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Google Analytics Search Marketing

Struggling getting to grips with GA4? You’re not alone.

By Jimmy McCann, Head of digital strategy

Search Laboratory

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The Drum Network article

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November 23, 2023 | 5 min read

Google Analytics 4 is here to stay. But issues are stopping marketers from getting the most out of it. Here are Search Laboratory’s Jimmy McCann’s solutions to the most common problems.

A pair of binoculars facing the camera, with red lenses

GA4 got you feeling lost? / Mostafa Meraji via Unsplash

The introduction of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) earlier in 2023 was bound to cause concern. Moving away from the comfort of Universal Analytics, switching to GA4 can feel complex. It’s a comparatively intimidating platform, resulting in headaches for many. What’s good to remember is that nearly everyone is in the same boat.

GA4 is essentially a completely new tool, developed to deal with the myriad changes that have occurred since Universal Analytics was launched in 2012. But certain recurring issues are putting people off using GA4.

So, instead of struggling and worrying about how to get the most out of Google’s latest analytical marvel, let’s look at some solutions to those GA4 problems we keep hearing about.

Stitching up universal analytics and GA4

A common question is how (or if) you can join Universal Analytics data to Google Analytics 4 data. You can, but you’ll need to act fast. By July 2024, all Universal Analytics data will be removed by Google. So, it’s of the highest priority you ensure you’ve got all the data you need, ready to use with GA4.

For this, your best friend is Google BigQuery – a huge and highly secure data warehouse, complete with a query engine. It keeps all your Universal Analytics data safe, and ready to tie up with new GA4 data. BigQuery also includes real-time analytics which helps increase insights, and supports your decision-making processes when you need them the most.

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Making the invisible visible

The heightening of online security and the removal of third-party cookies mean that data that was visible before the introduction of GA4 is now becoming invisible.

Google created the GA4 platform in line with data privacy regulations, laws that were not in place when Universal Analytics was developed. Because of this, Google has significantly raised data thresholding, which withholds specific aspects of data, such as demographic information, from being analyzed. The problem for GA4 users is knowing how (or if) you can make this data come into view, so it can be effectively analyzed.

The solution to solving this mystery is activating Google Signals. Within 24 hours of enabling this feature, data will begin to become more visible as GA4 will track users across different devices. And, unlike Universal Analytics, Signals refines and reduces tracking issues, delivering stronger data, and creating more actionable insights.

I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

The most glaringly obvious problem (and probably the one everyone experiences right off the bat) is that GA4 doesn’t look anything like Universal Analytics. Google Analytics 4 navigation is totally different. Common terminology has drastically changed as well.

But the beauty of Google Analytics 4 is that it can be customized however you want. Users are not restricted in the same way they were with Universal Analytics. So, although the default interface may seem awkward to navigate, there are plenty of options to make it work for you. Plus, the best way to learn something new is through trial and error.

Rather than trying to make sense of Google Analytics 4 when you need to actively use it, block out set times to explore the platform in moments of downtime. With reduced pressure, you can give yourself the opportunity to find what you need to solve the common GA4 problems that may seem impossible right now.

Google Analytics Search Marketing

Content by The Drum Network member:

Search Laboratory

Search Laboratory is an award-winning, integrated digital marketing agency with offices in Leeds, London, and Austin TX.

A proud member of Havas Media Network,...

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