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Welcome Happy Readers! This week’s PPCChat discussion was all about Google Analytics 4. Google will switch to  Google Analytics 4 from Universal Analytics on July 1, 2023, and PPCers have already started preparing for the change. Host Julie F Bacchini & guest host Brie E Anderson sought experts’ views on this shift, how is their experience with GA4 so far, are there things which are missing or hard to find in GA4, and more.

Q1: Have you started working with Google Analytics 4 (GA4) yet? If not, why not?

Oh absolutely! I knew as soon as they rolled it out that we would eventually be forced to use it… So I figured I may as well start assimilating ASAP. @brie_e_anderson

Yes! My clients run app campaigns and when it first rolled out it was the only way to measure app traffic. we actually rode the blend of app + web traffic wave together. @JuliaVyse

Not yet. Our data team set it up, but it still feels like there’s so much time left to procrastinate. @SEMFlem

I have started working on it for our internal GA implementations before I start rolling it out to clients. I want to have a good grasp of it before July 2022 so I can have our clients rolled out in time for YoY data. @alexnicoll93

Yes, I have put GA4 on all the sites I control. I also took Brie’s course (I have one module left). Set up is not as easy as Universal Analytics (which is a statement I feel like is true for pretty much everything in GA4!). Still using UA for reporting/analysis. @NeptuneMoon

We have it set up for most clients and are now starting to play around inside and learning where the different reports are. @selley2134

Q4 2021 & Q1 2022 we’ve concentrated on getting GA4 set up and tracking for clients. Q2 and on will be further optimizing and reports. @Realicity

I’m still relying on my UA knowledge although I’ve been in the accounts. I’m not responsible for setting up GA4 for the clients I work with now, so no rush in my knowledge base. By the end of the summer I hope to have it pretty sorted in my own head. @AmaliaEFowler

I had some clients who had already installed it early, but now most are either installed or still working on it. Google will always eventually force your hand, so best to be early so we have good historical data available to us. @lchasse

It is probably worth mentioning here, for those that don’t know, your data will NOT port from Universal Analytics (current version) into GA4. So, even if not working in it now, get it collecting data now! @NeptuneMoon

My current and past work have implemented – but not using actively… but collecting data for some time now. @Galliguez

We did in the early days, hated it, and Google let us go back to UA and did. @JonKagan

After a lot of procrastination, we finally started working with GA4. We had GA4 installed a long time ago, but we started putting in serious effort lately. @sonofgorkhali

Not yet as I am just getting back into work after some time off and wanting to test it out in a safe environment before implementing it for clients. @C_J_Ridley

I started Last year. My first stage was to install in on some websites while I learned it. Now that I have a full understanding I am starting to roll out. On eComm, we are only doing page views while we work out the best way to implement tracking. @tiffanyjshears

Q2: What has your experience been like using Google Analytics 4 thus far?

Mixed honestly. Because I’ve been so focused on app analytics, it’s been really great. easy integration with Firebase, good views of results and so forth. Less confident on measuring site activity with it. It seems weirdly organized? @JuliaVyse

I’m not going to lie… There is quite a learning curve when it comes to GA4. I’ve been in it almost every day since June, and I’m just now to the point where I feel like I know where most everything is. But ya know, they just keep changing it. @brie_e_anderson

I have found the data that PPCers care about is not easy to find. Set up takes a lot more steps than Universal Analytics. It is also missing things that seem pretty basic. That frustrates me the most. It is NOT intuitive and I say that as a technical person. @NeptuneMoon

Cont: Buuuut once you get past the learning curve, there are actually some *really* cool functionalities baked in. @brie_e_anderson

I’m going to say it’s been confusing. BUT I also haven’t put a ton of effort into learning it. A lot of the time I think we can jump to “this sucks” before fully learning something, so I’m not going to do that. I am sure there are pros and cons. @AmaliaEFowler

I discovered that is really really really important to copy (really!) the excluded referrals from GA3 and copy them! I found myself full of Paypal.com referrals of conversions #ppcchat (really!) A2b: I would like to understand where is Google ADS =) @ga_benedetti

