Google Analytics 4: drawbacks and limitations: is it worth staying?

The free version of Google Analytics, Universal Analytics, is the most used web analytics solution. The platform is so popular that it dominates 86% of the market share, making Google the market leader. But while many consider Google Analytics to be the standard, there are reasons to wonder if it’s the perfect choice for your marketing setup, especially since Google announced the demise of Universal Analytics.

On July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits, forcing users to switch to its successor, Google Analytics 4. While this may seem like natural progress, marketers shouldn’t be fooled.

The learning curve will be steep: Google Analytics 4 is an almost completely new and still developing platform. Additionally, Google Analytics risks losing user trust due to gray areas around data privacy and ownership.

With a privacy-focused future ahead of it, now is the time to look for alternatives that better balance data collection with compliance. With a proper analytics platform, marketers make your data collection the way it should be – predictable and sustainable. After all, marketers and analysts want to process user-level data while building trust with their visitors.

In this article, we will analyze issues with Google Analytics 4 from a user perspective and from a privacy and compliance perspective, so that you can make an informed decision before switching platforms.

User point of view: Google Analytics 4 is a step in the wrong direction

Google Analytics 4 introduces modified reporting and measurement technology that is neither well understood nor widely accepted by the marketing community.

From a user experience standpoint, many find the GA4 difficult to navigate. But beyond that, there are a number of challenges with feature sets. Let’s explore these limits:

There is no easy way to migrate your data

Migration is a complex process and should be carefully planned. Unfortunately, Google Analytics 4 doesn’t make things easier. Without data or tag migration, all historical data from Universal Analytics will not be transferred to the new platform.

The challenge only grows with the size of the organization – you can have hundreds of tags to move. So if marketers need to start collecting data from scratch, they might as well move on to new analytics software.

Not so intuitive user interface

The biggest challenge marketers and analysts will likely encounter with Google Analytics 4 is unfamiliarity with the new interface.

A new dashboard has several immediately noticeable differences from what marketers are used to trading. Hit types are essential to the way Universal Analytic properties handle all statistics. Hit types include page hits, event hits, eCommerce hits, and social interaction hits.

GA4 has no hit type concept like that used by Universal Analytics. Everything in Google Analytics 4 is classified as an “event”. This is a huge difference.

For marketers to be successful on the new platform, they will need to adapt quickly to maintain the same momentum they had with this previous platform.

Limits on custom sizes

A custom dimension is an attribute that marketers can configure in their analytics tool to dig deeper into their data. It gives the ability to rotate or segment this data to isolate a specific audience or traffic for deeper analysis.

GA4 does indeed allow custom dimensions to segment reports, but there is a strict limit. You can only have up to 25 user scoped custom dimensions and up to 50 event scoped custom dimensions per property.

Lack of custom channel grouping

Channel groupings are rule-based marketing channel groupings. When customized, these groupings allow marketers to efficiently track the performance of those channels.

Unlike Universal Analytics, GA4 does not allow you to create custom channel groupings in the new interface. Conversely, marketers will only be able to use predefined channel groupings.

The reasons behind the short term

The deadline that Google has left for the analytics community to take action is astonishing. There is a lot of speculation as to why this could be, including:

  1. Google may have been disappointed with the speed of adoption of Google Analytics 4 and has decided to take decisive action.
  2. Google bypasses some of the legal heat Universal Analytics is facing in the EU.
  3. Google wants to cut costs and get rid of the technical debt associated with thousands of websites with legacy solutions installed. Since GA4 is designed to support Google’s advertising network, it guarantees more revenue than the competition.

Now that there is a concrete deadline to make the switch, marketers will have to decide whether they want to start adapting to Google Analytics 4 or start over with a new platform.

Privacy and Compliance: Google Analytics 4 has a long way to go

If a business operates in multiple countries, marketing teams will need to be aware of the many challenges arising from the obligations of local data privacy laws and international regulations.

Evolving data protection legislation and strict security regulations only complicate matters further. Reading tea leaves, we believe GA4 will not last long in Europe. Here because:

Google Analytics violates European law

Google makes it difficult to collect data in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which aims to restore control of personal data over users and customers. The regulation requires obtaining explicit consent to the processing of personal data. Failure to comply with this provision can result in heavy fines or even legal proceedings.

The recent decision of the Austrian Data Protection Authority (DSB), states that the use of Google Analytics constitutes a violation of the GDPR. This means that organizations engaged in the collection, storage and processing of data on EU citizens need to adjust their policies and introduce serious technological changes to be compliant with the GDPR.

There is no clear guideline where data is linked via Google Analytics

A guide from Google implies that the data is transferred to the closest Google Analytics server hub. However, the data may be stored in a geographic location that does not have adequate privacy protection for the EU.

The new features introduced in GA4 partly address this concern by allowing the first part of the collection (and anonymization) of data on European servers. However, the data can, and most likely will be, be sent to the United States

The future of marketing requires user consent

Whether it’s data quality, tool limitations, lack of privacy-friendly features or transparency in data management, we think marketers are likely to consider switching platforms.

Piwik PRO rules out the privacy and compliance concerns associated with Google Analytics, allowing marketers to collect data in a predictable and sustainable way. The user interface and feature sets are similar to Universal Analytics, so marketers and analysts feel at home when they switch to our platform.

If you would like to learn more about Google Analytics alternatives or learn more about Piwik PRO Analytics Suite, please visit

Still undecided? Check out our article on addressing concerns about switching to an alternative analytics solution and the analytics mindset you should adopt: Switching from Google Analytics: Here’s what you need to know.

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