine learning
  6. Thanks to the machine learning capabilities, GA4 can adapt to a world with or without cookies or identifiers. Providing an estimated view of the complete dataset, machine learning extrapolates the data based on predictive modeling.

A work in progress, that’s for sure...

So far, GA4 looks great, right? But don’t be fooled: there are a number of issues as well. Perhaps the main reason not to switch to GA4 right away is the fact that many of UA’s essential features are still not available in Google Analytics 4, even a year after its initial release. If these features are dealbreakers for your business, don’t go all in on GA4 just yet, or you might end up disillusioned.

Under construction: an anthology of features still missing from GA4

  • Annotations
  • Search console integration
  • Google Optimize integration
  • Custom channel groupings
  • Comprehensive filters
  • Exclude query parameters
  • Calculated metrics
  • Views
  • Conversion rate
  • Drill down in reports
  • Product-scoped custom dimensions
  • and so many more

To stay up to date with all the changes and additions in Google Analytics 4, we recommend you check Google’s GA4 roadmap from time to time.

When Google Analytics 4 was first announced, we were also very excited. But one year later, GA4 has barely improved. If you were wondering why we suddenly changed our minds, now you know.

So, should I still make the transition to GA4?

No, it’s not worth it (yet). Of course, the choice is up to you, but we recommend you stick with your trusty Universal Analytics and skip the GA4 train for now until Google gets around to adding more features. Just because GA4 is buzzing these days, it doesn’t mean you should sign up for what is essentially an unfinished tool.

Feeling adventurous anyway? Don’t say we didn’t warn you: you’re in for a bumpy ride and a steep learning curve along the way. Of course you can already start experimenting with GA4, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Be sure to deploy GA4 alongside your existing UA space.


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About the author

Sam Van Renterghem

Mostly referred to as “the technical guy”, I do analytics and tag management implementations. I work closely with my marketing colleagues to ensure there's a strategy behind everything.