Getting more comfortable with it. Because we still have Universal, it is allowing me time to do my main reporting and then getting used to the new platform as well. Should be pretty solid by the time we need to move over. @lchasse

Honestly, I’m still learning it. I’ve been a little resistant to dive deeper with it but definitely need to change that. @ameetkhabra

I cannot imagine small businesses or even a lot of medium sized businesses being able to set it up properly. I was only half joking with my “Made by devs for devs” suggested tagline. @NeptuneMoon

I haven’t had a chance to super dive in beyond my first real plunge. I plan to spend some more time in there once I’m wrapped with my monthly reporting. My initial reaction is that it’s different, but I don’t necessarily think it’s bad. It’s just scary right now. @alexnicoll93

I do feel like once again they built a thing without consulting the most basic users of that thing (ie it is built for more technical, dev-esque people) @AmaliaEFowler

Set up was more difficult than I remembered previous GA versions being. Seems like I can pull much of the same data. I’m VERY interested in it’s predictive capabilities. @BrettBodofsky

At first it was a massive learning curve. As I am working on GA4 more it is becoming easier. I have found a few bugs though and I hope this is resolved before the full roll out. I also hope they fix the eComm tracking soon. @tiffanyjshears

Enjoying some of the insights Getting used to Engagement Time > Session Duration… etc. @Galliguez

I get the privacy need to move to event-based. But I think the key head-scratchers for me around GA4 have been (1) the decision to overhaul the UI (forcing “hacks” to see basic prev reports), (2) the decision to eliminate all historical data. @PPCKirk

I attended @kristaseiden‘s webinar on GA4 and found that quite beneficial. The learning curve is there but knowledgeable people are an excellent resource. I need the people who know more than me. I also found the skillshop class to be a good jumping off point. @alexnicoll93

Really counter intuitive platform. Prob great function, but was not designed with the simpleton in mind. @JonKagan

Pretty annoying. We use CDP between GA and the Ads Platform, making GA4 a nightmare. It seems GA4 doesn’t play well with CDP at this moment. @sonofgorkhali

Q3: Are there things that are missing or hard to find or use in Google Analytics 4 that were present/easy to find or use in Universal Analytics? How are you handling this?

Most of the hard-to-find or missing things can be solved by customizing your navigation. Things like: – landing page – google ads reports – search console reports – source/medium All of those can be solved by customizing reports & navigation. @brie_e_anderson

Most days… The frustrating thing is we keep waiting on notice of a more fully developed platform instead of the current “Beta” version. @Realicity

Honestly, it prob has everything I need, it is not very intuitive. @JonKagan

I had a lot of things that I struggled with until taking someone’s class /cough. It feels like you have to dig to get data vs. having it right in front of you with Universal. Of course I had decades(feels like) of experience with Universal as well. @lchasse

Honestly, I’m still stumbling and learning GA4. I don’t have enough knowledge of GA4 to say what is missing. Maybe once we use GA4 daily as Universal, we will start to see the difference. @sonofgorkhali

Q4: Are you yet or do you plan to investigate alternative analytics platforms for yourself and/or clients? If you have investigated or tested any others, which ones and how was that experience?

We have, a lot of them are pure garbage. So it is really just dragging my feet and retesting GA4 on small clients as guinea pigs. @JonKagan

Definitely considering other options. I’ve heard good things about Fathom. @robert_brady

We have, as there are different requirements for finance/pharma/public sector. In Canada, you basically need a server here, you can’t just bounce it to wherever. So Adobe is a factor, and if Amazon EVER makes a simple analytics tool, this will be a whole mess. @JuliaVyse

GA and GA4 are still the best, simplest option in terms of implementation, data integration, and connectivity with media channels. For NOW. Amazon could easily make something only slightly easier and it would change the game. @JuliaVyse

I am always open to exploring new options if they would be of benefit to my clients and to the sites I manage/control. That being said, I am forcing myself to become fluent in GA4… the struggle is real! @NeptuneMoon

The truth is GA4 is going to be very helpful if you run Google Ads and use other Google services. I fully support looking at other alternatives, but I still recommend that brands run GA4 alongside it if they do want to change. You should always review your apps. @lchasse

