The SEO community has been divided ever since Google announced it was replacing Universal Analytics with Google Analytics 4.
Folks are split into camps: those who think GA4 is terrible on one hand and those who think it’s awful on the other.
Or at least that’s how it seems on SEO Twitter…
But what do SEOs actually think about GA4?
We thought we’d get to the bottom of it by asking the Traffic Think Tank community.
Here’s their take…
The key takeaways
Over 25% of TTT members who responded to our survey haven’t switched to GA4 yet.
4 in 10 TTT members who responded to our survey won’t be using GA4 as their analytics platform going forward.
Over 65% of respondents would rather stick with UA rather than switch to GA4 if they had the choice – with just 20% saying they’d actively choose to change to the new platform.
What GA4 is doing right
Okay, so that’s not exactly great reading for the team behind GA4…
But when we asked our community where they think GA4 outshines UA we got a fair few responses:
- Isaac Hammelburger and Matthew Kay are both fans of GA4’s event tracking in general,
- Gianluca Campo loves the unsampled reports, and
- Syed Junaid appreciates GA4’s event-based system, customizations, and UI.
Alexey Klochai thinks once people get used to Explore, they won’t ever want to go back to rigid UA reports: “Once you’re used to the Explore interface, you’ll be able to create reports that are exactly what you need – and that you wouldn’t be able to so easily do in UA”.
And Aarne Salminen says “everything being on one scope (not separated to User, Session, or hit) makes the data more useful in the long run”.
But the majority of praise for GA4’s new features came with caveats…
“Some of the reporting displays are better and it seems to be powerful, despite it still feeling like an incomplete product”, says Andrew Cilio.
“The way GA4 is tracking WILL make more sense for the web of tomorrow, but it’s not there yet”, says Jess Joyce. “It’s going to take a while to get there and I’m unsure how it will affect the laws currently out there for data. User privacy vs data gathering will always be the balance that GA will be going back and forth on, and they’re still gathering data – just in a different manner now.”
“Because GA4 requires more planning and thought about your measurement plan, GA4 doesn’t include a lot of the ‘fluff’ or useless data that Universal was automatically gathering”, Sam Torres points out. “That means, when set up thoughtfully, the data you gather in GA4 is more actionable and applicable to your specific use case”.
And Stephen Sumner adds: “I suspect some of the event and conversion reporting is going to be a lot more sophisticated, but you will need to be pretty clued-up to make the most of it.”
Finally, Clint Butler says that “the reporting that is there is in line with common Data Studio templates users were creating with UA data, which does work to eliminate the need for a second reporting product.”
Where GA4 is falling short
Our community’s thoughts on where GA4 falls short compared to Universal Analytics fell into three main categories:
The set up
“I’ve migrated from Universal to GA4 for a few clients, but the default reports aren’t set up and it requires a whole migration that a lot of marketing teams are stretched too thin for”, says Jess Joyce. “I understand it’s a push to either get you to look at your analytics setup again (after 10-odd years) or use Looker/Data Studio to build out what you need… but this GA4 move leaves out those humans using GA for quick insights or who’ve had Google Analytics running and won’t know how to migrate.”
Sam Torres made a similar point: “To me, the set up of GA4 is more involved than Universal. With Universal, you could just drop the tracking code and you’d already start gathering a ton of data. With GA4, you have to do a bit more forethought and think about WHAT you want to track, which is definitely a double-edged sword”.
A lot of our members have a bone to pick with Google about GA4’s reports.
Matthew Kay isn’t a fan that reporting is done on page-level metrics and states are tied to specific URLs, while David Bell isn’t loving that Google “completely changed the KPIs that we’ve used forever – like what is an ‘Engaged session’?”
“GA4 doesn’t have the easily accessible views and reports that I love”, says Garit Boothe. “As an SEO, I have one UA view I spend most of my time in: Acquisition > Channel Report, Primary Dimension Organic Search. That’s really easy to sort by conversion goals. Replicating this same view in GA4 isn’t so easy. I would love it if GA4 kept the old, loved reports and features. Instead, it feels like I have to learn how to use the platform all over again.”
Clint Butler feels the same: “Lack of customization of reports based on what the user wants versus the built-in filters that hamper workflow previously widely available in Universal Analytics. The ability to compare traffic sources, drill down to specific pages, and so on was much easier in UA. Having to deal with the built-in filter system makes GA4 one of our team’s biggest time wasters.”
Last but not least, most of our community isn’t loving GA4’s interface.
Logan Bryant thinks the UX “awful”, while Andrew Cilio says: “They’ve simplified the UI to the point where finding what you need is cumbersome. Pair that with GA4 simply missing key reports/ways to segment and it’s really frustrating to use at this time.”
“GA4 isn’t user friendly at all for those who are either novices or new to it”, adds Stephen Sumner. “UA seems far more intuitive to clients when we’ve worked with them to get the basic data they want.”
The most popular GA4 alternatives
Since 40% of TTT members who responded to our survey won’t be using GA4… what Analytics platform will they be using instead?
Most people who won’t be using GA4 say they’re jumping ship to Matomo Analytics.
Other platforms TTTers are flirting with are:
Switching from UA to GA4 (without the stress)
Are you planning on migrating to GA4 but currently keeping company with the 25% of TTTers who haven’t made the switch yet?
Analytics whizz Ryan Levander has got you in a five-part video course he created for the Traffic Think Tank Academy. Take the stress out of getting set up on GA4 by watching over Ryan’s shoulder as he sets up GA4 on a site in real time. Plus, get to grips with how events work in GA4, discover the platform’s most useful reports, and learn how to use Google Data Studio to pick up where it falls short.
Where do you stand on GA4?
Love GA4? Not sure why Google has tried to fix what wasn’t broken? Looking for an alternative?
Let us know in the comments, folks 👇