Most Analytics are Garbage: Is your GA4 misreporting?

As I mentioned in a prior post, a year on, even pros are struggling with the switch to Google Analytics 4. Are you also struggling with or even baffled by GA4?

You may see reporting that does not seem quit right – at least its not the same as the old UA reporting.

Chances are if you went along with the automatic migration last year, your analytics are probably inaccurate. And most importantly, conversions may no longer show up in Google Ads. All this greatly impact your advertising effectiveness. You could be throwing away money.

If you are a small to medium size business, I would guess there is a greater than 90% chance your analytics are inaccurate and/or misconfigured. At this point, only large business have the staff to handle GA4. GA4 is just too complex for the average person. The learning curve is huge compared to the former Universal Analytics (UA).

With Greater Power Comes Greater Responsibility

The old Google Universal Analytics (UA) was a typical reporting framework. There are many free (open source) analytics products available and they all function and look similar to what you are familiar with in UA. They all provide(d) standardized reporting. UA and kin are easy for small and medium size business owners to use. But they are operate on the principal that all (clicks) users arriving on the website are equal. That concept worked until mobile device use became so widespread and before ecommerce became mostly mobile. The problem is generally called “cross-device” where a person many use multiple devices while doing whatever they do online (shopping).

What does this all mean? It means Google requires the ability to identify the right user for your ad. That becomes very difficult to track (including that privacy measures have nullified the effectiveness of planting cookies to track people).

It became clear that targeting users with ads required a more sophisticated approach.

The new GA4 is a completely different product. Its a complete redesign aimed to address the needs of large businesses to track cross device behavior and without cookies. And it therefore has complex controls and highly customizable reporting. Its no longer a simple thing to implement and the automatic migration has left most reporting incomplete and confusing. Small to medium size business have been left behind.

Add to this, to get the signals (events) you want from your website, into a useful report, you have to become proficient with Google Tag Manager. UA allowed the simple placement of a JavaScript on your website. (similarly for Facebook, etc.) It reported to UA. You got reports about standard user activity in reports that made sense. Those days are gone. Now you must/should use Google Tag Manager (another piece of JavaScript, but a container in which all other tracking and reporting is wrapped. re. Facebook, etc.). Not only does this make some sense for efficiency, but also allows Google to track everybody else! re. Facebook, etc.

Mastering Google Tag Manager is necessary to report accurately to GA4 so your reports tell you what you need to know.

If you did not setup a Tag Manager account and replace the old UA JavaScript, the automatic migration you thought went smoothly, probably did not. You will find plenty about this in forums. And I even recommend checking out the Youtube how-to videos about Tag Manager to get a full appreciation of the complexity facing businesses a year later.

This is a whole new game. Have you audited your analytics lately?

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