To be transparent, I’ve not. My business has to make analytics ACCESSIBLE and ACTIONABLE… Using a free platform that has a ton of free resources around it just seems most reasonable to me. I’ve used others with clients, but don’t plan on switching. @brie_e_anderson

I am never going to back down from the fight. I will learn GA4 irrespective of whether we switch to other analytics platforms. @sonofgorkhali

To be honest, no. Most time spent testing other platforms goes into Lead Qualification, Analysis and Automation. Analytics itself has been limited. But if Microsoft provided a Free Analytics platform to SMB that integrates. @Realicity

I don’t have any plans to move away from Google. I’m very curious to see how others respond to this, though! @alexnicoll93

As long as it stays the primarily used platform in industry, I’ll stay with it. That’s what I will need to know to properly teach my students – and generally what my clients would be using. @AmaliaEFowler

Biggest frustration(s) the learning curve for a new platform, number of things to reset on new profile, and volume of accounts that need to be done. All this after investing in a platform for years. @Realicity

I feel like the black sheep here, but I don’t mind GA4 — I find it relatively intuitive and like the customization that it offers. The event-based model is a long-term good thing, as is the move away from misused metrics (like bounce rate). @DigitalSamIAm

I think right now it’s the learning curve. The UI isn’t intuitive for me yet and I am worried about having a comprehensive understanding of it before July 2022. It’s a big change and I have other shit to do. Lol @alexnicoll93

I think Google released it too early – but some of that is likely a result of Apple + the EU forcing Google’s hand. I think a couple more months of solid development, as well as a pre-loaded transition scheme (i.e. similar reports to UA) would’ve helped. @DigitalSamIAm

The other (VERY overlooked) piece is that it forces marketers to think more about their conversions framework than UA ever did — which lends itself nicely to a more seamless online experience + holistic measurement approach. @DigitalSamIAm

Q5: I agree with Kirk – even if the way data is collected totally changed, why did the UI have to be so radically different? It has also lost usability for anyone not quite technical (also known as most GA users).

Honestly, it’s confidence. I’m back to ‘this should mean that, if this template is built right’ rather than ‘I’m able to give you good advice based on data I’m pretty sure of’ That affects every user and every relationship. @JuliaVyse

Hands down the most frustrating thing in GA4 is setting up events. No doubt about it. I strongly suggest getting fluent in tag manager STAT. Oh, and the lack of clarity in UI. For example, adding secondary dimensions is not intuitive (see difference below) @brie_e_anderson

The revamp of the UI. Why did the UI have to substantially change? It was a bigger change than the G Ads UI interface a few years ago. @KurtHenninger

Poor learning resources and GA4 being shoved down our throats No matter what BS Google has about GA4, I think it is a nightmare. Think about small businesses that can’t afford a consultant to help them with GA4. @sonofgorkhali

The usability is a big frustration & let’s talk about the sheer amount of changes for advertisers happening this year. It feels like a big window, but the reality is a lot is changing very quickly and for small businesses without tons of resources it is big. @lchasse

It feels like a partially completed product. The learning curve is way too steep for “easy adoption” or “simple transition”. Really hope this will be addressed before it is all there is. @NeptuneMoon

The bugs. Many times where I have set it all up and it’s not worked. I.e we have had times where tracking is showing is not showing as conversions even though we marked it. Spend hours looking into it – Then all I do is unmark the conversion and mark it again. @tiffanyjshears

I feel like it also emphasizes benefits that again, are not what most businesses using GA want or need or rely on. Big Query integration is cool and all, but not something that most will utilize or even could without help if they wanted to. Complexity is WAY up. @NeptuneMoon

Google has the resources of a company with a market cap of 1.87 T and they still put in disclaimers about being slow to respond and sometimes take weeks or months to fix an issue. Now imagine a small show with 0.01% of those resources and all these changes. @lchasse

Agree with multiple sentiments mentioned here: the UI change and new event setup process are two big ones for me. @timothyjjensen

if everything UA can be done in GA4, then why does it have to be so hard to find?! @JonKagan

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